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The joy of walking alone

Two months ago I was living in Delhi, India. During my lunch break I decided to visit my doctor for ordering new lenses. The clinic is about 500 meters from the office on a busy road. I finished placing my order and walked out of the clinic.

Barely 20 steps ahead an 6 feet tall, well built Afghan man asked me something. I didn't understand his language, shook my head and kept walking. 20 more steps and I realised he was making a pass and following me. I turned around to go back to the clinic and called my colleagues to pick me up in a car. The man turned back to follow me and minutes later as I got in the car, he was still looking for me.

But this isn't a story only from Delhi - I have lived in Pune and Chennai. I have travelled extensively across the country for work and leisure. But one piece of advise has remained constant - don't go out alone after 9 pm, don't walk alone on the road, if you are driving at night make sure the doors are locked.

Three weeks ago I moved to Sweden for the Social Innovation in a Digital Context course. My first week in Sweden, I was returning from a party and missed the last bus. We knew this might be a possibility and everyone told me it was safe to walk back. I began walking back and was pleasantly surprised that it was actually safe to walk alone.

I reached a street that was not as well lit/ had a feeling of being more isolated than the other and my Indian instinct kicked in. The voice in my head said it wasn't safe and I heard footsteps behind me. I froze at first but then reminded myself it was safe. The man walking behind me was walking faster than I was and caught up, I just look at him and told him I was afraid to walk alone. He smiled and offered to walk with me till the main road which was better lit.

Honestly I don't have adequate words to describe the joy of walking alone and not bothering about what might happen. The incident in Delhi does not stop me from living my life but it is an irritant. And I am tired of pointing fingers at the man who harasses me, the police, the law or whatever else! I am an optimist and I know for every man who harasses someone, there are 10 others who don't want to. I want to find the other 10 and with their help clean up our areas to make sure everyone can walk alone on the road peacefully, whenever they want.

My initiative Safecity which is a crowdmap allows people to indicate areas that they have faced sexual harassment in. As part of popular demand we also added another category "poor or no street lighting" simply because the quality of lighting contributes to how safe one perceives the place to be. If one is able to access this information and become aware of what other people are saying about a place we can make informed choices. Eg whilst walking alone at night or even during the day in a strange city, we can equip ourselves with information to stay safe.

Hopefully the use of this technology would make data freely available and we would get into the habit of consciously checking the "safe ness" of an area so that we ensure we stay safe.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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vtafemme's picture

Thx for sharing

Worldwide women and children are at a safety risk unfortunately. When I visited London 10 yrs ago, it was so much safer than my hometown Los Angeles. I'm sure that's changed now too with the influx of middle easterners there.

I would recommend pepper spray or other defense strategies to you and any woman as things happen and this burning sm. device attached to your keys or purse is one of just a few ways to get away. You are also young and pretty so that's attracticing more attention.

Sweden I've heard is better and others there. What is SIDC? Be proactive and protect yourself and females.

Emily Garcia's picture

Hi Donna,I'm glad that this

Hi Donna,

I'm glad that this post resonated with you, and World Pulse of course welcomes encouraging comments. I do want to draw your attention to World Pulse's Online Community terms of service. It is our goal for all comments and discussions in our online community to contribute to creating a welcoming environment for all. I’m concerned about the part of your comment here regarding people from the Middle East. At World Pulse we work to provide a safe and supportive space for members of all world regions, including the Middle East, to come together in conversation and to build change. The language in your comment can be read as being divisive. We ask that you keep the goal of using unifying language in mind in all of your contributions to the World Pulse community.

Also, I think it’s good to remember that all women, not just young, attractive women, can experience harassment and violence in their lives. I know you’re encouraging ElsaMarie to be prepared in order to stay safe, but I just want to call out that no matter how a woman looks she is never to blame for any violence she endures, and focusing on a woman's appearance can detract from the real issues. If gender-based violence is a topic you are passionate about, you can read more perspectives on our Gender-based violence page here: http://worldpulse.com/hub/topic/gender-based-violence.

Respectfully,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

vtafemme's picture

I am trying to find what

I am trying to find what Iwrote, I recall that I tend to be protective and not isolating to one country or other.

Hello - this was an interesting post to me as it focused on a "freedom" that many take for granted: the joy of walking alone. Thank you for sharing your personal story and the information regarding your initiative, Safecity. I think you are spot on regarding the use of technology to make data freely available that would help anyone make an informed decision on the "safe ness" of an area. So, so important!! Good luck in your continued work.

In love and peace,
Terry Mullins

Safecity's picture

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your words of encouragement.

Kind regards,
Elsa

Thank you for sharing with us this story, it inspires me a lot my sister
Good luck in your initiation and Courage

sylvie

Safecity's picture

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your words of encouragement.

Kind regards,
Elsa

Bheki's picture

Great initiative!

Thank you for your posting and for letting us know about your Safecity initiative. What an innovative and practical use of technology. I hope that it contributes to the safety of women and girls in your area.

I know that feeling of having to be very careful and constantly worrying. I lived in a very large city in the U.S. for 12 years and as soon as I walked out the door, I was on high alert for anyone who might be looking for a target. It is not a comfortable or happy way to live. I now live in another city that is much safer but I know I can't afford to be complacent. I share your dream that every woman may have the freedom to walk alone, without fear. It is only one out picturing of the full equality that we seek for women everywhere.

Much gratitude to you for your efforts to DO something positive.

Bheki

Safecity's picture

Thank you

Thank you Bheki for your words of encouragement. I do hope more people will use the platform to share their experiences and geotag locations so that everyone can use the information to stay safe.

Kind regards,
Elsa

Kadidia's picture

The Joy of walking alone

You have indicated a serious and continuous issue women face every day. Being left alone when walking on the street during the day or at night. Harassment has become a number one concern and I do believe that it is time to educate men to respect women starting at the elementary level. Laws need to be implemented.

Kadidia Doumbia

Safecity's picture

Thank you Kadidia. Glad you

Thank you Kadidia. Glad you found the post useful and informative.

Kind regards,
Elsa

SaritaMat's picture

Facts...

I am from India and I know and could understand what you were trying to express..fear of walking alone on the road,day time or the late night.But I think women are becoming stronger mentally and physically as well.We cannot point out any race or any country but its just depends on an individual.If we come across someone from any country and get impressed with his helping nature,doesn't give us the idea about everyone out there..and its the same if don't find anyone well behaved doesn't represent d whole country.Our safety is in our hands.

Lets be stronger by supporting each other..
SaritaMat

Safecity's picture

Hi Sarita, The post was to

Hi Sarita,

The post was to talk a about an experience I had and not pass the blame to a person of any race. Walking alone at night is not something everyone does freely and without inhibition. Having travelled extensively I have varied experiences as well as am stronger mentally. Others are not and through sharing want to give others the strength to do so.

Cheers,
Elsa

Carolina Torres's picture

Proactive

Congratulations Elsa for this initiative. Thank you for sharing our experience and for finding practical solutions. There is a lot to be done, but definitely you are contributing.
Carolina

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