During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (Nov. 25 – Dec. 10), Stop Street Harassment is featuring activists who took action against street harassment this year, one new country per day.
Day 3: Myanmar
In February, a new anti-harassment campaign launched in Myanmar called “whistle for help.” As part of the campaign 150 volunteers distributed whistles and pamphlets to women at eight busy bus stops in Yangon each Tuesday morning that month and they’ve continued to do so for nine months. The pamphlets tell women to blow the whistle when they experience sexual harassment on the bus and advises them to help other women when they blow the whistle.
The whistle campaign is so popular, riders regularly ask for extra whistles to pass out to their friends and family and some have requested the organizers expand their campaign to other regions.
The bus drivers have been supportive too: “U Tun Aung, a driver one the No 51 line, said sexual harassment had been tolerated on buses for too long and he praised the “whistle for help” organisers for devising an effective, non-violent campaign to stop it.”
Oh good. Mom’s stories of buses were horrifying. It has taken them decades to realize that sexual harassment on buses are not okay, funny or something to gripe about with your friends like you would complain about your period. When my mom told me her stories, I asked why they don’t report it or kick the offending men in the balls, at least. Her answer was a shrug and some vague response I barely remember, but it sounded like as if doing something about it had never crossed her mind or the minds of the people around her. It’s disturbing. Especially since my mother is a strong, smart and independent woman who pulled her family out of the “lower/middle lower class” to “middle upper class” or whatever (there are only three classes in Burma: the poor, the super rich, and those supported by relatives abroad). She headed a family of eight + extended relatives from both side of the family (and my dad’s side can be pretty patriarchal at times too). And that was her reaction.
In addition to a lot of economic and political changes, Burma needs to start thinking about social changes and rethink its traditional attitude towards women, religion and people not from the major tribes. I still hold that the issues are not as extreme or problematic as they are in some of the neighboring countries, but recently I have discovered frightening underlying prejudices that might be hard to uproot because they are so subtle. Gargh. Thank the universe for Aung San Suu Kyi, right?
Now I hop off my soapbox.Source: