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Kickstartable: The People’s Girls

When this Kickstarter project was brought to my attention, I knew it was time to bring back the Kickstartable series. Here’s my interview with the team working on The People’s Girls, two brave women who are speaking out about a very important topic.

What was your inspiration for “Creepers on the Bridge”?

Tinne: After constantly hearing stories of both foreign and Egyptian women who face sexual harassment in Cairo, as well as walking on the street ourselves, we wanted to capture the persistent feeling of anxiety every time we walk alone.

We are currently working on a half-hour documentary about sexual harassment in Cairo, titled The People’s Girls, and we were looking to film the typical stares. After we secretly recorded the video and cut the parts together, we felt it was powerful enough as a stand-alone piece.

Because the video “Creepers on the Bridge” became so popular, it is currently serving as our awareness tool to raise funds for our full documentary on sexual harassment in Egypt, which will discuss the issue more in-depth. We started a Kickstarter campaign to produce our film professionally and to gain an international reach.

Were you harassed yourself for making this video?

Colette: On that day, there was an especially large amount of men, because it was both Friday and the ending of gathering of football fans. All the young men were walking down the bridge in large groups, which made it even more intimidating to walk amongst them. While each of us took turns walking across the bridge alone, the groups of stares were so intimidating that we felt extremely defensive, ready to react if necessary. We both felt the same nervousness of receiving physical harassment. When men stared at Colette and catcalled her, she just kept walking, ignoring them.

Fortunately, the day we decided to film this, we did not experience any physical harassment. No men “accidentally” brushed into us, groped us, or worse. Explicit physical harassment does happen on occasion, and once a woman has experienced it, it amplifies the anxiety she feels whenever a man gapes at her and/or catcalls. Because he is already objectifying her body, she considers his advances as the first step to physically attacking her. This makes her very defensive.

Do you feel or have you experienced that sexual harassment is worse in Egypt? Is it somehow different than in other parts of the world?

Tinne: Because we’re both frequently in the street alone, we both experience high levels of stares daily, as well as verbal harassment. It often deters us, like many other women, to walk outside or take public transportation, seeing as we don’t want to deal with the intimidation and anxiety. Everywhere we’ve been in the world, the United States, Latin America, Europe, South Asia, we’ve experienced various levels of sexual harassment.

The fact is that, in Egypt, every time a woman walks outside, no matter what she’s wearing, a large majority of men stare, unabashedly. They scan her entire body as if she is a mere object, not a valued human being. The high frequency of stares makes it the most common form of sexual harassment, violating women’s ability to feel safe while walking in the streets. While sexual harassment is an issue of epidemic proportions in Egypt, this by no way means that all Egyptian men are harassers, or that somehow this is an Arab or Muslim problem. This is a problem of a patriarchal society, which is unfortunately worldwide. We’ve gotten a lot of hateful comments towards Arabs and Egypt and we really want to point out that not all men are like this.

What’s been the most challenging part of creating The People’s Girls?

Colette: Because “Creepers on the Bridge” went viral, we had to pause on our planning for The People’s Girls because of the high volume of interviews and traffic on our Facebook page. We are still in the pre-production stages, but we foresee some difficulties in that the topic of sexual harassment is still taboo in Cairo. Though there has been a rise in awareness through the media, many people still deny its existence or don’t want to discuss it publicly. By raising enough funds to hire an Egyptian production crew, it will be easier to have different members of society open up about both their own experiences and perspectives.

What’s been the most pleasantly surprising?

Tinne: We were very surprised to see the “Creepers on the Bridge” video go viral; we initially only shared it with our Facebook friends, and they were sharing it like crazy. Our friends at Egyptian Streets reached out to us and asked to write an article about the video. As soon as that article went live, the video started spreading to news sites worldwide! We’re happy to see that many news sites are using this video to start a conversation about sexual harassment in their countries as well. That’s why this video went so viral, women all across the world could relate to this feeling of being on guard in case a man decides to hurt you.

Colette: Many Egyptian men and women have been extremely supportive of the project. They feel this is a major issue in Egypt that needs to be addressed, and many women have used our Facebook page as an outlet to share their stories privately, because they often are too afraid to speak out. People from around the world are also engaging in complex discussions on sexual harassment, as well as donating to our Kickstarter campaign to help fund the full documentary. This confirms that the issue resonates beyond just Egypt, even though it is one of the countries most affected. Of course, just as with any controversial issue, the video has sparked heated arguments, bringing the topic of sexual harassment to the forefront of Egyptian social media.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Tinne: Women worldwide struggle with inequality at different levels, so unfortunately we think this will be a lifelong struggle, but we are hopeful that the situation will improve. We are hopeful that with more women standing up for their rights, it will create a lasting societal change in their favor.

Of course our “Creepers on the Bridge” video itself will not dramatically change the discussion and law enforcement around this issue in Egypt, but we do plan for the full documentary to have a greater impact locally. For any struggle against a large societal problem, it is imperative that the people working to stop it publicize their struggle in the media, as the media is a very powerful tool to help shape public discussion.

We have launched a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign to fund the production and post-production stages of this film. We still have $9,000 left to to go, and we need all the support we can get to make this film a reality!

The People’s Girls will be funded through Saturday, October 4, 2014.

Disclaimer: Please do not take this review or my personal endorsement of this project as investment advice. I am a lady blogger on the Internet, not an investment adviser, nor am I an angel investor myself.

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