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This presentation describes the work done by Hollaback! Chennai. This was prepared for a Colloquium on Digital Media and Gender Violence on December 9, 2013, in Chennai, as part of the 2013 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence.
FIGHTING STREET HARASSMENT,
ONE STORY AT A TIME
The Chennai chapter of the global Hollaback!
movement was launched in December 2011 by Prajnya.
Hollaback! Chennai is one of five Hollaback! chapters
in India. The other four are in Chandigarh, Pathankot,
Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Our aim is to get as many people as possible to share
their stories of street harassment, using our website
and smartphone app.
Our team consists entirely of volunteers, who are
responsible for moderating submissions to our website,
updating our social media pages, and finding new ways
to start conversations on street harassment offline.
WHY SHARE YOUR STORY?
Street harassment is one of the most underreported crimes across the
world. This is because perpetrators are often strangers and can usually
escape with relative ease.
In India, there is a tendency to trivialise these offences by referring to
them euphemistically as ‘eve-teasing’. Women are often told that
street harassment is ‘a part of life’ and are thus advised to stay silent
Hollaback! Chennai’s mission is to break this silence. We believe that
talking about street harassment, either as a victim or a bystander or
simply as a concerned citizen, in an open, supportive and nonjudgmental forum, is the first step in the fight to end it. Moreover, for
a victim of street harassment, speaking out against one’s harasser is
not only cathartic, but also empowering.
We also believe that stories can change the world. The flagship
Hollaback! chapter in New York City has demonstrated that by
collectively speaking out, we can grab the attention of law
enforcement officials and policy-makers, alert them to the prevalence
of these crimes, and inspire them to take action.
Besides our online efforts, we also engage in on-the-ground
We do this primarily through our public education
initiative, which mainly consists of workshops on street
harassment at local colleges. We have also tried to reach out
to other audiences – for example, we spoke to nearly 15
different batches of students at the Alliance Française de
Madras earlier this year.
Other offline activities include our ‘Hollaback! Fridays’
event series at Distil, Taj Connemara, which featured
female-fronted bands performing on ‘Ladies’ Night’ over five
weeks. We distributed handouts on street harassment to
customers, and had the opportunity to start new and
interesting conversations on the issue.
As part of Prajnya’s 16 Days Campaign against Gender
Violence this year, we launched our ‘Safer Spaces’ initiative,
which calls on local businesses to pledge zero-tolerance to
sexual harassment on their premises.