By Plan International Australia Deputy CEO Susanne Legena

I don’t know who came up with #nowomanever, but I love what it represents: a global groundswell of calling out threatening, harassing behaviour in all of its many forms. 

Plan International Australia supports the right of girls to freedom from harassment and to enjoy a safe, happy and independent life anywhere in the world they live.

We recently surveyed 600 young women aged 15 to 19-years-old with Our Watch. One in three actively avoided public places after dark for fear of harassment. One in four said it’s not safe to travel on public transport alone.

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With the amount of harassment women cop in public, who can blame them for feeling this way? That doesn’t make it right. In fact it’s very wrong and we know we, as a society, can do better. And it starts with standing up to this behaviour.

Harassment is a global problem but it’s a surprisingly Australian problem for what many would consider a stable, safe, country. Global research conducted by Plan International told us that girls in Nicaragua felt safer on the streets after dark than those in Australia.

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Enjoying freedom means not being harassed on the street, or at work, or online, or at home. It means being able to walk where you want without being stopped or whistled at and it means expressing your opinions freely without fear or embarrassment. It means having the right to say no to a date without then being hit with a barrage of abuse.

It seems simple so why are women still receiving this treatment?

That’s why we love that thousands of female voices around the world have united to point out that harassment is never welcome and to send a clear message to those who think it’s okay: leave us alone. 

Here are five reasons why #nowomanever is more than just a hashtag:

  1. It is another mass public declaration of the extraordinarily high level of harassment women experience every day. More and more of us are starting to call it out publicly, and it’s reaching a critical mass. The more we talk about these issues, and call out the perpetrators, the more community attitudes are likely to change.
  2. It sends a pretty clear message to attention-seeking men of the internet: No more d-ck pics, for crying out loud. It’s a mass acknowledgement that never in the history of women on the internet, has receiving a photograph of a stranger’s genitals elicited a positive response. Can we just stop with the pics already, please.
  3. It showcases the staggering amount of crap women put up with, on the street, at work, online. Whether it’s cat-calling, being followed on the street, to being talked down to at work, being told to smile, being stalked by exes, or being abused because she doesn’t want to talk to him, or the golden oldie of unsolicited sexual images, this is an experience that crosses borders and affects many.
  4. It’s funny. OK, in a ‘if I don’t laugh I will cry’ kind of way, but there is a sense of joy and solidarity to see women taking ownership over these things that we’ve put up with for far too long.
  5. The anti-feminist Twitter trolls are oddly quiet about it. Could it be that they’ve finally been silenced? Probably not, but it is hard to argue so many voices.

Learn more about A right to the Night at Plan International Australia.

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