On February 5, New York City is cold- by 8pm it’s nearly freezing. A woman is walking along the sidewalk that is accentuated by little piles of snow that have been pushed to the side. Within the sheltered confines of the skyscrapers, pedestrians are saved from the biting wind. The lights from the towering buildings illuminates the streets that are crowded at all hours of the night despite the cold. The woman, who goes by E to her friends, is walking the crowded streets. As a 30 year old woman she is incredibly vulnerable to the destructive and terrifying cultural phenomenon known as street harassment. As she walks around the city she is subject to an onslaught of prejudice. Despite the fact that it is freezing outside, and the most revealing thing she is wearing is an overcoat, she experiences a reality that is extremely different from one lived by most men and is by no means exceptional. What seems like, just a walk, is actually an act of navigating a dangerous situation where those innocuous seeming people standing on the sidewalk represent a real threat to her safety. On a daily basis, she is shouted at, followed, and sometimes even touched. Her story is not an isolated occurrence. It is a reality faced by nearly all women in the world with varying degrees of severity. In fact, E’s experience is on the low end of severity. Women are experiencing everything from objectifying comments that just reinforce insecurity to verbal and physical threats. These are not just noise. In a world that can sometimes be dangerous, knowing who is dangerous and who is just making threats is impossible. Imagine being followed by someone for blocks by someone who may try to hurt you. This is happening to women all over the world everyday. E’s reality is one that is shared not just by women by but by other minorities as well. In the European Union,a study of 93,000 LGBQT individuals found that: “half avoided public spaces sometimes because of street harassment and most reported high levels of fear in locations like restaurants, public transportation, streets, parking lots, and parks.” This is what E would have experienced on her walk home- endless harassment, objectification, and a real concern for her safety. Yet when E walked to the subway on February 5, she experienced nothing. She walked in peace down the frozen sidewalk. The length of which was given entirely to her. She was not followed or yelled at. She felt no unreasonable fear for her safety. The city was safe. There was nothing special about February 5. The same people were out on the streets focusing their attention in the same ways. However, E was not alone. She was walking home from a taping of irrepressibly brilliant Daily Show at which she had met a man with whom she had started a conversion with. They became friends and she was showing him where to get on the subway. As he walked with her, he unwittingly provided something that he was born with. By no virtue of his own making, he stood the height of 6’6”. At this height, he had an abundance of perceived power. As they walked the streets together, they were given freedom and respect. They walked to the Subway unaffected by the world around them.
What it does
Street harassment is not just an issue- it is a crisis.
We are building an app to create an "uber" like community of companionship so that anyone who feels unsafe can simply press a button to bring someone with perceived power who is kind and most importantly safe to walk with them.
How I built it
Challenges I ran into
One of the main challenges we ran into was setting up our users table to allow for multiple types of users, one being the walkers, and the other the standard users. We had to refactor our model layer several times to get this working. Another challenge was finding hosting in order to test our app. We finally settled on Google App Engine.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I feel accomplished for learning how the Here API works so quickly this weekend and implementing it throughout our web application. I am also proud of learning how to make ajax calls for getting and putting information to the web. All together the project's completion is the biggest accomplishment.
What I learned
What's next for Walk-Me
What's next is to add a walker application, screening, and review system so that we can have the best and safest people to walk you where you need to go.