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Footsteps To Inspire

Running beaches in every country of the world to promote peace and inspire change for survivors of sexual violence.

Photo of Claire
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We all know someone who has been raped or sexually abused…it might be you, it might be your family or even someone close. And most often, they haven’t told you so you can’t help them. Shame, fear of judgement and taboo are just some of the reasons why most survivors remain in silence. Did you know that 1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men and 230 million children (a year) are sexually abused. That’s 631,000 children a day! What if we could change this? We can! I’m Claire McFarlane and I’m running 16 km of beach in every country / dependency of the world (that’s 230) to promote peace and help end sexual violence. It’s called Footsteps To Inspire: a world first, both as an expedition and social cause. I was the victim of a brutal rape back in 1999 in Paris. It took 16 years to jail my attacker, which is why I chose the 16km distance to mark the amount of time I waited for justice. Now I'm using my experience to give a voice to others and help make the world a safer place. In every country, I hear stories of horror and sometimes stories of hope. I link with local communities, organisations, government services and survivors to talk and understand what the challenges are for them in their country. Many join me as I run 16 kilometres, barefoot, along a stretch of beach. I have already travelled to 36 countries and run on 37 beaches. There is nothing else I’m meant to do in the world right now. In 2016, I sold everything I had to raise enough money to get started. There are still 194 more countries to go. It’s no longer just me - this has become a global movement of people wanting to heal and prosper - and we need your help to keep going. Is Footsteps To Inspire leaving an impact? Yes, absolutely. When I started out, I had a vision - through beach running I could bring people from all walks of life together, to feel safe, to talk freely about sexual violence, and ultimately to heal. This is exactly what is happening, and so much more.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Women, men and children affected by sexual violence in every country of the world. That’s 1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men and 230 million children (each year). There is a common agreement in the world that sexual abuse doesn’t just impact the victim, it affects everyone in their life and everyone who will come into their until the moment they get to heal.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

This is a world first - no one has ever used beach runnning to bring global communities together to peacefully end sexual violence. Claire (myself) is what makes this vision unique. It is rare for a rape survivor to publicly share their experience with the purpose of inspiring change in every country of the world, no matter how small or remote it might be. Everyone deserves to be heard and feel safe. This approach is successful because I see it impacting lives. In many countries it is hard for people to have a voice and speak out publicly. Through Footsteps To Inspire, groups come together without the fear of being punished because in the end we are running, we are peacefully connecting and we are using sport to create change. In Papua New Guinea, 200 people joined me for the run and many asked if it could become an annual event. In Tanzania, villagers traveled over 150km to be at the run, passionate about the cause and committed to making it happen every year.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

A global sports movement to peacefully end sexual violence and make the world a safer place.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we plan to register in the future.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In 1999, I was brutally raped and left for dead on the streets of Paris. My attacker was caught 10 years later through DNA. What followed was a long, costly struggle through the French justice system. The ordeal lasted 16 years. I chose to open up about my story in 2014 and was surprised by how many survivors reached out to me - women, men and children. I realised how deeply this issue is affecting the world and how many people still suffer in silence. So began Footsteps To Inspire.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Sexual abuse of young girls often results in pregnancy, forced marriage and dropping out of school. This has a direct impact on the safety (peace) and prosperity for girls and women within their communities. Rape is used as a weapon of war in many countries and hinders peace resolution. Crime affects peace and prosperity. Studies in New Zealand show that there is a liklihood that men will commit crime if they have been sexually abused as children. In many countries, rape is seen as worse than death. This creates an intense feeling of fear and impacts every decision that a person makes. They are unable to live with a sense of peace. Victime blaming/rape culture create an unsafe environment for survivors to speak out. They are unable to access the necessary support needed to recover. Unhealed trauma can manifest physically and pyschologically for a lifetime. This will affect a victim’s ability to be an active participant in society and has consquences on economic prosperity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In every country, I link with local communities, organisations, government services and survivors to share stories and understand what the issues, complexities and hopes are around sexual violence. I include organisations that represent all walks of life and marginalised communities. In the Solomon Islands, I spoke with all of the country's prosecution and defense lawyers. It was a roundtable format where I shared my story intimately and then opened the floor for questioning. Many would say that I had stepped into the lion’s den. It was difficult because the line of questioning was inappropriate for a rape survivor, however this was the purpose of the activity. To highlight the possibilty of altering questions to lessen the chance of causing trauma. A major outcome from this meeting was that the department agreed to providing the justice department with specialized victim counselling training. I have success stories like these from almost all of the 36 countries so far.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Every country has women, men and young people who want to join the Footsteps To Inspire movement and become a catalyst for this peaceful change. Many volunteer their time already to the cause and lots run with me in their country. I have noticed a common trend: people want to talk about sexual violence, they just don’t know how to. Through Footsteps To Inspire, it feels like I'm creating that safe space for conversation, understanding and change.

Geographic Focus

Every country and dependency of the world - 230 in total.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Footsteps To Inspire is currently underway, however it requires financial and sponsor support to continue. I have estimated 12 to 18 months to secure this financial foundation and develop a solid structure for more longer term projects to begin incubating. Footsteps To Inspire has a big vision for the future and will strive to become the lead global organization on sexual violence. Please note it will take 5 years for me to finish running in 230 countries (moving country every 10 days).

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Terneille Burrows

Hello Claire
Please let me know when you come to run on a beach in The Bahamas! We will help you get the word out about the cause.

Photo of Claire

Hello Terneille,

How are you? Thank you so much for your message and reaching out for The Bahamas. I will definitely be running in the Caribbean and your offer to spread the word is awesome - I greatly appreciate it. I've requested to join the group.

Footsteps To Inspire has a longterm vision: the goal is to become an Annual Global Run, where communities around the world can come together on 18 July (or the weekend after) and run to peacefully end sexual violence. 2018 marks the start of the first informal annual run on Sunday 22 July. Everyone is welcome to join in wherever they are on this day to run (5 to 16kms). There will be a hashtag and option to post photos. I'm posting the event link this weekend on Facebook:

All the best

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