A collaboration recently took place in Cairo between local activists and a student organization from Denmark – standing side by side against street harassment.
“It’s very exhausting to walk down the streets each day asking yourself, ‘will I get back home safe?’ And each morning you tell yourself, ‘this is going to be the day when my life will turn into misery’. I think this way each morning before stepping out of my apartment,” a victim of sexual harassment said in the event held in the Egyptian capital.
Not only had a group of students decided to stand against this widespread phenomenon – sexual harassment – but they also held a massive campaign and invited students from different universities to join their event Sexual Harassment: Roots and Routes.
With a variety of speakers, participants and attendees, the two-day initiative managed to deliver its message, striving to engage people who experience street harassment to stand up for themselves and their own right.
As for the speakers, who came from a multitude of backgrounds, they tackled the situation from different perspectives. A film director approached the problem of child harassment and how people can spread awareness among children without explicitly explaining the problem to them.
Another speaker, a lawyer, specified measures that victims should take in order to confront the harasser legally. There were more workshops discussing cases that managed to “give harassers what they deserve”.
Attendees got a chance to express their opinions and participate actively; they narrated their own stories of harassment and how they dealt with it. Many girls expressed fear towards sexual abuse, and the adrenaline rush they get whenever someone tries to approach them.
“I was in a cab, heading home from college, when all of a sudden I found the cab driver masturbating in his seat, he took his pants down and I couldn’t say a word. I just asked him to stop and wasn’t able to say anything,” said one of the women present.
“It’s very exhausting to walk down the streets each day asking yourself, ‘will I get back home safe?’”
“Well, people think that only females experience street harassment, but males know exactly how it feels. I was once harassed by another man who said an explicit offer to me in the street,” a male victim added.
One of the guests was a Taekwondo trainer who offered some of his self-defense moves to the attendees to teach them how to defend themselves in situations which involve physical violence.
“Defending sexual harassment is unacceptable, and it has nothing to do with how the girl dresses, it’s criminalized by the law just as murderer,” said one of the organizers.
A journalist from Denmark noted, to the surprise of most locals, that sexual harassment takes place widely in Denmark and, as in Egypt, many women never report it. She discussed domestic violence and initiatives that are being taken in her native country to help women report these incidents.
The lengthy debate also touched on cell phone applications created to report street harassment; participants were looking for ways to value their effectiveness as well as understanding how to use them in order to help other victims.
Sexual harassment: Roots and Routes was organized by students from the International Model of the European Union, a simulation model and student activity in Cairo, in collaboration with Frit Forum of Social Democratic Students in Denmark.