Letter from YWAT Members
Written by Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team Members, Tsering Dolkar, Farheen Fatima, Christine Rene, Renee Martin, Suliat Oluwa, Jackquette Smith, Joyce Taylor (August 2003)
During the summer of 2003, Friends of Battered Women (now called Between Friends) and the Rogers Park Youth Net collaborated to sponsor a six-week youth-led research project about street harassment.
The project was really started because of Mariame Kaba who talked with a couple of us at a youth forum in our community and gave us a chance to work on research over a summer and to get paid while we did it.
Street harassment has become a serious issue nowadays especially in our Rogers Park area — that’s why we feel we need to address it. In our group this summer, there are eight girls.
The first two weeks we were in training. Mariame and her staff trained us on how to work in teams, on how to conduct interviews, and on photo-journaling. For the rest of the weeks, we learned about the different types of street harassment and how it affects girls in our community. We specifically focused on street harassment towards girls. We took pictures of the danger zones where street harassment usually happens such as the parks, beach, alleyways, train stops etc…
After the first two weeks of training, we made up interview questions about street harassment and how and why it affects women and girls. We conducted focus groups including girls from Centro Romero, Metropolitan Asian Family Services, Howard Area Community Center, the Rogers Park Youth Net and Family Matters. We also made up a survey and passed it out to girls in the community to see how they felt about street harassment.
The responses that we got were very helpful in doing our research. We want to use all of the materials that we got from our research to help other young girls.
From this whole experience, we learned a lot. We learned to come together and work for a common cause that is affecting all women. The way the media is degrading women is very wrong. In the music videos and magazines, they personify women as just sex objects. Every Thursday, a young woman from Community TV Network, has been teaching us about video production so that we can direct our own 3 to 5 minute movie promoting our ideas of being girls.
We also learned that stopping street harassment is nearly impossible because there are always going to be some guys disrespecting women and calling them names. But what we can do is to reduce street harassment. As a community we can educate boys and girls about it. We have to make our streets safe for all of the women and girls to walk on without someone trying to “holla” at us.