It is likely to have happened to nearly all women. A simple walk down the street turns into a stroll on Elm Street with a million Freddy Kruger types yelling out obscenities or some bold groping and pawing. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and no time is so good as now to look at some of the initiatives on the info superhighway designed to combat this scourge.
Teasing women on the street is a reality that is so integral to us in India and most parts of the world that today many don't even regard it as something that can be termed ‘harassment.' But Emily May and her friends thought otherwise. The New York of 2005 wasn't safe. “I didn't feel the city was mine,” says May. They wanted to share with other women the travails of catcalls, jeers and groping hands and decided to use technology to widen their reach. Blogging wasn't what it is today, nor were May and her friends tech-savvy.
But their Hollaback site (http://www.ihollaback.org/), dedicated to end street harassment launched in four U.S. and nine international locations, soon grew to network 25 cities globally. In India, they started with Mumbai; this April saw the start of the New Delhi site. As the New Delhi team says, street harassment is only the threshold point beyond which there lie many gendered abuses which very often remain unlegislated. Sharing experiences not only fosters a sense of solidarity which in itself is empowering. They are planning to work with the Delhi Police and NGOs to increase safety on the streets.
The new blogs launched on ihollaback.org will include local maps of street harassment in each location. Users can either blog about their harassment experience, garnering support from hundreds of users facing similar issues, or, with the latest iHollback iPhone and Droid applications, report it to the blog immediately.
The volunteer-empowered ihollaback.org is similar to the Pixel Project. Another virtual volunteer-led non-profit organisation, the Pixel Project uses social media and online strategies to create greater global awareness of violence against women while raising funds and finding more volunteers for the cause. Based on the simple premise of “stopping violence against women, one pixel at a time,” the project officially launched the first phase of its programme in December 2009.
Pixel by pixel
Created by Regina Yauthe, the project is aimed at including men in the war against violence as well. Its fund-raising methods are innovative. It aims to raise $1 million by selling a globally exclusive million-pixel collage of celebrity male role models' (men with strong family values and certainly no history of violence) portraits online for $1 a pixel.
The model was chosen by the campaign launched in May this year titled the Voters' Choice Celebrity Male Role Model to get a global audience to pick a people's choice celebrity male role model.
Besides the Hollback and the Pixel Project, India has its home-grown: the Blank Noise Project that uses blogs to create public discussions on eve-teasing and definite harassment on the street.