Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a journalist, born and raised in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
From a young age, I was drawn toward understanding my surroundings which included the social and structural drivers that propelled the lived-experiences of marginalised communities. It is what motivated me to study investigative journalism. I am currently part of the non-profit sector working as a multimedia and communications specialist. I essentially create in-depth documentaries through the gendered lens to capacitate, build awareness and impact change in behaviour.
When did you start your account?
The @catcallsofcapetown account was started in collaboration with Sonke Gender Justice during Women’s Month. The first post was published on Women’s Day – 8 August 2019.
Why were you inspired to start an account?
The gender-based violence level in South Africa is five times the global rate. Intersections of gender-based violence includes sexual harassment, street harassment and rape culture which are microaggressions leading to behaviours which uphold toxic masculinities. People tended to think that only “extreme” cases were notable and that they did not experience gender-based violence.
Why do you think “chalking back” is a good method to raise awareness?
Chalking Back gives the power of storytelling to those affected by issues which would ordinarily not be spoken about. It provides the agency to survivors and creates conversations about sexual and gender-based violence in the spaces where they occur. Chalk and colour is normally associated with happiness and whimsy. The network is a great way to connect other young women with each other to create safer spaces.
Why do you think ending street harassment is important?
The chalk back network and its associated accounts are important tools to raise awareness that everyone has experienced a form of gender-based violence in their home, school, public or place of work. Even online and through social media. I am deeply connected to this movement because it builds solidarity among people who are calling out instances of sexual harassment and it is a tool for empowering young men, women and members of the LGBTQI community. If we address the microaggressions and in turn make it unacceptable for rape culture to occur, it does much to normalise gender-sensitive behaviour.
What’s your favourite thing about your city?
Cape Town is rich in history and culture. Cape Point was a spice route and slavery was rife in the city. This has caused social cohesion which meant that decedents of slaves, migrants and refugees grew roots in Cape Town which resulted in diversity in culture and people.
How can your city better address street harassment?
The South African country could do better to address gender-based violence and its associations such as street harassment in its laws and pioneer education in gender theory and transformation. South Africa does not view gender-based violence as a crime and this has skyrocketed rape. Addressing issues that affect mainly women, children and members of the LGBTQI community will need a multi-pronged approach.
What do you hope is the outcome of your account?
To empower young women and help them reclaim spaces. Our network in Cape Town has already connected young women on university with each other who now run the page.
What’s the most difficult street harassment situation you’ve experienced?
A chalking coordinator, Zara Schroeder, and I were chalking comments on the sidewalk in front of the Golden Acre mall in Cape Town CBD. The comment was “I was raped on primary school”. The authorities were very aggressive in their approach when they had asked about the comment in chalk and many had thought I was the person who had been raped.
They were more offended by the comment written in chalk than the content of the comment itself and I was concerned that If I was a victim of sexual violence and that had been a cry for help, I would have been even more victimised and stigmatised for raising my voice. That is the point of this campaign, to raise awareness about these issues.
A crowd had gathered, and naturally myself and Zara started speaking about sexual and gender-based violence, rape culture and street harassment. One of the men in the crowd asked: “If I do not rape, how will I get pleasure?”
He was adamant that women like us were taking away “his right” to rape women. We explained to him that rape was a crime and that there was a difference between rape and adult consensual sex.
He walked away eventually when other men started calling him out for wanting to rape women. It shocked us and for a while I wondered if we had engaged with a serial rapist. He had spoken about rape like he spoke about the weather.
What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?
It deepens the work I already embark on. It is something I will continue to do and capacitate others in.