Last February, on the last day of International Anti Street Harassment Week, members of the Speak up club at The Asian University for Women went out in the streets of Chittagong, Bangladesh to create awareness about street sexual harassment.
The Asian University for Women in Bangladesh recruited young women from 16 Asian countries to educate and empower them. Students from the university always stand against all forms of injustice and question the responsible authorities about systemic violence against women. As such, the students of the university who are part of the Speak up club arranged an awareness event for the people of Chittagong about sexual harassment in the streets.
According to my experiences in Bangladesh, women and young girls face a constant barrage of sexual harassments while walking in the street. No matter whether you are a foreigner or local citizen, every day when you go in the street, you expect to be harassed. This often makes women wonder whether they get harassed because of what they are wearing or whether it is simply because of their presence in the street. Unfortunately, men harass women simply because they are women and from what I have observed, many men consider women to merely be objects rather than human beings.
Therefore, on International Anti Street Harassment Week, students of the University went into the streets of Chittangong to educate men especially about harassment. The students stopped and talked to many people on the streets explaining that men need to respect women as well as what is harassment, and how it affects a woman’s life. The students distributed flyers and wrote on message boards to raise awareness about street harassment. They also asked people to share their messages of hope, to raise their voice, and to join the campaign. The responses from people on the streets varied, but most people were very curious and interested to know about the campaign. Many asked us what they could do to help end street harassment. In addition, the students had designed and prepared all the flyers in Bengali language in order to be able to reach out to people in their local language.
At the end of the day, I feel the campaign had a positive effect on people in Chittagong and made them think about harassment. I understand that changing people’s mentalities will not happen overnight. But, by creating this dialogue, I hope we are one step closer to creating a change for future generations and that people’s mentalities will start to shift.