We live in a data-driven society: to address a given problem, you first have to prove it exists. In the past year, organizations like Hollaback have drawn attention to street harassment through videos and social media campaigns. But statistically speaking, how prevalent is the problem? Who’s logging complaints? Sometimes, street harassment takes the form of an annoying catcall or a demand that a woman smile. But other times, it can be downright dangerous: United Nations Women estimates that, over the course of a lifetime, one in three women experience sexual assault.
Elsa D’Silva. Image courtesy of Impact Hub
Safecity founder Elsa D’Silva wants to change this statistic. In her native India, it is estimated that a rape occurs every 20 minutes. But with the guilt, fear, and shame often associated with street harassment, it is believed that many cases go unreported. D’Silva conceived of Safecity as a way for victims to anonymously report incidents and shed light on previously invisible crimes.
Image courtesy of Rising Voices
In addition to collecting reports, Safecity aggregates the data and highlight trends on a map. This visual reporting style helps women take precautions in high-harassment areas and provides evidence of the problem to lawmakers. Outside of the app, D’Silva and her team run sexual harassment awareness workshops to empower victims and shift the attitudes of men and boys. As D’Silva points out, India does not teach sex education, so Safecity also aims to change attitudes about sex, gender, and relationships.
Image courtesy of Tech in Asia
Currently, Safecity collects reports in two forms: on the web and via phone callback. However, the team is working on an app to allow more detailed documentation. Follow Safecity on social media to track their progress and learn about future initiatives.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Shamima Ali. Currently Ali heads the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and supports the Fiji Human Rights Commission. During the 2006 Fijian military coup, Ali spoke out against human rights violations committed by the interim government. In spite of the inherent risk, her vocal condemnation of the coup led to the release of several prominent human rights defenders. In 2007, the U.S. State Department presented Ali with the Women of Courage Award.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Graça Machel (October 17, 1945-). Machel began her career as a schoolteacher in Mozambique and later transitioned into politics. As a humanitarian, Machel defended refugees and presented a groundbreaking report to the United Nations on the traumatic impact of war on children. She is also the only woman in history to be first lady of two countries; she was married to Mozambican president Samora Machel and later to South African president Nelson Mandela.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Sunitha Krishnan (1972-). During her field work as a social worker, Krishnan developed relationships with sex workers in and around Bangalore. These relationships, along with her own history as a rape survivor, laid the groundwork for Krishnan’s career as an anti-human trafficking advocate. Krishnan co-founded Prajwala, an organization that rescues and supports sex trafficking victims and their children. She also lobbies the Indian government to shift their policies to a more victim-friendly focus. In addition to her hands-on work, Krishnan has also written 14 documentaries shedding light on AIDS, incest, and other social issues impacting the region.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Rosemary Nyirumbe. While a video condemning Ugandan dictator Joseph Kony went viral in 2012, Sister Nyirumbe has spent her life dedicated to the victims left in his wake. As Director of the Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Centre, Nyirumbe provides a safe space for girls to recover and teaches them tailoring skills so they can support themselves. To date, Nyirumbe’s program and sister program have helped 2,000 girls work through past traumas and lay the groundwork for more promising futures.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Michi Weglyn (November 29, 1926–April 25, 1999). Growing up in the western United States during the World War II, Weglyn and her family experienced the pain of Japanese internment camps firsthand. When she was released, she moved to the East Coast for college and later became the most prominent Japanese-American in theatrical costume design. Yet the wounds of internment still ached, and in 1976, Weglyn published Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. The book chronicled the government’s abuse of the Japanese-Americans and laid the groundwork for a later reparations movement.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Robi Damelin. During his term in the Israeli army, Damelin’s son was shot by a sniper. Damelin channeled her grief into The Parents’ Circle, an organization supporting Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones to religious violence. Ultimately, the group advocates for peace and human rights on both sides.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Aura Elena Farfán. After surviving the Guatemalan government’s reign of terror in the ’80s and ’90s, Farfán founded FAMDEGUA, an organization dedicated to the relatives of the disappeared. Because of her activism, she regularly receives death threatens and, in 2001, was held captive by armed kidnappers along with her driver. In spite of the danger, she continues to serve as FAMDEGUA’s Executive Director, making it Guatemala’s oldest human rights organization.
After last week’s murder of nine Emanuel AME parishioners, the Confederate flag continued to fly high over Charleston, South Carolina. In spite of a petition signed by 568,000 people, persuasion from local government leaders, and even a plea from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the flag, viewed by critics as a symbol of white supremacy, continued to fly. But on Saturday morning, activist Bree Newsome decided that enough was enough. With the support of fellow activist James Ian Tyson, Newsome scaled the 30-foot pole and removed the flag herself.
Photo credit: danteberry Instagram
Newsome’s actions come at a personal cost; the punishment for a misdemeanor charge can be a fine of $5,000, three years in prison, or a combination of the two. Yet in a press release, she made it clear that she believed the sacrifice was worth it. Newsome explained, “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” In two days, her supporters have raised over $100,000 to assist with her case.
Image courtesy of Ana Mardoll
In addition to her activism, Newsome is also a classically trained pianist with a BFA in Film and Televison from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2011, she became the first Artist-In-Residence at Saatchi & Saatchi, a prestigious NYC ad agency. Currently, she resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, and serves as Western Field Organizer for Ignite, an organization dedicated to helping teens improve their local communities. Check Newsome’s website and social media to keep up with her case.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Obiageli Ezekwesili (April 28, 1963-). Ezekwesili began her career as an accountant and later earned degrees in International Law and Diplomacy and Public Administration. After graduating from Harvard University, she returned to Nigeria to become the country’s Federal Minister of Solid Minerals and later as Federal Minister of Education. From 2007 to 2012, Ezekwesili served as the Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division. In addition to her government experience, she also co-founded Transparency International, an organization dedicated to dismantling global corruption. In 2014, she galvanized the viral #BringBackOurGirls champagne after Islamist militant group Boko Haram abducted 300 Chibok girls from a school.