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This Happened Here: Updated 4/29

Imagine the ability to listen to women's stories as you walk throughout the city. This Happened Here is a place-based public awareness campaign designed to document audio stories of violence and resistance. A strong and graphic logo sign indicates where in the city a woman or girl was harassed, stood her ground, was attacked, fought back, etc. Wherever you see a sign, you can call a phone number from any mobile phone and listen to a story told by a woman about the incident as well as sharing your own. These stories would also be mapped and accessible online.

Photo of Natasha Freidus
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I got the idea for this project after reading some of the entries about prominent geo-labeling of physical space and the crowd-sourced mapping entries. It reminded me of the Murmur project which I learned about a few years ago--in cities that have implemented Murmur there are large green "ears" posted prominently on telephone poles. When you see one you can call the Murmur number and listen directly to a story of an event that happened at that place. I think this can be easily adapted for multiple contexts, even using stickers of the "women's symbol" or something very low-tech to indicate where a story happened. Users can also respond  and contribute their own stories simply by dialing a local number and leaving a voicemail which would become part of the audio library.

I think it is important to document stories of resistance as well as stories where women have been attacked or felt unsafe. We need to hear more stories of ways that women defend themselves and take action. 

It would make sense to partner with local NGO's, radio stations, and women's collaboratives to collect the stories (I know that many are already doing this wor, see the storypinning contribution in this challenge as well as,
The process of women telling and recording these stories would be a critical part of the project and would need to be conducted with great care. 

Since the Research Phase of this challenge suggests that smart phones are not always readily available, I'd recommend keeping the tech side simple- so instead of a GPS enabled map calling up a story, the user just dials a phone number and has a voicemail like system respond. The sticker would indicate the story's "number" and you just dial in the number at the prompt to listen.

Questions for the community?
  • Where would be a good place to pilot this project? 
  • Do you know of other initiatives collecting and documenting women's stories of safety?
  • What would be a way of incorporating an "action" step or organizing component to this project? 


Explain your idea in one sentence.

This Happened Here is a public awareness campaign to make women's audio stories accessible in physical spaces throughout the city.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

Storytelling is a critical component of social change. We need innovative strategies to listen directly to women; it is women's stories that will allow us to better understand the nature of violence and safety and the way that they manifest themselves throughout the city. We believe that women's voices - directly placed in physical environments throughout the city can raise awareness and serve as a call to action.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

This project would help city residents better understand the nature of women's safety by learning from the women themselves. It would also increase awareness of spots that are unsafe. Women storytellers would benefit by having an audience for their voice. We could monitor success by tracking incidents of violence as well as the impact of the project on the storytellers themselves. We could also interview listeners as to the impact of the story and analyze comments/reactions to the stories left by voicemail and online.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

There are multiple NGO's already using oral storytelling as a tool to promote awareness and healing around women's safety. It would be possible to collaborate with one of these organizations that have already collected stories. It would also require a technical team to implement the telephone systems. I would be interested in working on this if I found the right team and pilot site.

Where should this idea be implemented?

This is one of my questions for you! I'd probably want to pilot it somewhere that is already doing the storytelling work and just needs to implement the mapping/telephone component. We are exploring possibilities in Mumbai, Kampala, and other cities where we have colleagues and partners including some great folks who we have connected with through this challenge and would like to try "This Happened Here" out!

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

One potential technology platform to pilot This Happened Here could be Vojo,, which already has many of the features we'd like to try out. Another alternative is We can prototype it in one neighborhood, evaluate, reflect, refine, and explore how adaptable it is across language/geography/culture.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

Scenario: (Please see attached experience map in image section for visuals) Maricela lives in Mexico City. In her neighborhood, she's started to notice the prominent yellow stickers posted on bus-stops, sign posts, etc. Each sticker has a telephone number on it. One day, while waiting for the bus, Maricela calls the number from her mobile phone. She hears an automated message asking her to choose from a menu of places--each place, she is told, corresponds to a story. She clicks on Option 5, and immediately is drawn in as she hears the story of a woman who was harrassed one evening, waiting at that very bus-stop. At the end of the story, Maricela can choose to leave a comment. She can also choose to send an SMS to the City's public safety committee, asking for better lighting at the stop. She does both, and is informed that if she'd like to join a group of women organizing in this neighborhood, she can sign up for text alerts for future meetings and actions. Maricela has never participated in this kind of action before, but the next time she gets an alert she decides to attend the meeting with her sister....


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Photo of wekesa zab

Such open spaces interactive approachs are very effective .. Ad love to prototype a similar approach in Nairobi.. Since the cycling Culture is still untapped and their is thirst for it :)

Photo of Natasha Freidus

Thanks Wekesa! Keep me posted if you ever want to collaborate on a prototype:)

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