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Marina commented on Hollaback Organization Around The World

Kimberley, thank you so much for sharing this research! It is some very interesting read and I particularly looked out for research in Istanbul. From personal experience, I can say that harassment on the street is something of an expected fact for me when I go to touristy parts of Turkey and Egypt. Partly, because I am Russian and blonde, and the tourism industry workers in those countries have a trained eye to spot Russian women. There is a certain stereotype of a Russian woman in those places which results in some men feeling at liberty to communicate in a disrespectful manner.

However, a more interesting and informative insight came from a conversation I had about this with an Egyptian colleague. He is also very aware of this "blonde women" phenomena and what he shared was reflective of more than just a stereotype. He explained that in countries like Egypt, where the way of life is predominantly very traditional and the values that were observed years ago still hold - such as traditional gender roles, expectations with regards to sexual activity before marriage, required financial stability for an eligible bachelor and costs that are associated with marriage. However, in the modern world with fewer opportunities for the less fortunate and wider gaps in wealth within the society, it becomes difficult to get to a position when a man can afford to marry. Plus women become more independent, the narrative of the marriage is shifting from a functional one to an emotional one and all these factors combined mean that people get married later on in life.

On the other hand, physiology, biology and the instincts remain the same and the media constantly bombards people with images of success, sexual promiscuity and unreachable beauty with all the possessions that people start craving.

As a result, there is a conflict - men need to realise their urges, satisfy needs and feel successful and powerful, that the media may seem to suggest they should be and are entitled to, but they cannot do that in the context of marriage for a more extended period of time than they did in the past. Hence, they might feel that harassment is their way of trying attract the attention they desire. In some instances they might direct it towards those who are similar to the images they see in the media - western women, blonde being a symbol of different culture and perceived more relaxed cultural values. In other instances, the harassment is indiscriminatory.

I personally have certainly felt the different attitudes of men I have met from Turkey, Egypt and Morocco towards me in contrast to the women from their own communities - it of course does not apply to all men, but as a trend from my personal interactions.

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Marina commented on Respect for elders: a crime deterrent?

Jamie, thank you for your response and sharing the article. I think there is an important point in there which can contribute to the solution - it all starts in the childhood and the upbringing you get gives you a lense to see the world through. As you mentioned, people who do not feel like they have any other options and deem an option of violence as an option at all, may not necessarily be changed directly, however they may be influenced by their peers. Human are social creatures and we do what the others around us do too - group think and group conformity psychology always kicks in.

So may there be something about facilitating a movement within the community at risk (in my example the youth in the area of a certain age and employment/education status) that condemns violence and offers support in identifying other ways to address their issues - thereby distracting them from focussing on the violent options? It then becomes a broader community solution of focussing the effort and attention on identifying the problems that may have led the perpetrators to violence and targeting those, thereby removing incentive for violence toward the weaker population groups (elders, women)? It is almost like avoiding saying "don't do something" and encouraging people to "do something".

Another thought on how a shift in thinking may be supported is to work with children in the communities as "change agents" - they are the future but they are also those who can come to a parent or another adult and say something that might make an adult think, whereas the same phrase spoken by another adult might be dismissed.

There is a really powerful ad on smoking that illustrates this concept - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_YZ_PtMkw0. When children, and especially boys, start questioning adults, the patterns on behaviour in the community might change. This point was also raised in another conversation, so I feel there are synergies .http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/research/raising-men-to-respect-women-and-take-action-to-end-violence-and-discrimination-against-women-once-and-for-all

I feel that violence towards women is a symptom of a broader underying issue in those who make the choice to abuse, and it is understanding that that may offer us solutions for the long term and with a holistic impact?

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Marina commented on Discovering Design Constraints in Kathmandu

Shauna, you have raised really challenging questions which definitely are relevant in many regions in the world. I wanted to offer one idea that I have come across with regards to the literacy challenge. Using images to communicate the messages, like the article suggests illiterate farmers in rural India do to share practices. It of course implies a smart phone and internet connection, which brings back to your other two challenges but it is an idea to consider?
http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/06/05/mobile-learning-how-smartphones-help-illiterate-farmers-in-rural-india/