“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Often, real, tangible change can feel like an impossible task. Yet there is incredible power in numbers, especially when it comes to advocacy work. Here at Plan International Australia we have seen firsthand the progress that is possible when our community comes together for a common cause. This is what change looks like.

During the week of International Day of the Girl (11 October), we co-hosted three major events to support the launch of our new report Unsafe in the City and the resulting campaign action to end street harassment.

Unsafe in the City shines a light on the global issue of street harassment – sexist and sexual harassment in public places, including on public transport.

When you’re working on an issue like this, Helen Keller’s words ring true there are a number of ways we can make change happen together – one of which is to engage with organisations that can implement responses based upon the recommendations in our report.

To end street harassment, our research and the voices of those who shared their stories needs to reach and resonate with people in positions of power and authority. This is the work that often happens behind the scenes but is only possible through young people coming forward and sharing their experiences.

It’s when this happens, that decision makers are more likely to act upon the report recommendations and make them a priority in their intersecting areas of work – including embedding them across departments. This is how a few passionate people can begin to lead change across an entire organisation.

It’s not just groups of individuals, organisations must work together – across the public, private and community sectors – to instigate and implement innovative campaigns and initiatives to end street harassment.

Our Unsafe in the City report highlights three key recommendations to make all cities safer and more inclusive for all:

1. Policies and legislation

2. Design & planning

3. Behaviour change

Based on these recommendations we identified a range of organisations who have a role to play in making these changes a reality.

To deepen their understanding of the report’s findings, we invited them to take part in an immersive walk, designed and facilitated by our youth activists. This was an interactive experience that saw them walking through the city or using public transport. The walk drew on the stories and experiences featured in our report to bring the issue of street harassment to life for a group of people who rarely, or never (their words!) experience or think about it.

We also convened a larger group in Sydney to attend a formal report launch at a reception co-hosted with Committee for Sydney.

Whether gathered in a room or walking the city streets, it was heartening to see people from different industries, organisations and walks of life come together to gain a better understanding of the issue of street harassment.

Across the two cities and three events, close to 100 people from over 40 organisations turned up to find out more and to learn how they might play a part in making our cities safer for girls. 

Advocacy can be a difficult task, but when people join forces and are willing to lend their eyes and ears and actions to help a worthy cause, that is when true progress is made.

We’d like to extend an enormous thank you to all those who have been part of this dialogue over the past few months, as well as those who joined in the conversation on International Day of the Girl.

A special thanks to all those who are already doing great things in this space, and to those who have put your hand up to say you (and your organisation) will stand to end street harassment and commit to working for positive, enduring change.

We hope you enjoy these photos from the various events!

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Melbourne Girls Walk: 18 people representing Metro (AO division, campaigns, Security & Intelligence division), Transport Command, VIC Pol (PSO division)

Sydney Girls Walk: 16 people representing City of Sydney, Transdev Australasia, NSW Police (including Sydney Metropolitan Region and North Central Sector Police Transport Command), Place Design, University of Wollongong, Monash University, Arup, Crowdspot and Committee for Sydney

Unsafe in the City report launch and reception: 45 people representing all the above plus Transport for NSW, Government Architect NSW, SMEC, MinterEllison, HASSELL, EY, Dexus, The Star Entertainment Group, Inner West Council, Mecone, McKinsey & Company, UTS, Local Government NSW, UNSW, Local Government NSW, Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands, GPT Group, Brookfield Australia Investments Limited, Urban Growth Development Corporation, Islamic Azad University, Sydney Community Foundation, Youth Action, BESydney, Carnival Australia, Cox Architecture, PAYCE Consolidated

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