React!, a recently launched online platform that allows Macedonian women to self-report incidents of gender-based harassment, is attracting new users and positive reviews, according to Global Voices. The project focuses on reporting violence against women in public places in the Macedonian capital Skopje, an aim achieved by allowing users to anonymously report incidents via SMS, email, and Twitter to a site that maps and categorizes the incidents and also allows women to share their stories.
As Ushahidi’s up-and-coming blog points out, React! uses crowd-sourcing technology to help local researchers collect data that is otherwise not readily available. Its goal is to allow women to report harassment that ranges from offensive comments and cat-calling to assault and sexual violence, and responsiveness of local authorities to such incidents. Since August, a growing number of users have mapped and posted their stories. For instance, one user describes the whistles and ‘offensive gestures’ she encountered while walking by a suburban construction site.
The platform is part of a larger project assessing the public harassment of women in Macedonia, a project sponsored by the local public interest research group Reactor, and UN Women. Local tech-blog Metamorphosis also emphasizes the importance crowdsourcing plays in collecting hard to acquire data, such as statistics on sexual harassment and its perception. Incidents often go unreported, and the definition of harassment, together with the appropriate response to such instances, are not universally agreed upon. And this is what the supporters of the React!’s project hope to change, according the blog.
Furthermore, they hope that a social network “dedicated to the prevention of gender-based harassment” would remove this major hurdle in the path towards gender equality. According to a Reactor research survey, harassment has a great impact on a woman’s behavior; one third of the 780 Macedonian women interviewed avoid being alone after dark, in “unsafe places”, or have modified their outward appearance to avoid harassment. Macedonia is taking steps to address structural gender inequalities, and tackling sexual harassment as a daily challenge may help women overcome a major obstacle in the development of their professional and public lives.
Many other women’s groups in developing countries have turned to crowdsourcing technology as a means of reporting and measuring gender-based violence. Harassmap, an Egyptian geo-social site that also operates on an Ushahidi-based platform, has garnered acclaim for exposing the issue of sexual harassment unaddressed by the country’s laws.