Bibi’s Story

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My name is Bibi Marissa Khan. I am a 15 year old female. As a young Guyanese teenager I would like to address one of the main issues in society and all around the world – which is Street Harassment. Street Harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments also catcalling by strangers .

I participated in this campaign because I feel that young girls and women should know that they are not the only victims of street harassment. It happens to many girls and women in everyday life. I also have been harassed.  When it happens, I want to answer the harasser but I do not have the will power to do so.

Let us work together to put an end to this.

WITNESS Project on the Radio – Our Interview with 104.3 Power FM

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 10.53.50 AM WITNESS Project Program Director, Rosheni Takechandra and team member Dwayne Brahmdeow were invited to discuss the IT’S NOT A COMPLIMENT campaign on 104.3 Power FM’s Glow Show with host Shaquita, live from Linden.

In between song selections, there was a very thorough and detailed discussion about what is street harassment, why does it happen, and how can we as youth change the culture to end it.

Click the link below to listen and let us know what you think.

Witness Project on the Radio – Our Interview with 93.1 Real FM

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 7.49.44 PMOn Friday June 12, 2015 WITNESS Project Program Director, Rosheni Takechandra and team leader Teriq Mohammed were invited to discuss the IT’S NOT A COMPLIMENT campaign 93.1 Real FM‘s The Morning Fuel, hosted by Mr. Merrano Isaacs.

The discussion covered many areas:

  • Defining what exactly is street harassment
  • How and why we decided to address this issue
  • Our stance on those women & girls who like to recieve catcalls from men
  • How WITNESS Project is engaging the public on this issue

Check out the discussion below and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

WITNESS Project on the Radio – Our Interview with 98.1Hot FM

981Interview_1On June 5, 2015 WITNESS Project Program Director, Rosheni Takechandra and team member Kwesi Archer were invited to discuss the IT’S NOT A COMPLIMENT campaign with Mr. Basil of 98.1 Hot FM.

The spirited conversation covered many different areas of concern surrounding the issue of street harassment:

  • Respecting people’s space
  • Polite greetings vs. lewd catcalling
  • How to discuss the issue with men who engage in this behavior
  • Why some women welcome street harassment
  • How WITNESS Project is engaging the community

Check out the discussion below and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Devina’s Story

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My name is Devina Roopnarine.

I participated in this campaign because it targeted an underestimated flaw in society that affects most, if not all, women. Street harassment has been wrongfully deemed harmless when it is in fact pollution to a peaceful, equal and respectful environment. Personally, I have been a victim of this. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to wear your favorite dress, a comfortable pair of shorts or even a confident smile without disgusting remarks being thrown at you. This would make anyone prefer to walk in dim lights and shadows where they would not be seen or accused of committing a crime. These thieves of confidence and freedom are infuriating and exasperating. They are unworthy of the respect they demand by the “good day” that follows their dirty remarks. I believe that these individuals need to be educated on the emotional effects of street harassment because if asked, they could claim their ignorance to the fact. It is time we evolve in our respect towards each other and stop this once and for all.

Kelly’s Story

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My name is Kelly Brassington, a fellow member of the WITNESS Project who is participating in the It’s Not A Compliment street harassment campaign.

We at WITNESS Project have conducted several previous campaigns, all of which addressed the issue of violence in different ways.  The main aim of this campaign is to make citizens of Guyana aware of street harassment and its toll on society through the use of posters. 

I, myself am a victim of street harassment. I was walking on the road with a friend, heading home from a gathering, when someone shouted at me “Aye sexy!” It did not make me feel good about myself. Instead, a feeling of disgust came upon me towards the perpetrator. It was not a compliment in my eyes. It was a way to be obnoxious.

To the persons who tend to indulge in these acts, I feel pity on them, as they do not know how to properly address someone who they believe is beautiful and would like to tell them. I do not condone these kinds of behavior and I would encourage all to speak up for themselves, to the perpetrator, and tell them how you feel about what just took place.


Teriq’s Story

photoI have seen street harassment occurring everyday but have not personally intervened in those situations due to 1. not wanting an argument with the harasser and 2. I believe he really and truly doesn’t know better.

So, when this campaign was being formulated I thought this may be a chance for me to indirectly target those involved in this behavior.

Personally, as a guy, I can honestly say I’ve never catcalled at a girl. Reason being, and here is where I think guys get it wrong, the average Joe on the street believes that if he gives a girl a compliment about her body, her face or some other feature that she’d want to be with him. It’s very strange how guys act around women. I remember once when I was playing cricket,  a girl passed by and my fellow mates started calling at her. What caught my attention at the time was what the umpire said. His words were, “’is like dog season on or something.”

I was puzzled at his comment but when you think of it, when a female dog is in heat the males lose all sense of control and would fight and push and nag at each other for the female.  I saw this exact behaviour in these guys. I didn’t know why this was so. I wondered why I’ve never acted like this. Then I did the math and concluded that it’s all due to socialization. I was just raised differently. I’ve never seen my dad or anyone in my close quarters act like that.

I believe it’s like a virus, that behaviour. Maybe if I had stayed with those mates and became their friends I would have changed and lost my decency. I do feel that many times these guys just act or do things to make their friends feel they are cool and have ‘swag’.

If only someone would call these guys out,  pull them away from their environment and put them into environments which teach and encourage proper  behavior.

I do know it’s a reflex to fit in and to follow the masses. Maybe a change in their surroundings would  help them see things differently. Maybe even have a girl whom these guys are troubling, stop and have a chat with them, tell them how it makes her feel. I do believe that this project’s posters and  objectives will send a message and spark a thought with these guys and girls who like to catcall at others.

Kwesi’s Story

1176256_578596168863605_1185291300_nI am confused by Street Harassment. What can someone gain by calling someone else, “Nice bamsie “or “fat pum-pum” on the road? What kind of person does that make you? If they reply or smile, what kind of person are they? Some may say it makes you brave and bold, however, in every “brave warrior there is a fool,” and only a fool would want a stranger that would answer to such remarks. Unfortunately, the actions of the past have not created an attitude of respect in all communities and social groups.

I believe street harassment is an empty action used to fill the doers need for attention and self-importance. The need to be validated or noticed is unfortunately something persons of all walks of life may go through. These acts have a negative impact on a society as it creates a fear or discomfort in unwilling by-standers and victims, disrespects the victims and the attacker and the more it happens the more acceptable it seems yet it is of no benefit to anyone. The best way to feel important and attract attention is to make others feel important but respectfully.

You know Street Harassment is an issue that is not talked about really. Yet it affects so many persons across all parts of the country. I didn’t realize how many until I had watched a TED Talk video about harassment in Indian with my aunt and grandmother. After watching the video they started talking about the harassment they and their friends suffered and it hit home. I don’t want anyone to have a fear of walking the streets or to deal with the constant noise of an arrogant ignorant buffoon and such a person isn’t healthy for a society or the development of a potential tourism nation.

I have been attacked by street harassers and this is something that happens to males too so you shouldn’t be too surprised. Stop Street Harassment.org updated definition of street harassment is:

“Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.”

Thus many persons have been victims of street harassment and so have I. I was about 14 or 16 on my way to return a book to the library in my neighbourhood and a group of guys, basketballers, bigger than me were walking down the street in my direction. I’ll give them this I was awkward with being social even walking past people was awkward for me. So as I was passing one with a basketball looked at me and asked in an unclear voice “Do you know Marvin? The one that sings” I said quietly and awkwardly replied “Who?” and immediately another one turned around, as I was now behind them, and shouted “GAY!!” Now this was the first time something like that ever happened to me and I was shocked but I kept walking I clutched my book I was returning and kept walking. I replayed the situation a number of times in my head before I got to the library. It made me feel like an outcast like if I was actually gay or something. I already didn’t like going on the road after that it just made me more self conscious. I still see some of the guys around but they don’t say anything I guess they either grew up or because I walk with a knife now.

I feel sorry for persons, male or female, that do this act. The most powerful and influential persons in the world have charm and there is a big difference between charm and insults. Persons with charm you want them to tell you something but the individuals that throw unwanted remarks are those that make themselves the like the words they let loose, unwanted and unnecessary.

Do you have a story to tell? Submit Your Story Here.

Nini’s Story

Your story resonates with me all too well. During my puberty to adult years I have dealt with this filth! The cat calling and stares into my shirt, the licking of lips etc. It drove me to extreme anger and I chose to wear only dark and “unattractive” clothing in hope of going unnoticed. When this failed, I simply ignored it all and thought I had become immune to the nasty behaviour. As I got wiser and more cantankerous, I decided not to let them take away my freedom. I yelled back things like “ That’s very disgusting!”, “ Shame on you!”; and for the men who thought they had more suave, I replied with a very stern “GOOD MORNING/EVENING” with the most uninviting expression. Now, I just don’t hear them let alone see them. And of course having a husband and child at my side most times is not exactly “sex appeal”.
But I, with my curious mind wondered WHY? why do these men continuously harass women? Why do they believe its okay to treat women with such lack of respect? The answer is simple :They get GRATIFICATION! Why would a stray animal keep visiting you? Because you feed it. I say this in reference to those girls/women who respond positively and reward men for the sexual innuendoes because they believe this is a validation of their beauty and attractiveness. Those girls/women who are lost because they come from homes where fathers are absent or are not involved in their lives enough or don’t remind them of their value and esteem. Those girls/women who come from homes where mothers are still growing up and unable to impart knowledge enough to combat this real- world challenge or teach by example.
Those men in the streets were once boys who spent time hanging with their fathers at shops/bars and observed this behaviour towards women, or whose fathers were absent altogether. Role models are simply missing or confusing in both cases. We forget that children learn with their eyes also.
Men/boys have gone for far too long without being held accountable for their actions that cause women and girls much suffering. “We” the parents are the core of this and other social issues we face, “we” the teachers, the religious leaders, or any other influential figures in society.
Mothers and fathers are the first two persons of the opposite sex that children interact with and this relationship sets fundamentals for all that follow. I do believe, however, with much empowerment and empowering women as models, girls can realise their worth, grow stronger and change this unacceptable culture.
I always say to the young girls in my immediate environment, we have one body and one life, we need to own them and take charge.
BEING BETTER MOTHERS AND FATHERS TO OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Margaret’s Story

I am very hopeful that the IT’S NOT A COMPLIMENT campaign will have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Guyana. I have first hand knowledge of how street harassment changes you and the harm it can cause. I have spent years navigating the gauntlet that walking on New York City’s streets is for women. I put up with instructions to smile, the comments about my body, the kisses and lip smacking, horn blowing and the endless, nasty abuse by strangers. But one experience stands out above all others. I garaged my car in the building where I lived in Manhattan. Every day I would call for my car and one of many attendants would bring it to the front. I began to notice that one of the attendants was overly attentive to me. And he became attentive in a discomforting way, in a way that made me feel uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe. I began to do things to avoid this garage attendant…I always sought to have one of the other attendants fetch my car. Even when one of the other attendants brought my car he found a way to work his way to me to say something about the way I looked that day or to ask where I was going or what I was going to do. As women, we are socialized to be pleasant, to not be abrasive, to not insult or hurt anyone’s feelings, to be polite and so instead of stopping him directly I began to consider moving my car to another garage. Then one day he brought me my car and pointed to a letter that he had left on the car seat. After I left the garage I opened and read this letter. It was a love letter to me from him…and with each word he wrote on that page the personality of a man who was delusional emerged. Then I became downright afraid and I was forced to act. I wrote management and told them in writing the entire story and enclosed a copy of the letter he had left for me. I copied my own attorney on this correspondence. The man was abruptly fired and I was assured that such a thing would never happen again. The funny thing is I always had power over this man. He was an attendant in a garage where I was a paying customer. But I failed to use my power until I could no longer take his frightening behavior. Now we have an opportunity to push back against obnoxious, discomforting and frequently frightening behavior by men against women on streets, in stores, in garages, in office places and everywhere. We do have the power to change this.

Do you have a story to tell? Submit Your Story Here.