Street harassment is a form of harassment that consists of unwanted sexualized comments, provocative gestures, whistling, stalking, persistent sexual advances, and touching by strangers, in public areas such as streets, shopping malls and public transportation. It is a global phenomenon, and women worldwide suffer from it. In some countries such as France, the Netherlands, Philippines and Tajikistan, such behavior is outlawed. In many other countries there are public initiatives creating informal protection mechanisms, mostly within social responsibility. Often in street harassment cases, a temporary shelter allowing to wait out or calling a companion for the further journey can resolve the issue.

United Nations Development Programme in Uzbekistan contacted a range of private sector representatives with invitation to shape a voluntary alliance based on corporate social responsibility to launch a pilot initiative that bears the name “Call Umida” that would provide informal mechanism allowing women and young girls to find a temporary space safe from harassment, chasing, and stalking on our streets.  The location of safe spaces and more detailed information on the initiative can be found on the website callumida.uz, which was developed with the support of IT Park.

“The initiative we are launching today is unique for the country and especially important, because it is a voluntary commitment by series of corporate sector representatives, who are expressing readiness to share their resources to contribute to creating the network of safe spaces for women and girls escaping street harassment as part of their good citizenship, social responsibility, and empathy”, shared in her in her speech Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan. She added, As we are launching this initiative a few days before the International Women’s Day and the theme of this year is “Gender Equality today for the sustainable tomorrow”. Sustainable and fair development is only possible when everybody counts, and no one is left behind. Only in safety can one reach its full potential in education, employment, access to healthcare or any other basic human needs. We need streets safe for girls and women, too”.

The managers of “Korzinka”, the largest retail network in the country, “Testo by Zamira & Co.”, “YaponaMama”, “Caravan Group” restaurant chains, Steam Bar, Turka Saray, “GroundZero” coworking spaces, “CyberArena” computer club, “Asklepiy Group” pharmacy network, TEAM University, IT Park came forward ready to invest their time and effort to support the pilot initiative. NeMolchi.uz is informational partner of the project. The initiative is considered launched today and will be rolled out throughout the nearest month.

“As a socially responsible company, we stand against street harassment and join “CallUmida” initiative. We are engaging our team at all of our markets across Uzbekistan to provide safe places for women and girls when needed. In partnership with UNDP, we believe that cities can be safer for women and look forward to raise awareness to stop street harassment. Having more safe places will definitely strengthen the peace of mind for all of our children and loved ones”, — commented Zafar Khashimov, CEO of “Korzinka” supermarket chain.

Other businesses who would like to join “Call Umida” pilot initiative and expand this network of safe spaces are welcome to express their interest by sending the message via the contact button on the website.

This initiative is being piloted within UNDP Accelerator Lab in Uzbekistan, a part of the world’s largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development challenges. UNDP Accelerator Lab works together with national and global partners to find new approaches and solutions to current development challenges based on accelerated learning process, which relies on sense-making, collective intelligence, solutions mapping and experimentation.

Disclaimer: The “Call Umida” pilot initiative does not replace or provide law enforcement, legal, psychological, moral, material assistance as might be necessary in individual cases. Authorized and specialized bodies should be contacted for further protection or support. The timing and mode of temporary protection is determined by the operational and other arrangements of each partner and is subject to change. In case of suspicion of illegal actions, “Call Umida” participants have the right to act within the law and contact the competent authorities.