Each one of these cities is unique, with its own language, culture and geography. And yet, in each of these cities, and all over the world, girls face barriers to using public space in the ways men are able to. Unwanted attention and harassment and fears of assault and abuse when travelling alone or after dark change how girls and young women experience their cities.
Through Free to Be, girls and young women everywhere are able to easily report their experiences, and feel solidarity with each other when moving through and living in cities. The data and stories from the app are used to ensure the experiences of young women are a priority for decision-makers in designing spaces and services.
Free to Be was designed in collaboration with Crowdspot, Monash University’s XYX Lab and, crucially, young women. It’s a crowd-mapping website that enables young women to identify and share public spaces that make them feel uneasy, scared or happy and safe. It empowers young women to call out unsafe experiences and geographically identify spaces where change needs to occur.
The map unearths real stories of women and makes them visible to people in positions of power to advocate for change. In Melbourne, more than ten thousand people visited the website, with thousands dropping a pin – happy or sad - on places they loved, avoided, felt safe or unsafe in. 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. We look forward to making some announcements on the outcomes later in 2018.
Now Free to Be will let young women in Sydney, Delhi, Kampala, Lima and Madrid share their stories. Places they love, places they avoid, places they feel safe and those that could be improved. We worked with young women to make sure the map is fun and makes it easy to share their stories.
18-year-old Faridah leads a group of girls in Kampala who are committed to making their city safer.
Girls are increasingly moving to cities for work, education and opportunities. It is estimated that by 2030, approximately 700 million girls will live in urban areas. This shift can increase their chances of marrying later and having fewer and healthier children but it also presents risks and challenges. Cities can be some of the most dangerous places for girls to live.
Plan International works in cities around the globe to make cities safer for everyone, particularly young women and girls. Delhi in India, Lima in Peru and Uganda’s capital Kampala are all part of Plan International’s Safer Cities program which works with communities to transform neighbourhoods into safe places where girls are respected and can go to school or work without fear of violence.
We know gender-based violence, and the barriers to using public space faced by girls and women aren’t restricted to poorer countries.