Kabul, Afghanistan, and Washington, DC, have a lot in common when it comes to gender-based street harassment. Last night, the co-founders of two organizations working to end street harassment spoke about it at a great event in Washington, DC: Chai Shenoy of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (DC) and Noorjahan Akbar of Young Women for Change (Kabul).
These amazing women shared how gender-based street harassment is similar and how it differs in the two cities and their activism initiatives.
In both cities, street harassment makes public places less safe for women. It makes them feel less able to go places, and, especially in Kabul where there is so much groping and extreme forms of street harassment, it can deter women from going to school and work and make them more dependent on the men in their families or on their husbands.
Street harassment is a symptom of larger gender inequality and gender violence in both countries. As long as street harassment occurs, we know that broader issues of gender violence are occurring behind closed doors, in schools and in workplaces.
In Kabul, it’s especially dangerous for women to speak out on this issue and Noorjahan shared how she’s regularly called an American spy and worse for daring to be female with an opinion and a voice.
Both organizations are addressing street harassment in similar ways: collecting and sharing stories, organizing marches and art exhibits, and asking politicians to do more about the issue. When asked what people could do to help, this is what they shared:
Chai: 1) Share your experiences, this is integral to breaking social norms. 2) Attempt to get involved in some way. Build a community of bystander intervention. Learning strategies is helpful for both women and men. There’s so much we can do to learn from each other and help each other feel safe.
Noorjahan: 1) Men can speak out against the victim-blaming of women (in Kabul, women are even blamed for causing the harassment based on how large their sunglasses are or how high their heels are on their shoes!). 2) Women can speak out louder. Individual women may face personal attacks but if there are are many voices speaking out from all over, it’s more effective.Share on Facebook