HarassMap Achieves More Than Just Crowdsourcing Data

It’s basically impossible to ignore the obvious major drawback of crowdsourcing: the unreliability of the data it gathers. Taking HarassMap as an example, it’s not a far stretch to image fake or otherwise untrustworthy incidents being reported. This is not to say that in Egypt (and worldwide really) sexual harassment doesn’t exist, because it very much does, this is only to point out that the idea of crowdsourcing incidents like this is not completely reliable. What I personally love about this project isn’t the data at all, but rather the fact that it’s managed to do the impossible. HarassMap, against all odds, has managed to inject sexual harassment and the maltreatment of women in Egypt to the forefront of social discussion. This in itself is monumental. I was shocked and angry and completely dumbfounded when I read that victims often didn’t even report their abuses because cops, the very institutions that we would think of to go to in times of crises not only didn’t defend their rights and privacy, but they were the ones abusing them as well. I became terrified thinking about the prospect of living in a society where the rights of women are so far removed from social norm that even the law enforcement was harassing half the population with abandon. When you fall that low in terms of your place alongside other genders in society it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim yourself. When you matter so little that 99% of you can be sexually harassed and still nothing is done about that horrible injustice, it’s terrifying. Personally I would’ve given up faced with those odds. And that’s why I love HarassMap so much. That’s why I love so much what they were able to accomplish. Using their greatest strengths, their numbers, their connectedness via cellphones, victims and their supporters alike are able to shed a light on this very real issue. When they were turned away by the institutions that are supposed to protect them, they found the strength and the will in each other to address the issue. There’s just something so powerful and inspiring and respectable about how these women have fought back against their oppression that I admire completely.

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Trash Government

Originally aiming for peaceful demonstrations, the #YouStink protests turned into violent ones, resulting in riot police responding with water cannons and tear gas. The photos from the protest are hard to look at, making it hard to believe this issue would start riots – unless it is from years of anger built up against the government. Which is what happened in Lebanon: the people were not happy about the corruption in their government and how little they care about public accountability. This is reflected by them not collecting trash for  a month because they never came up with a long-term plan for after the temporary landfill has filled up.

The Lebanese government needed the pressure from its people to start making change. At the time of the movement, Lebanon had been without a president for a year. Like what Paul Amar discussed about uprisings in the Arab world, its a battle between different kinds of sovereignty, and the people usually want democracy – we saw this in the movements in Egypt, even though they did not succeed. Lebanon on the other hand, has a parliamentary government system that is divided amongst religious groups and they have an electoral system. However, in the comments of Alan Taylor’s article, the common question is “wow, Lebanon has a government?” Some people are just ignorant when they ask that, but seeing #YouStink does make you question what can the people do for the government to reform and turn into a better one.