By Joanna Prisco
When a woman or young girl is harassed in public, there have historically been few resources for one to share the experience with local officials or warn others.
A new real-time mapping tool called Free to Be has launched in Sydney, New Delhi, Kampala, Lima, and Madrid, that allows users to anonymously drop a pin in locations where they feel unsafe or have been threatened.
Free To Be is a crowd-mapping website that enables young women to identify and share public spaces that make them feel uneasy, scared or happy and safe,” the site reads. “It empowers young women to call out unsafe experiences and geographically identify spaces where change needs to occur.”
The site was was designed by Plan International in collaboration with CrowdSpot, Monash University’s XYX Lab “and, crucially, young women.”
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Prior to launching the tool, Plan International, an NGO that advocates for children’s rights and equality for girls, conducted a survey of 400 young women on their experiences in the Australian capital.
"We've found 90% of girls in Sydney are feeling unsafe being in their city at night," said Plan's head of advocacy, Hayley Cull, in an interview with ABC Australia.
"That's an extraordinary statistic."
Meanwhile, “92% felt uncomfortable taking public transport alone at night, and nearly half had experienced street harassment,” reported Business Insider Australia.
The Free to Be maps are already being populated with identified “Good Spots” and “Bad Spots” by users whose experiences have ranged from cat calls to random gropings to one woman being followed and harassed by a stranger on a bike.
The goal is for the accumulated data to eventually be shared with local officials to affect change.
“In Melbourne, more than 10,000 people visited the website, with thousands dropping a pin – happy or sad – on places they loved, avoided, felt safe or unsafe in,” states the Free to Be site.
“Once the map closed, we presented data to key decision-makers including the City of Melbourne, Victoria Police, Metro and Public Transport Victoria. Plan International’s Youth Activists have been working closely with these organisations to make change and we’ve had some amazing responses.”
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