Ghaidaa al-Absi is an anti-street harassment activist from Yemen and she founded the Safe Streets Campaign. She identifies as a feminist and gender activist, and her passion is helping women. One of her projects has been to empower Yemeni women in new media. She also authored a booklet about stories of women revolutionaries who participated in the Current revolution.
Via e-mail she answered several questions about street harassment in Yemen and her campaign.
Stop Street Harassment (SSH): What inspired you to start the Safe Streets campaign?
Ghaidaa al-Absi (GA): Every day I walk in the streets, and every day I face sexual harassment. Unfortunately, it becomes daily life, and we women are forced to adapt to it either by being silent or yelling at the harassers. One day, something happened to me, and that made me found Safe Streets campaign. I am always facing harassment, but what happened in that day affected me.
After visiting my friend, I went back to my home. While I was walking in the street a man came to me from behind, and tried to touch me. I hit him with my bag, but I felt very depressed at that moment because he deserved more.
My friends and I talked about what happens to us in the street. I told myself to stop complaining, and to do something instead. So I proposed the campaign to Tacticaltech, and they funded it.
SSH: What does the campaign entail?
GA: There’s an electronic map where women have space to report what happened to them in the streets, and where happened. Through this map we aim to detect the hot spot streets, and to have some data, because this information will help us in the future for two main reasons. First, we are planning to extend the campaign and start cooperating with police officers to distribute more moral patrols in these hot spot areas. Second, this kind of information will show how this problem is serious, and then we can put a pressure on the decision makers to form a law to punish the harassers.
SSH: What is your goal/s for the campaign? What do you think it can achieve?
GA: Actually we have two goals. First, we want women to speak out about what is happening to them in the streets instead of keeping this behind closed doors. Second, we want to mobilize people, decision makers, and police officers to form a law so the harasser can be punished.
SSH: How is the campaign being received by the general public?
GA: So far we are getting many interactions from people. Of course some people still deny that there is sexual harassment in the streets in Yemen and keep telling us there many important issues in Yemen we should care about instead. As you know this campaign was born during the Yemeni revolution, so all people are concerned about the political, economical issues in Yemen more than anything else. Thus, women’s rights issues are not a priority for some men and women. However, in the middle of this, there are many people interacting with the campaign. As you can see on the Facebook page there are more than 1600 likes, and the viewers of the movie of the campaign more than 3,000.
SSH: I know ATHAR Foundation undertook a street harassment survey and campaign in Yemen a few years ago, do you think it paved the way for people to be more willing to discuss street harassment?
GA: Athar foundation was the first NGO to talk about sexual harassment in the streets in Yemen. We appreciate the survey they have done, because they gave us a rate of sexual harassment, which is 90 percent of women are suffering from this serious problem. Because of their survey, we can bring people’s attention to this issue.
SSH: Do you have any advice you have for people who want to start their own campaign in their community?
GA: The first step is the hardest, and it takes a long time before you can go to the next step. Second, you might not find support or a response at the start of your campaign, especially if it is touching sensitive issues. Just Be Patient.
SSH: Anything else you would like to add?
GA: This campaign would never come to life without the help and the support of my husband Fathi Al-Dhafri. Personally I thank every one who worked for this campaign because they believed in the cause, and never waited to be paid. They are heroes and heroines.
SSH: Thank you!Share on Facebook