Is your country unsafe for women? Egypt’s HarassMap helps tackle the global menace of sexual harassment

Women everywhere face some form of sexual harassment or violence. It not only causes them personal challenges, but also adversely impacts their motivation and productivity at work – translating into a business challenge in the afflicted countries!

Before looking at HarassMap, it is important to stress women’s safety is an issue everywhere – not just in the developing countries but also in the developed countries. The intention here is not to defend the developing countries but to stress the issue is universal. But is it?

Well, data collated by Trendrr from official sources showed the highest (reported) incidences of rape per 100,000 were in the USA, Belgium, Panama, St. Kitts, Australia, Grenada, Nicaragua, Sweden, Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa. Another set of data collated on Wonderlist listed Zimbabwe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, UK, USA, Sweden and South Africa as the top rape culprits. If one adds unreported rapes across countries, these ranks may change. A survey by ActionAid UK/YouGov and data by UN Women found 75% of UK women faced some form of harassment or violence vs. 79% in India. Thailand and Brazil scored higher at 86% while Vietnam saw 87%. and Egypt saw 99%. Overall, 35% of women globally have faced violence or harassment. And it is not just unknown males. Even the males closer home are to blame. 29% of Indian women reported physical/sexual violence from an intimate partner, as per data of UN Women. In comparison, this was 13% in Ukraine, 17% in The Philippines, 18% in Indonesia, 19% in Italy and Greece each, 22% in Germany, 24% in Romania, 25% in Nepal, 26% in Egypt and France each, 27% in Bhutan and Norway each, 28% in Ethiopia, 29% in the UK, 30% in Finland, 32% in Denmark, 33% in Peru, 34% in Rwanda, 38% in Turkey, 39% in Kenya, 42% in Tanzania and 53% in Bangladesh. There are more statistics. But this collation should give weight to the fact that this is a universal problem!

Given Egypt’s woeful statistics on women’s safety, perhaps it is opportune that the HarassMap came into being there. Founded by Rebecca Chiao, Engy Ghozlan, Amel Fahmy and Sawsan Gad, HarassMap is a crowd-mapping technology platform (over mobile app or website) that engages the entire community in countering the menace of sexual harassment in Egyptian cities. More than just a map or app, it is a community-led initiative. Anyone can login and join. It uses reporting and mapping technology to support the entire community to:-

  • report a sexual harassment crime to HarassMap and/or the police when it happens
  • act by intervening to help someone they see getting harassed
  • convert passive by-standing into active intervention
  • convince people that this is the fault of the harasser and not the person being harassed – bringing in social acceptability of the menace
  • to speak out to report incidents
  • to stop making excuses of the perpetrators
  • implementing and enforcing anti-sexual harassment policies in institutions
  • spreading awareness about what constitutes harassment

Reporting is open for everyone, be it an incident of harassment or an intervention by someone. This can be done over the mobile or computer through the online form, SMS, email or even social media. The location/address of the incident has to be marked has closely as possible, and preferably the approximate time. The actual reporting can be done at a later time. A form is added to describe the incident, so that the platform understands the nature of the crime and marks it accordingly. But the description loaded finally is screened to maintain anonymity. HarassMap then verifies the incident before uploading it on the online map.

Ultimately, the reports builds a map of harassment incidents that occurred across the city, with each reported incident being depicted as a dot on the map and a full information report accessible for those who click on the dot. The public can sign up to receive updates of the situation in the city. It also provides access to free legal and psychological advice by listing various centers, lawyers and associations across Egyptian cities. Assistance is also given to the victim in the form of accompanying them to report the incident officially. It also offers community education on these issues, and its team visits various public venues and people to build harassment-free zones in Egypt.

Unlike the NGOs who move into advocacy for new rules and regulations which take its own time, HarassMap works towards improving the state of the community directly. In its eight years of operations, the platform has expanded its offline and online reach. Over the years, it has won numerous awards and accolades globally, including from Deutche Welle, Cairo University, Nominet Trust 100, World Summit Youth and My Community Our Earth Partnership.

Other countries should build similar platforms instead of waiting to reach the level of Egypt before thinking of workable solutions. Since its inception, many activists and NGOs have approached Egypt’s HarassMap for replication in order to start their HarassMap-versions in their own countries. HarassMap staff offers them help by coaching those who ask for help, advising how to plan their programme, sharing experiences and technical skills and contacts.

In this way, Egypt’s HarassMap is spreading its fight against sexual harassment into a global movement. Already, initiatives like India’s Akshara and Safecity, Pakistan’s Name and Shame, Bangladesh’s Bijoya, Lebanon’s Harasstracker and many more are working on similar lines. Hopefully, the movement started by Egypt’s HarassMap will help make women everywhere safer!

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