HarassMap was Egypt’s first independent initiative using crowdmapping of sexual harassment incidents to change the social acceptability of sexual harassment. It was founded as an entirely volunteer-driven grassroots project, with technical and legal assistance from local partner organizations. For the first six years, HarassMap used Ushahidi’s open source platform for its map of sexual harassment incidents. HarassMap volunteers worked to end the acceptability of sexual harassment, specifically engaging bystanders to speak up and clearly convey that such actions will not be tolerated. HarassMap also worked with university campuses and companies, including larger corporations, to establish “Safe Areas” with zero tolerance for harassment. HarassMap has spun off several related initiatives in Egypt.
Theory of Change
Crowdsourced data on harassment can be used in combination with in-person discussions and information campaigns to break stereotypes surrounding sexual harassment, and motivate a critical mass of bystanders to stand up to harassers in their neighborhoods, businesses and universities, eventually transforming social norms to create an environment that deters harassers before they act.
HarassMap used SMS, a web-based reporting form, and social media to report harassment incidents. Reports remained anonymous to the public, but individuals who submitted reports receive an automated response with contact information for support services. The information learned from the reports was used in campaigns to challenge stereotypes and myths around sexual harassment. HarassMap has helped organize, and has been featured in, numerous creative activities, including art exhibits, open mics, and the film “678” (released in 2010). They started a Safe Schools & Universities program, providing trainings for students, faculty, administration and staff and offering technical support to universities to adopt and implement an anti-sexual harassment policy and to set up and run a specific unit to raise awareness of the policy. In addition, HarassMap members have trained media professionals in an effort to change the media landscape and media coverage of sexual harassment.
HarassMap’s informal and anonymous reporting methodology and sexual harassment reporting data analysis has led a data-driven, bottom-up approach to mitigating sexual harassment and sexist stereotypes. As a result of working with HarassMap, Cairo University successfully adopted a policy in fall semester 2014 and is leading a network of other public universities in Egypt in adopting similar policies. Unique for a relatively small initiative, the impact of HarassMap has been global and has inspired and supported similar projects and movements not only in Egypt, but in countries across the world – including spinoff initiatives in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Algeria, Pakistan, India, and Palestine. Activists and organizations in over 80 countries, including Jordan, Libya, Turkey, South Africa, US, Canada, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Sudan, UK, India, Nigeria, and a cross-national group from South America have begun to set up their own versions of HarassMap.