Eighty per cent of women around the world have been harassed at least once in a public place.
Bollywood royalty Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on Tuesday conveyed a strong message as she took the Expo 2020 Dubai stage: It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to street harassment that most women face.
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The Expo’s Millennium Amphitheatre drew massive crowds as Rai and other celebrated women — like Aja Naomi King from the US court drama How to Get Away with Murder; Arab star Mona Zaki; and Saudi Arabia’s Aseel Omran — led a conversation about ‘standing up against street harassment’.
“According to the statistics made available to me, 80 per cent of women around the world have been harassed at least once in a public place, and 86 per cent of bystanders have no idea of what to do. However, 79 per cent (of the women) say the situation improved when a bystander intervened. Sadly, only 25 per cent of victims say someone helped,” Rai said.
“To all the mothers out there…we simply cannot accept raising our daughters in a world where people witness this unacceptable behaviour and look away because they don’t know what to do.”
Rai then urged everyone to share their experience of the Expo training on fighting street harassment, and help invite others to take the course themselves.
To ensure the campaign’s success, organiser L’Oréal Paris partnered with Hollaback! — a NGO dealing exclusively with street harassment.
Experts educated the public about the 5Ds: Distract the perpetrator; delegate by asking some help; document the harassment; direct by speaking up; and delay by comforting.
Other global influencers encouraged the community to understand the problem; ignite public conversations; and develop innovative strategies that result in a safe environment for all.
Zaki said: “I have never met a woman or a girl who hasn’t experienced this. I really feel very sad about it. Women are made to feel bad about themselves in such situations and actually feel not worthy enough. On top of that, they are being blamed for being harassed. No woman should live like that and be made to feel that way.”
Women are strong enough and it is important to make them feel they are not alone in this fight, she added.
“This course that L’Oréal and Hollaback have thought of will enable a lot of women to get help…It also teaches you to stand up and help other women who face street harassment.”
Shedding light on the benefits of the training, having been an attendee herself, King said: “In the blink of an eye, [street harassment] can become terrifying. So the 5D methodology that they’ve created is important because it gives one the tool to safely intervene if one were to witness harassment or experience it herself.”
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