Below is part two of our interview with activist Emily May. Part one of the interview can be found here.
How does Hollaback! work? We know that you have a comprehensive network of volunteers that are responsible for promoting the International Hollaback! Movement on a local level. Also, each volunteer uses a number of online applications to expose and report street harassment. Please tell us all about it and more!
Over the past year Hollaback! has trained over 150 leaders in 45 cities, 16 countries, and 9 different languages to be leaders in their communities, and in the global movement to end street harassment. All of these site leaders approached us (none were recruited) and we were pleased to find that people who traditionally have the least access to traditional power were the most eager to bring Hollaback! home. Our site leaders are:
- 75% under the age of 30;
- 50% under the age of 25;
- 44% LGBTQ; and,
- 33% people of color.
Our leadership training does more than simply tell youth how to lead – it gives them a real platform from which to do it. It is a unique opportunity for youth to practice their leadership skills in a forum where the opportunities for success are tremendous and include things like obtaining international media attention, leading public discussions, and working with community members and legislators to develop responses to street harassment. Our site leaders bring Hollaback! to life in their own communities through grassroots organizing, and bring hope to women and LGBTQ individuals who experience street harassment daily.
How do you train your volunteers?
New Hollaback! leaders take part in an extended launch process, which incorporates shared planning and training activities over a period of three months. As they prepare to launch a Hollaback! blog hosted on ihollaback.org, new local leaders have the opportunity to interact with each other and the Hollaback! team, host in-person launch events and identify, and reach out to potential community partners and media outlets in their communities. Once launched, site leaders remain active participants in the Hollaback! community, taking part in ongoing efforts to shape the organization’s direction and to develop shared resources as they work to establish their blogs into meaningful resources in their communities. In recent months, international Hollaback! leaders have: collaborated to translate Hollaback!’s website into eight languages; developed a shared anti-discrimination policy and values statement; taken part in several shared news stories, including a feature in The Guardian (UK); and used both blogs and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook to cross-promote numerous events, media coverage, and blog posts. In addition, our site leaders receive monthly trainings in everything from rape culture to blogging, managing volunteers, and holding events.
We understand that you are running a campaign for two men named Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez. In October last year both men were murdered for defending the honour of their girlfriends in the face of street Harassment. Hollaback Mumbai started the following petition for them: Demand Justice for Two Men Killed Trying to Stop Street harassment. Please tell us more about this case and why it is important for everybody to sign the petition.
The two men murdered — Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez – were killed for simply doing the right thing. Here’s the full story: on October 20th of last year, seven friends went to dinner and to watch a cricket match. As they left the restaurant, a drunk man identified as Jitendra Rana began harassing the girls in the group. Bali and Fernandez confronted and slapped Rana. Soon after, Rana returned with 13 friends and they attacked Santos and Fernandez. Fernandez was stabbed several times and Santos was wrestled to the ground and stabbed repeatedly until he was disemboweled. Priyanka Fernandes and her friends tried to call the police but were unable to reach them. Priyanka telephoned Keenan’s parents who arrived at the hospital shortly before he passed away. Reuben underwent three surgeries but succumbed to his injuries and passed away on 31st October. The four accused – Jitendra Rana, Sunil Bodh, Satish Dulhaj and Dipak Tival – have confessed. As we seek to build a world where everyone has the ability to occupy public safety freely and safely, these senseless murders are a tremendous setback.
In the “Thought Leadership” section on your website you have written a post entitled: “Street harassment: a human rights issue?” It is a very interesting post. For those of our readers who haven’t read the post – please tell us more about why street harassment is a violation of human rights.
The blog post “Street harassment: a human rights issue?” cross-references the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Several articles of the declaration refer to behaving in the ‘spirit of brotherhood’, all individuals being created equal, with freedom to privacy regardless of race, gender or sexuality, with the right to liberty and security of person, without threat of torture, and with the right to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association. Street harassment encompasses all of the above concepts. To pester, hound, bother or attack someone in a public space encroaches on their right to walk freely as a woman or an LGBTQ individual. Hate crimes that occur in public spaces are torture and an invasion of privacy. A harassed individual has the right to peacefully tell the perpetrator that their behaviour is unacceptable without fear of intimidation.
In your opinion, how can people help stop violence against women in their communities, cultures and societies?
The eradication of such atrocities can be achieved by treating the root cause rather than the end result. We need to change the culture that makes gender-based violence OK by raising awareness, educating and providing support. Survivors need to be empowered and provided with a platform to share their experiences as a means of providing a voice for those that suffer in silence and to provide positive steps for survivors to move forward. Perpetrators need to be brought to justice and rehabilitated. Future generations need to be educated on what is acceptable, how to recognize things are not acceptable, and given meaningful solutions.
I am not just hopeful this can happen, I am confident. But it’s going to take all of us. Go to ihollaback.org to find ways you can be involved or to donate to this growing movement.