Women in Egypt can text reports right when it happens

Photo by moriza

A website called Harassmap is creating a new level of safety for the women in Cairo, Egypt. A major problem for women there (as in countless urban areas) is street harassment -- being called at, yelled or whistled at, or even touched or threatened. But Harassmap takes advantage of constant access to social media sites via cell phone to give women a way to monitor and avoid the worst areas.

Harassmap allows users to Twitter or Facebook an instance of street harassment. The report and its location is added to a map, which then shows problem hotspots. Women can check the map to avoid the areas, or if they experience something so unpleasant as street harassment, can add to it to help other women out. The data on the map is shared with not only women, but also organizations and police dedicated to making streets safer.

"The whole idea is to have user-generated information," Engy Ghozlan, one of the volunteer activists organizing the program, which is set to launch in the coming months, told reporter Maggie Hyde. Simply feeling that she is not alone, Ghozlan said, can help a woman who is feeling powerless. "It's actually encouraging to know that," she said.

According to the news article, "A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women living in Cairo said they had been harassed in some way — and 62 percent of men admitted to harrassing."

So a resource like Harassmap could become invaluable for making women feel comfortable walking around their own city.

It reminds us of Hollaback, a New York City-based website where women can send in their stories of street harassment, along with photos of their harassers. Knowing that the photo of a perpetrator is being blasted on the internet for all to see gives women some feeling of empowerment. Like Harassmap, Hollaback puts reports on a map, but as an added feature of a place where women can share their stories, vent frustration, and take a little control of the situation. On the other hand, Harassmap is focused on plotting reports as a way to show authorities without a shadow of a doubt that protection of women on the streets needs to be ramped up.

It's always inspiring to see innovative ways social media such as Twitter and Facebook are being combined with other techy resources to create a real solution for better living.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this