Women's Safety: Finding Support and Solidarity across the World

Women’s Safety: Finding Support and Solidarity across the World

This post originally appeared on the OpenIDEO blog as one of Karolle Rabarison’s updates on the Women’s Safety Challenge. The challenge is part of the Amplify program, a DFID-funded collaboration between IDEO.org and OpenIDEO to transform international aid through human-centered design. This update highlights the Badal Ja! post “I don’t deserve to be raped” as an example of one person’s power to engage a network to speak up and support each other. 

Here at BJ!, we were so excited by the conversations the original post initiated and as a follow-up published a piece from one of our readers—Courtney Grant—about reclaiming her body after surviving sexual violence. Don’t miss this video, in which Courtney reflects on what it was like for her story to go public.

*  *  *

What does it look like when an individual leverages a network for one small step towards change?

During the Research phase, we saw a number of examples of how support networks – local and global, analog and digital – provide safety and empowerment for women and girls. For instance, Luisa Covaria highlighted the importance of breaking the silence to confront harassment and sharing personal stories or resources. Meanwhile, Janice Wong initiated a conversation about a network of “City Changers” leading the charge on creating safer communities, and David Price explored physical networks or hubs that promote safe commutes.


A significant part of my role as the Challenge Community Champion is to highlight stories and good moves within the OpenIDEO community. But today I want to show you a glimpse of my off-platform community – Bombay – and share one example of a network’s potential to make this urban area safer and more empowering for women and girls.

A recent study reported that 65.1% of Brazilians believe women deserve to be attacked or raped when dressed provocatively. In response, thousands of Brazilian women and men took to social media to share topless or skimpily clothed photos of themselves with the hashtag#NãoMereçoSerEstuprada (I don’t deserve to be raped).

As the campaign gained steam, I received an email from a dear friend in Mumbai:



She wanted to write a blog post about the survey and campaign and to let us know that – in solidarity with Brazilian women and women worldwide – she will take a similar photo to share. That from India to Brazil, nobody deserves to be raped. She was shocked by what happened next, and I would be lying if I said we didn’t tear up over it.

Neem - I do not desrerve to be raped

On Thursday morning, her post made the rounds in Mumbai, got picked up in Hong Kong, and reached readers in Australia and the US and beyond. But this story isn’t about blog hits. It’s about the outpouring of support, solidarity, and personal stories that followed. Support from close friends as well as people she hadn’t heard from since university. Solidarity and thank you’s from Brazil. And – perhaps most importantly – personal stories of sexual violence and survival shared by people who read her post.

While negative news about how India treats women and girls continued to fill newsfeeds around the world, in a corner of Mumbai, one bold person speaking up created a safe space for others in her community to do the same.

That’s powerful.

Looping back to the Women’s Safety Challenge, I linger on one of the Opportunity Areas:Leveraging support networks locally and globally. How might we tap into the experiences shared and connections made through this one small step, to further strengthen this city? One idea that came to mind was that we should create a guide on what to say and do when friends or strangers come to us with personal stories of sexual violence. What might this guide look like? What content would be most empowering?

So far in the Ideas phase, we’ve seen Cansu Akarsu propose “Say NO Day” for women to speak up together, in solidarity, and confront sexual harassment and violence. Melchior Tamisier-Fayard built upon Cansu’s suggestion to kickstart a platform for global dialogue on gender issues between young people. From the northwest corner of the US, Natash Freidus chimed in with an idea to connect NGOs, women, and allies through a map of success stories. And over in Nigeria, Michael Iyanro stepped up with WomenFM—a radio-based network connecting underprivileged or marginalized women across the developing world.

How else could we leverage networks? OpenIDEO community, I look forward to more of your thoughts and ideas!