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Key to safety is within our homes

Big part of the answer to our safety lies at home. The key to making our low-income urban areas safer is to create a culture at home and in our communities that respects women. ------------------------------------------------------------------

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Written by DeletedUser

I grew up in a low-income urban area of Mumbai and vividly remember being exposed to molestation, verbal abuse and stalking at a very young age. 
Big part of the answer to our safety lies at home. Women, girls in our culture are taught to be subservient to men so this translated into acceptance and/or avoidance of unsafe situations, which isn't realistic nor sustainable.
The key to making our low-income urban areas safer is to create a culture at home and in our communities that respects women. I was one of the few women in my family who worked outside of the home. My brothers blamed me for being too modern and wearing clothes that attracted attention. It took many years for them to acknowledge their sisters and other women deserved respect.
Safety isn't just a woman's issue. Every man who has a sister, mother or daughter should be involved in solving this. Engaging and enlisting "guardian" men within the community to stop/report threats helps create a safer environment for everyone. 
My sister took karate lessons and taught me how to use it to defend myself. It is a great skill but more importantly it helped build my confidence. Today, I live in suburban California and am enrolling my young daughter in self-defense classes.
Based on the great feedback and inspiration from other contributors, I am planning to talk to my daughter's school to see if we can get self-defense included as part of the PE curriculum. Giving girls the right skills and support from the family/community will go a long way in building confidence and staying safe. 
Another suggestion is to include education for boys on why respecting women is important as these values are learned very early on in life. 
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Additional research on noteworthy initiatives:

Stop Street Harassment is doing great work in making streets safer for women. Would love to work with them to see how we can include some of their education resources in our schools and communities. 

Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is using street art to address gender-based street harassment by taking a place where women feel uncomfortable and turning it into a place where we cannot be ignored. Here are some of her posters for men who tell women what to do or what they think of them in the streets.

" Women are Heroes": Project by French street artist, JR, who is famous for his pastings of large black-and-white photographic images in public spaces. In his view, it's a way to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism.

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Photo of Matthew Page

I can agree with this. Much of the risk comes from the culture and from willfully ignoring the problem. A focus on re-education and retraining culture will go a long way.

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DeletedUser

Hi Matt! Yes. Education/retraining helps address root of the issue rather than attacking the symptom. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great to hear of the personal strides you've made, Mia – and the pursuit of empowering your daughters and their fellow classmates too. We especially like your highlight that this is a men's issue too – and we're looking forward to what insights like this will prompt for our upcoming Ideas phase. Something it made me wonder – do you have any thoughts on what would have influenced your brothers to think differently? I know it's a broad question – but if we start to narrow down on some of the specifics during our Research phase, it'll enrich our solutions when we get to Ideas.

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DeletedUser

Hi Meena, Thank you for the feedback and support.
Culture plays a big role in men's attitudes towards women and deciding what's acceptable in a given society.
My brothers' views were shaped by cultural norms and nurture. Getting the right guidance early on from my father, other elders (men) in the community and schools would have made a big difference in changing their attitude.
I recently connected with a friend in India, who tried to introduce sex education into her son's school curriculum and got push back from the parents group who didn't want "one more thing" to deal with.
I think culture and community-specific programs (Ex: Church groups) as part of and/or linked to broader global initiatives (Ex: Man Up ) could be very effective..
I will continue to think through the specifics and add more ideas as we progress through this challenge.

Photo of Meena Kadri

That's a great insight about the need for male role models, Mia. And thought you & others might find this toolkit interesting for building empathy amongst folks you mention like church groups: http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/walk-in-her-shoes

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DeletedUser

Thanks, Meena. Will check out the link you shared.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Mia, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Feedback button at the bottom of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

And here's more handy tips on the Research phase: http://bit.ly/oi_inspire

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DeletedUser

Great suggestion! Thank you :-)

Will add the images and also read up on the research phase.

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DeletedUser

I can relate to your post in the sense that growing up in Staten Island, NY a good majority of the community where I grew up new one another. Whether it be through a block party or social gathering or events at the local community center, there was a sense of community.

We moved to Las Vegas, NV when I was 12 and I still do not know more than one of my neighbors on my street. The only people I know in Las Vegas are work and school associates. Most everyone who I talk to share this same sentiment in Las Vegas compared to where they moved to Las Vegas from.

Building this sense of community and culture not just for women, but for men with female relatives is important. Not knowing who you live next to and who you can trust is a very scary feeling and you hit the nail on the head with your post.

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DeletedUser

Thanks, Mitchell. The need for and importance of community is often underestimated. It's these human connections that help create a sense of security and safety in our urban neighborhoods.

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DeletedUser

I think it would be interesting to integrate safety and self defense classes into the physical and health education curriculum.

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DeletedUser

I agree. Making safety and self-defense as part of school curriculum would be a good way to foster self-reliance but also encourages healthy conversation around mutual respect.