The bustling, colourful streets of Cairo are infamous for being unsafe for women. According to the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, street based sexual harassment has become part of women's everyday lives and conversations. ECWR found that 83% of Egyptian women and 93% of foreign women reported being harassed by men on the streets; 62% of men admitted to harassing women. The organisation wanted to come up with a way for women to report on harassment anonymously, and at the same time collate data that would show how prevalent the problem is in Egypt across different strata of society. This is how they arrived at the idea of Harassmap.

How it works

Harassmap is a mapping and reporting tool that allows victims of sexual harassment incidents anonymously using a simple text message (SMS) from their mobile phone. The SMSes are received and reviewed by ECWR staff using the software, made for NGOs, Frontline SMS. These are then recorded on the Google map via the well known and increasingly used crowd-sourcing platform, Ushahidi. Women submit the location of the incident and the type of harassment by category: oggling, staring, touching, indecent exposure and so on. The aggregated data on the public map then allows anyone online to view the spread and types of incidents occurring on the streets of Cairo.

(If you're interested in Ushahidi, check out their recently launched and more user friendly mapping platform; Crowdmap)

Why we like it

Harassmap presents an exciting visual representation and advocacy tool to respond to street-based sexual harassment. It addresses the reality of shame and guilt women feel talking about violence by giving them the cover of anonymity as they report incidents. By reporting via their phones, women can still feel empowered and responsive to the situation. Harassmap also distinguishes between different forms of violence women face, making it possible to concretely name the range of male behaviours women find offensive.

This data makes it possible to challenge myths that only women who are young, or who are dressed inappropriately or who are in a 'bad' part of the city face street harassment; it can reveal that in fact, many different kinds of women are targets for harassment simply because male harassers believe it is their right and that they can get away with it. Most of all the visual representation of this data exposes harassment as an undeniable social issue rather than a series of unrelated incidents which can be explained away. Such hard evidence of violence is an important step towards pushing for change on the ground and in the law.


Type of Visualisation: User-generated online map

By: Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR), Cairo, Egypt

Year: 2009

Source: Harassmap blog