We are working to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt. All our activities are geared towards encouraging bystanders – normal people like you and me everywhere around Egypt – to speak up against harassers and have a zero-tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment.
We believe that sexual harassment will stop only when harassers stop harassing. This will only happen when we all stop ignoring harassment, making excuses for harassers, and tolerating their behaviour. Not so long ago standing up to sexual harassment and assault was the norm in Egyptian society and we Egyptians were proud of the safety and dignity of our neighborhoods. We all remember hearing 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 – and making role models of people who stand up to them – we believe that harassers can be deterred from harassing again.
Egypt does have laws addressing sexual harassment and assault and they have been used successfully in courts. However, enforcement of the laws remains rare, and advocacy efforts to improve them have so far not met with success. Meanwhile, this problem continues to affect the daily lives of millions. We cannot wait to act. Instead, we, and our hundreds of volunteers and partners work to make sexual harassment and assault completely socially unacceptable and we will mobilize everyone to treat it like the crime it actually is. This will eventually create the public pressure necessary to make the government take serious action on the issue, and to enact new and better laws.
Our work is based on the idea that an integrated approach that combines online and mobile technology and mass media and communications campaigns can help support on-the-ground community mobilization to activate the public to be watchful against sexual harassment and to take action by speaking up against it. We crowdsource SMS and online reports of sexual harassment and assault and map them on our ‘HarassMap.’ We use these reports to show people the scale of the problem and to dispel myths about, and excuses for, sexual harassment – like for example that ‘how women dress’ or ‘sexual frustration’ are reasons and excuses for sexual harassment and/or assault. Our 1000 volunteers all over Egypt take our map and go into their own neighborhoods, talking to people with a permanent presence in the street, like doormen/women, shopkeepers, kiosk owners – people who influence the culture of that street. Using real evidence from the reports, our volunteers respond to all the excuses people make for harassers, and convince them to stand up to sexual harassment when they see it happen. One by one, we are working with residents, businesses, drivers, workers, and students in neighborhoods all over the country to restore our sense of social responsibility and to create zero tolerance for sexual harassment and assault in Egypt.
Using information and analysis from research, and experiences from our community mobilization efforts, we also create insightful communications campaigns that address the sexual harassment and assault epidemic. These include campaigns to dispel myths and stereotypes about sexual harassment and assault, change perceptions that put blame on the harassed/assaulted and sympathize with the harasser, and mobilize people to stand up to harassment when they see it happen.