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Women's Safety Challenge Community Champion Update #2

Photo of Karolle Rabarison
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Karolle Rabarison is our current volunteer Challenge Community Champion. You'll see her popping up across the Women's Safety Challenge with handy tips and words of encouragement – and posting community updates here like a true champion!
I’m floored by the diversity of topics that have come up during this Research phase. From sports to epidemiology, from community maps to street art, we have unearthed countless insightful connections to safety and empowerment for women and girls. Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on themes emerging among the contributions.

Among these themes, I’ve noticed two angles or umbrella categories: shifting attitudes and safety measures.

Photo Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Stop Telling Women to Smile

SHIFTING ATTITUDES refers to contributions about initiatives that aim to change the way people think about and value women and girls, including how women/girls see themselves. Themes in this category include stories about empowerment through sports and men advocating for gender equity, for starters.

Here are a few examples:

Sandiip Saravan offers the example of a Coke-WWF campaign for the environment to suggest that marketing for everyday products like toothpaste and sunscreen could change men’s attitude towards women, especially in communities where violence is prevalent.

Audree Fletcher introduces the Bechdel test. As Yennie Lee (Team Amplify) sums it up, the Bechdel tests “whether a piece of media has balance among all gender narratives” and does so by identifying (1) two female characters with names (2) that talk to one another (3) about something other than a man. Audree concludes that the test could encourage Bollywood to promote gender-positive stories and change attitudes about women, and Meena Kadri chimes in with examples of norm-breaking, women-centered films out of Bollywood.

Philip Graulty highlights Los Angeles-based Homegirl Café, a unique organization that empowers at-risk or gang-involved young women through skills training and job opportunities. This social enterprise is one to keep an eye on!

Jayne Glick kicks in with one of my very favorite things: activism through art. Jayne tells us about a project called “Stop Telling Women to Smile” that is working to change attitude and behavior towards women in public spaces – specifically, confronting those guilty of gender-based street harassment. This project reminds me of another art series that, whether or not the photographer intended to, has started a great conversation about street harassers – check out Hannah Price’s “City of Brotherly Love.”

Photo by amor8 via flickr.

SAFETY MEASURES category contains stories that are more about prevention and protection than changing attitudes and values. Among the various themes, conversations around mobile-based solutions, women-friendly mass transit and buddy systems come to mind here.

More examples, for your research pleasure:

Jason Rissman shares a fabulous interview with Rebecca Chiao, the founder of HarassMap. Initiated in Cairo, the project crowdsources reports of sexual harassment and aims to use the data and maps to promote safety and community-driven interventions. I love that Jason followed his own curiosity about the project and took the initiative to reach out to Rebecca – interviews are a great way to inject new voices into our community. Refer to my previous post for other interview highlights and tips on doing them yourself.

Katie Armstrong suggests a unique way to come up with safety measures: talk to ex-convincts, inmates, drug dealers, etc. about their safety strategies when they are in dangerous or resource-constrained environments. She explains, "Maybe along with asking inmates about their experiences with safety and their safety tactics inside the prison, we could also discuss how it relates to their safety strategies outside the prison. If affiliated with a group that uses safety as a key priority in daily survival, they might be able to identify issues that haven't crossed our minds!"

Sarah Fathallah returns to OpenIDEO to get us thinking about the law’s role in protecting women against violence and harassment. Sarah asks: Are these laws actually enforced or respected? Are women allowed to or able to go to court or other institutions that can support them? Are there any additional customary or cultural barriers preventing women from using legal recourses to protect themselves? Would love to hear your thoughts on these prompts!

Yuan Wang considers how infrastructures like a public toilet can either promote or complicate women’s safety. Yuan shares insights from local NGOs in Bangalore and Mumbai – including Sochara, SNEHA and Shelter Associates – that are working to improve access to safe and sanitary toilets. More contributions linking toilets and safety here and here. And for even more inspiration, check out the previous OpenIDEO challenge on improving sanitation in low-income urban communities.

Photo by wiredforlego via flickr.

Your turn:

Digesting shifting attitudes vs. safety measures further, I wonder how stories or initiatives that are safety measures might translate into positive shifts in attitude – and vice versa. For instance, drawing from the examples highlighted here, consider how HarassMap highlighting a street corner as “unsafe” might change attitudes among people who have to frequent it. Or, what about art activism: how might these efforts go from promoting awareness and conversation to preventing violence in notoriously dangerous spaces? I’m still mulling over these questions and connections myself.

Another angle to consider is how the  shifting attitudes approach takes a more long-term view, while  safety measures  are more about addressing the issue now or in the short-term. Are there situations in which short-term solutions are more important than long-term ones?

Last, but not least: What other emerging trends and themes have you observed during this Research phase?
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Community Champions , Women's Safety Challenge

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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Lovely highlights and insights, Karolle! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with our community.