Through this blog I always try to focus on the positive aspects of Brussels and write about the lighter side of life (food, art, music, etc). However, I wanted to post today about a new initiative launched in Brussels called Hollaback!

At one time or another most women have dealt with harassment on the street. It can take many forms, from a shout as you walk by to groping to actual assault. Brussels is not alone, and by far not the worst city in the world for this type of behavior, but nonetheless many of us have had bad experiences here. I personally have been harassed verbally on the street a number of times and on occasion felt threatened. And of course this doesn’t only effect women but LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex) people as well.

Currently running in 50 cities around the world, Hollaback! is a global movement to end street harassment using mobile technology. According to the group’s website, street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. So in an effort to change things, volunteers have come together through Hollaback! to share and collect stories and create a crowd-sourced initiative to address the issue.

The platform was founded in New York in 2005 and has spread globally, with the Brussels chapter launching earlier this year. Despite the name, Hollaback! does not endorse yelling at harassers in every circumstance. Instead the site offers tips on how to deal with street harassment. 

There are different ways to support the movement. One of the easiest and most powerful is to share your story on the website to help improve awareness of the problem (locations mapped above). You can also volunteer to help with the website or attend an event. For example, Hollaback! Brussels holds regular street harassment meetings and workshops to share ideas, plans and experiences on how to tackle the issues surrounding street harassment. Check their Facebook and Twitter pages for dates. Most recently the group organized a flashmob at Gare Central.  

And if you don’t happen to live in Brussels you can set up a Hollaback! in your city.

If you agree that street harassment needs to end, I encourage you to visit the Hollaback! website, share your story and support this great initiative.

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6 thoughts on “Hollaback!

  1. Thanks Jane for writing about this initiative!

  2. Thanks for sharing! This is something that is very frustrating in the city especially since I am a runner.

  3. Melhael says:

    I see one problem with this. Looking at the map, the area most often flagged is the city center. That comes as no surprise to me, for two reasons: 1) it can be a nasty place, especially at night 2) it’s the place where most people go to party. But the center is not the most dangerous neighborhood—by far. Molenbeek can be dangerous if you’re a girl or a gay couple, for instance. But it’s not flagged on the map. So if I were a stranger coming to Brussels for a few days, I’d be like, “Wow, the center looks really dangerous. Let’s find some nice pub in that Molenbeek place. It looks safe.” And would I be in for a big surprise…

    But even so, I think it’s an interesting tool and a great initiative. It builds awareness.

    • Thanks for commenting. I agree the map isn’t exactly representative of the most dangerous parts of Brussels, but this is why more people need to share their stories from across the city. Hopefully this initiative will grow and make a difference!

      • Melhael says:

        Plus, it might shame the people in charge of the local administration into making the center a safer place. A girl should be able to wear whatever she wants when she goes out for a drink in the center of Brussels. It was the case, a few years back.

  4. Julien says:

    shared on FB ! =) great initiative for the girls!!

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