In early October I received an e-mail with the title “Say No To Sexual Harassment”, in it was a call for a meeting to combat sexual harassment in the streets of Ramallah. Being a victim of sexual harassment in the street and someone who advocates for both human and women rights, I had to go. I was among 70 other participants who were eager to tackle this issue. What came to me as a shock at the time, was the accounts of people confirming the fact that sexual harassment has seen an increase in Ramallah during the two years that I had been gone.
The meeting started of with a call for action, and various accounts of harassment that served as a confirmation to the need for action. Finally, after much discussion amongst the participants, including representatives from women organizations such as Sawa, Women’s Afairs Technical Committee and Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, we decided we were going to take action. We started off by creating committees that would work towards launching a full on campaign against sexual harassment in public spaces.
Having worked on crisis mapping in the past, I figured it could be used as a great tool, basically we would be crowd-sourcing the incidents and data on to a map. Once I suggested the idea, many participants sounded excited, indicating that a similar project had been running in Egypt for years. (Harassmap was started by both Rebecca Chiao and Engy Ghozlan to document sexual harassment in the streets of Egypt. I must say that I am very grateful to Rebecca for extending a helping hand, and giving us much needed advice and tips on how to process with our own map.)
The map itself would use the well known Ushahidi platform and link to FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS allows us to receive reports via SMS, and we’re given the option to immediately respond with an SMS giving tips and advice on how to deal with sexual harassment. The goal behind this map is to document incidents on the spot, identify hotspots in Ramallah and hopefully use it as a way to build a community willing to combat this horrible phenomenon.
So now a month later, the group has shrunk slightly, but many of us are still powering through. Since our initial meeting, many local organizations have shown interest in our initiative and have offered to help with our campaign. As for the map, well it’s in the process of being tested, we’re hoping to launch the map by the end of this month just in time for the 16 days of Action against Gender Violence. Till then stay tuned to receive more updates on the map and the initiative
Screenshot of the map: