Free To Be

Unearthing how safe women and girls feel in our cities.

Free to Be is a crowd-mapping tool that was developed in collaboration with CrowdSpot, Monash University’s XYX Lab and, crucially, young women.


Girls and young women have been speaking out about street harassment for years, but the evidence base needed to help decision-makers understand and respond to the issue has been lacking.


What is Free to Be?

Free To Be was a platform where the real stories of women can be unearthed and taken to people in positions of power to advocate for change. The interactive map invited girls and women to drop pins – happy or sad – on places they love, avoid, feel safe in and those that can be improved.

Following a pilot in Melbourne in 2016, we rolled out an improved version of our crowd-mapping tool to five cities across five continents.

In 2018, Free to Be enabled young women in Sydney, Delhi, Kampala, Lima and Madrid to identify and share public spaces that make them feel uneasy and scared, or happy and safe. It has empowered young women in these cities to call out unsafe experiences and geographically identify spaces where change needs to occur.

Free to Be Update

Following the release of the research findings on International Day of the Girl in 2018, Plan International Youth Activists have been advocating with the Greater Sydney Commission, NSW transport authorities, and other organisations to implement the recommendations.

The Women’s Safety Charter builds on our groundbreaking research on girls’ experiences as they move around cities. It also draws from the Women’s Night Safety Charter operating in London, and our work with the Committee for Sydney on the social and economic impact of girls and women being and feeling unsafe in the city (Safety After Dark, 2019).

To address the research recommendations, Sydney’s charter goes beyond international initiatives like London’s Night Safety Charter by:

  • Acknowledging that the research shows harassment and abuse doesn’t just happen at night;
  • Focusing on improved reporting processes; and
  • Establishing mechanisms for ongoing data collection to build understanding of the issue.
Plan International Australia brought us here, having worked with dozens of other change-making organisations I’m sure that Plan International is where the most exciting change is coming from
  • Ginette Rivas.

Directly after the Charter launch, Transport for NSW threw their weight behind it by announcing the ‘Safety After Dark’ Innovation Challenge to find new and effective ways to combat the problem of harassment on public transport.

This is another big win (yay!) as the Free to Be research showed that the majority of harassment and abuse in public spaces happens on and around transport.

Girls’ Safety Walks

As part of the Unsafe in the City report launch in Sydney, we facilitated a young women-led Girls’ Safety Walk on International Day of the Girl 2018.

Our youth activists took key stakeholders on an immersive walk around the city, looking at ‘hot spots’ and leading activities based on the data and young women’s stories.

These walks give planners, decision makers and local leaders a glimpse into the experiences of girls and young women as they move around our cities. By drawing attention to the themes from the Free to Be data in a practical way, it helps participants identify how their work can influence the experiences of women and girls.

Free to Be Maps

What girls from Sydney, Australia have to say about their city

Explore the map below

Explore the map or pick another city below

Delhi Kampala Lima Madrid Sydney

Our reports: Unsafe In The City

Through this ground-breaking research, thousands of girls and young women have shared their stories of harassment and violence for the first time, providing a never-before seen glimpse of what they experience in their cities and the impact this has on their lives. Based on research in Delhi, Kampala, Lima, Madrid and Sydney, Unsafe in the city reveals relentless sexist and sexual harassment and abuse – and calls for specific actions to allow girls and young women to live without experiencing fear or discrimination on our streets.

Read the Report


Reporting to Authorities

Utilising data collected via our Safer Cities Free to Be project in 2018 with Monash XYX Lab and Crowdspot, the ‘Reporting to Authorities’ report is a major study on street harassment, and urges authorities to improve reporting outcomes for girls and young women. Across five cities, the report found that young women’s reports of harassment were largely trivialised by authorities, with responses ranging from belittling, disbelief and dismissal, to further harassment from authorities themselves and a complete lack of justice, resulting in frustration and a lack of trust in the system.

Read the Report


Safer Cities programs

Our Safer Cities programs work with girls to make sure they have access to, and can move freely in, public spaces, and are participating in decision-making about their cities. Learn more.

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