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Home Startups CEO Weekends: Egypt’s HarassMap.org Mapping Sexual Harassment In Egypt

CEO Weekends: Egypt’s HarassMap.org Mapping Sexual Harassment In Egypt

by Sam Wakoba
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HARASSmap-LogoWebHarassMap is a volunteer-based initiative mapping sexual harassment in Egypt to end it. The independent initiative uses SMS and web platforms  to reach the country’s population to fight sexual harassment.

Founded in 2005 by Rebecca Chiao with an MA in International Development and International Economics from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Engy Ghozlan, a graduate of Cairo University, Amel Fahmy with an MA in Anthropology at the American University in Cairo and the London School of Economics and Sawsan Gad with an  MA in Demographic and Social Analysis from University of California, Irvine in 2008 and her BA in Commerce from Ain Shams University in 2005, HarassMap  wants to harness online and mobile technology to support a huge offline on-the-ground mobilization effort to encourage everyone to be watchful against harassment and to take action by speaking up against it before and when it happens.

 

The team says they are re-establishing consequences for harassers and making sexual harassment socially unacceptable and believe they can change the environment in their streets that tolerate harassment to put a stop to it.

They said, “We have one thing in common: the drive to put an end to sexual harassment and to make Egypt a safer environment for everyone. Passion, rather than hierarchy, is our main tool for organizing and carrying out our work.”

The team has been organizing campaigns and protests on sexual harassment, conducting research, and raising awareness and initiating dialogue on the issue in Egypt since 2005.

According to the founders sexual harassment will stop only when harassers stop harassing but that will only happen when everyone stops making excuses for harassers, ignoring harassment, and tolerating their behavior. The platform is therefore founded to encourage bystanders to speak up against harassers and have a zero-tolerance attitude towards harassment.

“Not so long ago this was the norm in Egyptian society and we Egyptians were proud of the safety and dignity of our neighborhoods. We all remember stories of bystanders standing up to harassers, chasing them and shaving their heads as a mark of shame. By re-establishing social consequences for harassers – shaming harassers and making role models of people who stand up to them – we believe that harassers can be deterred from harassing again,” they said.

The team decided to start this campaigns as there was no political will to address sexual harassment in Egypt. Not wanting to wait for the for the government to act, the co-founders, volunteers and partners have vowed to make sexual harassment completely socially unacceptable and are mobilizing the country to see it as crime.

They team works simply.

They use online and mobile technology to mobilize the community and  encourage them to speak up against sexual harassment by use of community volunteers who go out in all over Egypt convincing the people on the streets to intervene against sexual harassment.

Users can also report and document harassment online or by SMS then the online maps  generated are used by volunteers to target hotspots to teach awareness about sexual harassment. The team also does research and monitors the state of sexual harrasment in Egypt.

Running on Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS platform’s, the HarassMap map is used by victims and witnesses in Egypt to anonymously report and share their experiences of harassment.

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