Global Activists Share Stories of Empowerment to Combat Sexual Harassment in WLP Online Event

Activists, researchers, and supporters from 40 countries took part in WLP’s 2nd global online event, “Exposing the Realities of Combatting Sexual Harassment: Activists from around the World Unite to Share their Stories,” on November 19, 2014.

WLP’s live, interactive presentation and discussion focused on the global issue of sexual harassment and explored how women and men are fighting sexual harassment in the workplace, in schools, in public places, and in the home. The panelists – Sondos Shabayek of the BuSSy Project (Egypt), Zosia Sztykowski of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) (USA), Pallavi Gupta of WLP India/Asmita Resource Centre for Women, and Betty Yeoh of WLP Malaysia/All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – shared their work on combatting harassment through art, public protests, journalism, and legislative advocacy campaigns. Their experiences sparked questions and comments from the online participants, who engaged with the panelists through voice calls and live chat. WLP posted updates on the event using the hashtag #ExposeSexualHarassment on Twitter and Facebook. After the presentations, participants asked questions and engaged with panelists to learn more about specifics in the activists’ work.

Panelists illustrated the diverse ways that organizations and individuals are combatting sexual harassment. Specific examples included engaging in public protest events; creating blogs, video, or live performances as testament to real-life experiences; conducting targeted campaigns to raise public awareness about unjust laws and practices; using trainings to change perception and understanding; and simply speaking up about sexual harassment with friends and family members (both women and men) to break the taboo. The panelists stressed the importance of bringing sexual harassment into public discourse and highlighted the importance of involving men in the conversation because sexual harassment affects all members of a society.

Online participants brought up some of the challenges they face while fighting sexual harassment. One participant from Zimbabwe commented that when family members are the perpetrators, victims are torn between justice and economic realities, since arresting a breadwinner may impose severe financial hardship on the family. Also, victim-blaming is widespread among both men and women in many societies, and in many cases women have come to view sexual harassment as a norm.

Following the event, most participants reported that they were inspired to learn more about the different types of sexual harassment and how they can combat it. One participant shared “I enjoyed learning from other experiences in the world that identified similar and specific strategies to combat sexual harassment.”

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