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Meet Yola

Tell Us A Little About Yourself.

I am Yola Mzizi. I'm originally from Durban, South Africa and I am studying Global Health and Sociology with a minor in Political Science at Northwestern University.

When did you start the account?

Tanisha and I officially started chalking in January of 2019.

Why were you inspired to start an account?

Growing up in a very patriarchal and conservative society in South Africa, street harassment in the form of catcalls and other slurs has become so ingrained that when one even dares to call it such, one is quickly dismissed with the all-too-familiar phrase, 'it's just a compliment.' Starting this account is essentially a homage to the many womxn who have had to endure the devastating experience of street harassment and the shame and embarrassment that follows suit.

Why do you think "chalking back" is a good method to raise awareness?

In the unfortunate event that one experiences street harassment, there is an immense loss of power. It is as if a stranger has the ability to make you feel so small, insignificant and violated. Chalking is a way to reclaim that power. It's a way of taking up space and showing people that harassment happens all the time. It a way of making people uncomfortable with the reality that some have to face every day. Even though I am not necessarily chalking my own stories, I feel so empowered whenever I get to tell someone's story, or at least fragments of it.

Why do you think ending street harassment is important?

This question seems quite rhetorical. I do not see a valid reason for the continuation of the violation of people's space, bodies and thoughts. Street harassment is nothing but a show of power for the harasser because I do not actually believe that the phrase "come sit on my lap" would make one jump for joy and eventually marry you.

What is your favourite thing about your city?

The people are really loud. Not only in the literal sense. People are very socially active and believe that enough is enough.

How can your city better address street harassment?

Apart from appropriate legislature from the part of the government to curb this issue, the people should get informed and rally behind this pertinent problem.

What do you hope is the outcome of your account?

Community. It's unfortunate that we have to form this community in the first place, but since the issue is not going away anytime soon, the next best thing would be to provide an avenue for this e who have experienced street harassment to reclaim their narrative and take back the street.

What is the most difficult street harassment situation you have experienced?

Walking down my neighbourhood at 11 years old, a group of boys my age or possibly older commenting on the size of my breasts and how they cannot wait for puberty to take it's course was the most demeaning and utterly traumatising experience one could endure.

What does being a part of this campaign mean to you?

I feel like an active citizen. It is quite scary to chalk at first but then remembering that this is a movement much larger than my temporary discomfort is empowering. Being a part if this movement means that I can finally get to share our struggles with the rest of the world and actually get people to pay attention.


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