Based on personal experiences of being harassed, a group in Egypt started to investigate the issue in order to understand whether sexual harassment was as common in wider society. After circulating a survey, they realized that it was in fact a much bigger problem, affecting most women in Egypt – and that many people rarely did anything about it.
HarassMap was born as a response to the persistent problem of sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt, to which society has become increasingly tolerant. It is the first independent initiative to work on the issue.
Co-founders, with volunteers and friends, started a campaign to address sexual harassment which eventually got adopted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights. In 2008, the issue received a great deal of attention in the media, and many women’s rights NGOs began to work on advocacy for legislation on sexual harassment. However, instead of waiting for the government to act, the co-founders strongly believed that it was important to do something on the ground in order to address society’s acceptance of sexual harassment.
After working on the issue for several years, speaking to many people about sexual harassment and sharing ideas on how to combat it, the co-founders were eventually introduced to Frontline SMS and Ushahidi – free software that can be linked together to make an anonymous reporting and mapping system for harassment.
Since about 97 percent of Egyptians in 2008 – half of whom are women – owned a mobile phone, this technology seemed like the perfect fit. HarassMap was launched in December 2010. The starting point was to use the online reporting and mapping technology to support an offline community mobilization effort to break stereotypes, stop making excuses for perpetrators, and to convince people to speak out and act against harassment.
Ushahidi, Google Maps API.