A British study says no – an Israeli app now says yes
By Diana Grosz
Most people would say that life today is far safer compared to previous centuries. International agreements and treaties protect us from wars; innovative medicine saves millions of lives from diseases, and local and international laws provide security and a feeling of safety on the streets in a majority of Western countries.
However, despite these monumental developments, half the world’s population is not truly protected – even in highly developed states!
Even though politicians and the media constantly talk about equal rights of all citizens and the growing success in the fight against gender inequality in recent years, feeling safe and secure is still a privilege reserved mostly for men.
According to a research in 2019 bythe British international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, YouGov, around half of all women feel unsafe in various routine situations. Men however, in the same context, feel relatively secure and safe.
The insecurity and awareness of women in this study are related to them moving from one place to another; whether it’s a walk from work to their home or traveling to another country. For instance, the average man is able to easily travel by hitch-hiking, while among women this practice is considered high-risk. Such an evident polarity in opportunities leads to thoughts about the difference in men’s and women’s freedom, which are in the end validated and maintained by our own societies.
The situation seems even grimmer after realizing that the surveys from 2007 have very similar data as the same surveys from 2019, and the data hasn’t significantly changed during the last twelve years.
For instance, 62% of women that had to go out at night were afraid to go alone, and 66% of interviewed women were afraid to go through certain neighbourhoods.
Women are as insecure while using public transport, walking in the park, or going out alone as they were more than ten years ago. This is according to the data provided in 2007 by Stéphanie Condon, Marylène Lieber, Florence Maillochon in their research entitled:
‘FEELING UNSAFE IN PUBLIC PLACES
understanding women’s fears’ .
From the data, it appears that society is indifferent to the problem of women’s safety and hence makes little effort – if at all – to effect change. The statistics reveal that women’s freedom of movement is constantly violated and somehow it has become the norm, sadly even for women themselves.
As a consequence, women might not even try to move freely anymore, their mindset programmed to accepting this ‘reality’ as a normal part of life.
Regrettably, this constant sense of danger leads women, instead of availing themselves of various creative methods to protect themselves to instead succumb to their feared situation and restrict their lifestyle accordingly.
Six in ten women – fearing a sexual assault or street harassment – will avoid walking in certain areas or walking alone preferring instead to travel in their own vehicle or take a taxi.
The point therefore is that women adapt their routines and daily activities to meet safety considerations, when safety should not even be an issue.
What do women need to do to feel and be safe?
The evident obstruction of women’s rights and freedom due to safety concerns has challenged people towards creating solutions to protect women in potentially dangerous situations. The market already offers women and girls access to self-defense tools and techniques that might be useful for particular live situations.
On such is the Israeli app SafeUP, a social network for women that allows them to help each other in real time to feel safer and prevent incidents of harassment and sexual assault.
For those 50% of women who feel safer when accompanied, SafeUP is the perfect and simple solution to their day-to-day worries.
No neighbourhood will ever be too scary or dark when knowing that a community near you will have your back. Just pull out your phone and within seconds our SafeUP guardians will be with you.
It was an incident as a girl that sowed the seed for 30-year-old Israeli Neta Schreiber Gamliel to made her first steps in the hi-tech world and cofound SafeUP. The start-up’s CEO explains:
“I went out with some friends to a party at the villa, when one of my friends disappeared from us. We went to look for her and after a few minutes we found her in one of the rooms with two men, half naked, half conscious. When they entered the room, the men ran away and we realized that we had saved her life. From that moment on, we created a system of internal laws between our friend group that was designed to protect each other.”
A decade and a half later, this event ignited the creation of SafeUP, which she launched with her partner Tal Zohar together with the Tel Aviv Municipality. Within three months, they had reached 11,000 users and six local authorities paying for the service. Breaking into the US market, the Israeli duo have created communities of female guardians in Boston, New York and Washington that protects women walking alone at night.
TIME TO CHANGE
But these solutions are for real-time situations. It is still imperative to change society and its vision on women’s safety. We should all be able to comprehend that actions such as catcalling, whistling, unwanted sexual comments, unwelcome sexual touching, or following girls as an attempt to demonstrate interest, joke or to get her phone number is not acceptable.
Any of these inappropriate behaviours that are usually perpetrated by men, even if they think it’s funny or not, are the main reason why women do not feel safe while out on their own.
However, until the process of educating people on gender violence, its roots and how we can solve it, women must have the right and opportunity to create communities and safe spaces in which they can share their experiences and perspectives on the subject. The idea of creating empathic and trustworthy communities, where its members could assist each other in dealing with difficult and even harmful situations – is one of the main goals of SafeUP.
We are trying to not only provide women with a useful and secure app but also to show them how important and meaningful the power of community can be. By joining SafeUP, women are provided the means to connect with women willing to help and support them, and the chance to be the ones who provide this support and help.
Only by combining powers and aspirations to protect our right to feeling confident regardless of whether we are walking at night, during the day, wearing a mini or maxi dress, can women begin to change the reality we live in.
The greater our numbers, the greater our power. By joining SafeUP and becoming a guardian, you can easily take an active role in helping women feel safer wherever they are going.
About the writer:
Diana Grosz is a history teacher, Middle Eastern specialist, and a women’s rights advocate. Diana’s mission is to raise awareness about women’s issues and promote equality. She started her journey in South America and later immigrated to pursue her passion of helping women in the Middle East.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).