Egypt Independent

Joint campaign to work toward a harassment-free Eid



Volunteers have launched a campaign in Cairo and Alexandria to fight sexual harassment during Eid. 

The "Safe Eid for Egyptian Women" campaign, launched by a number of groups, aims to raise awareness about sexual harassment and counter common misconceptions about the issue.

Online videos shot by bloggers circulated virally in 2006, showing women being sexually assaulted by men in the middle of the streets during Eid. The incident spurred campaigns and initiatives to fight the issue, which extends beyond Eid and is an ordinary part of women's lives in Egypt.

Campaign organizers held a meeting at El Sawy Culture Wheel on 27 August to train volunteers about their role in community awareness.

"Volunteers will be given brochures about harassment to distribute in different parts of Cairo throughout the three days of Eid," said Engy Ghozlan, one of the campaign's coordinators in Cairo.

She said volunteers will also talk to people in the streets about the misconceptions associated with sexual harassment, as women are sometimes blamed for provoking men because of their dress, or men are excused because of late marriage and a lacking sexual life, give difficult economic conditions.

"I won't keep silent over harassment" is a Facebook group with more than 1500 "likes" and is a partner in the initiative.

Through republishing links related to harassment incidents, the Facebook page is raising awareness about the magnitude of the problem. It also serves as a platform for open conversations about the issue of harassment and how stereotypes can be fought in order to eradicate harassment. Coordinators view the online aspect of the campaign as crucial because it can attract more supporters and volunteers.

HarassMap, the online mapping tool that crowd sources incidents of harassment and encourage reporting them, is also a partner in the campaign. Some political parties, including Karama, Wasat and Ghad, expressed support for it.

In Alexandria, six committees share the campaign work. One committee will prepare a comprehensive report about the campaign and measure its success, strengths and weaknesses.

A psychological support committee trains volunteers on how to give harassed women necessary support. It will also offer psychological support for men and women after Eid through partnering NGOs.

The legal committee gives volunteers information about harassment laws and legal steps that victims of harassment can take.

The surveying committee engages with people, asking them questions about the causes, consequences and different solutions they have on the question of harassment.

A popular committee is made of volunteers spread around to protect women in crowded areas during Eid.

"The committee wouldn't attack anyone, it will just be there to prevent any attack or protect women in case of indecent behaviors," said Shahinaz al-Hennawy, Alexandria campaign coordinator.

An awareness committee prepares messages to be delivered to people through brochures, mobile messages and stickers in the streets.

"We meant to put our stickers on different shops downtown so shop owners feel like it's their campaign as well," explained Hennawy.

Hennawy said they tried to incorporate caricature in their brochures to deliver a simple and effective message.