Aisha Zakira doesn’t remember the first time she was harassed on the streets. That fact propelled her to the realisation that harassment is so ingrained in her mind that it had become a part of her life. It motivated her to launch the Indian chapter of Hollaback! — a global movement to end street harassment — in Mumbai in 2011.
Though Hollaback! is not an official partner of the Stayfree DNA Half Marathon, it works to tackle harassment of women in public places, a cause this DNA initiative also champions.
Mumbai is regarded as one of the safest cities for women to live in but Zakira, 24, was shocked to see the responses that poured in once Hollaback! Mumbai was launched. “Women were relieved that they could finally talk about it. Some cried while talking about their experiences…some emailed me their stories and confessed they had never told anyone else about their harassment.”
That set Zakira thinking. She thought if women in Mumbai find it so difficult, imagine the situation in the rest of India. “It’s clear we need to work harder to change culture of gender based violence.”
Apart from inviting women to upload their stories online, organising workshops about how to respond to harassment, Hollaback! Mumbai also launched initiatives like the Main Hoon Na campaign which encourages bystanders to support women who have been harassed. Hollaback! also aims to change the behavior of men by reaching out to them and educating them about harassment.
“Stayfree believes that it is a very basic right for a woman to expect safety in public places and we are sure that this initiative will increase awareness about the issue,” said Tushar Murdershwar, VP, marketing, Johnson & Johnson Ltd.