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"Campaigns and hope aim at ending harassment"
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"Campaigns and hope aim at ending harassment"

Leigh-Ann Worrell

Harassment is an unwanted problem for women around the world, writes Leigh-Ann Worrell, 27, a Commonwealth Correspondent from St. Thomas, but activists are increasingly working to raise awareness about the issue and change the culture.

The day I tried to explain sexual harassment to a nine-year-old was a blindingly hot Caribbean Saturday.

We decided to spend the afternoon walking through our small neighbourhood, talking about school and crushes and church.

“…I can come with you?” a man called from a relaxed pose in his front patio.

“Why would we want to come with us? You know him?” my cousin asked, quizzically.

Words failed me.

“He wasn’t being serious, he was just saying that for conversation,” I assured her.

Our walk continued. We only got a few feet further when another harasser (because that is exactly what they are) commented on my shape and asked me “when I was coming back” so he could talk to me.

“ . . .But why he wanna see you again?” she asked, just as curious as before.

“Well sometimes men say things to women because they feel it is okay. Sometimes it is just to get their attention but other times the reasons are not so good. Always remember your name is Chideria and you should answer to nothing else but that. If a man tells you something you don’t like, ignore him or tell him to never say it again.”

I wish it were that simple as a solution – but sadly it isn’t.

From Delhi to Washington DC, there are campaigns to end street harassment and keep public spaces such as buses, trains and universities safe and welcoming for everyone. In addition to organised movements, anti-street harassment and feminist activists are taking up the cause by videotaping harassers and encouraging women to speak about their experiences online. Powerful artistic statements like Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile’ series allow men to see what women are really thinking when men hurl unsolicited comments.

Also heartening is that public transport authorities in North America and Europe are urging women to report sexual harassment. Strides are clearly being made and awareness is being raised about an issue that has made women feel uncomfortable the world over.

I want my cousin to blossom into a wonderful woman without the threat of vile comments from strange men. I want it to be that when a man sees her beauty and decides to approach her, it is done out of dignity. And if she says no, her response is respected.

We aren’t there yet, so I tried my best to warn my nine-year-old cousin of what is to come.

photo credit: This is Awkward via photopin cc
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About me:

I am a writer for Barbados Today. I am passionate about women’s rights issues, theatre arts and cats. I like hanging out with my friends, live for the beach and (sorta) enjoy cooking. I eventually to work in the gender and development field in any part of the world.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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