Innovation That Matters

Mobile apps tap the crowds to fight street harassment

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Some 80 to 90 percent of women have experienced harassment on the street, yet traditionally there’s little they can do about it. That’s the primary motivation behind Hollaback, a crowdsourcing project that aims to help victims fight back by sharing their stories online and using a mobile app to focus attention on the perpetrators. Street harassment is what New York-based Hollaback calls a “gateway crime”, with implicit acceptance of it helping to legitimize other forms of gender-based violence. We’ve already seen a variety of initiatives spring up in Mexico in response to such abuse — including a women-only bus service and female-friendly taxis, for example — but Hollaback hopes to address the problem at a deeper level by publicly raising awareness about the issue. With an online forum that lets women share their stories of street harassment — including regionally focused blogs for cities around the world — Hollaback encourages them to make their experiences public. Users can also send a text message to Hollaback with or without a picture for inclusion on Hollaback’s map. Alternatively, free mobile apps now in beta for iPhone and Android let users share geocoded stories and photos of street harassers for recording and mapping on the site. A video on YouTube explains the site’s underlying premise in more detail. Hollaback is working to launch its mobile apps worldwide this summer. Meanwhile, it also offers free training for those who want to start a regional subsite focused on their own town. Volunteer-run Hollaback seeks event planners, DJs and VJs, grant-writers, songwriters, youth workers and others to help with the effort as well. Social entrepreneurs and ethically minded brands: one to sponsor or get involved with? (Related: Dating site lets women call the shots.) Spotted by: Katherine Noyes



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