Skip to Content

In Process ⟶ Gates Foundation


How do you create a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment?

Photo credit: Mostafa Abdel Aty.


Designers: Rebecca Chiao, Engy Ghozlan, Amel Fahmy, and Sawsan Gad

Date Released: 2010

Goal: Create a society that does not tolerate sexual harassment.

Step 1

Define the Cause

Photo credit: Osama Maher
Photo credit: Osama Maher

Social Justice

There’s not a time for men and a time for women…it’s a time to build the future of our country right now…for all of us. If any group is excluded from that, it’s not the future that we want to see. Rebecca Chiao Co-founder of Harassmap

Step 2

Research & Discover


The four founders were pushed to take on this cause after experiencing sexual harassment in their daily lives. According to the first widespread government study on sexual harassment in Egypt, 99.3% replied that they have been subjected to one form or another of harassment. 82.6% of the total female respondents announced that they neither felt secure nor safe in the street, and nearly half of the respondents endure daily harassment.

According to the same study, 40% of people who witness harassment happening to a victim do nothing to stop the harassment and 11% pretend not to notice the harassment.

We can't say today how bad the problem really is and that's one of the things that we're trying to do with HarassMap. Rebecca Chiao Co-founder of HarassMap

Step 3

Think, Make & Evaluate

The founders believed that if enough people start speaking out and taking action when harassment happens in their presence, then together as a society we can deter harassers, and end this epidemic together.

HarassMap volunteers and founders set up Ushahidi and Frontline SMS, free software platforms, to allow harassment victims and witnesses to submit incident reports online, map the reports, and send auto-responses to connect victims with services. Given the almost 100% phone ownership in Egypt, half by women, they hoped that utilizing ICT (Information and Communication Technologies, i.e. the internet, cell phones, and other communication mediums) could engage the broader public in ending harassment.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

Crowdsourced data collected from the reporting system helps document facts about the issue, counter stereotypes that blame the harassed and make excuses for the harasser, challenge previously held views about who harassers are and what their motivations are, and emphasize the criminality of sexual harassment in Egypt. HarassMap also conducts traditional research to understand and learn more about sexual harassment.

Photo credit: HarassMap.
Photo credit: HarassMap.

More than a thousand volunteers were trained and assisted in building zero-tolerance zones within communities and inside institutions, both informally and through policies. By creating physical spaces that do not tolerate sexual harassment, HarassMap’s offline work is focused on building a society that guarantees safety for all people from sexual harassment.

Public campaigns conducted on traditional media and social media use learnings from reports and community-based work to change perceptions that create and reinforce a culture of blaming the harassed, excusing the harasser, and accepting sexual harassment.

Step 4

Outcome & Impact


HarassMap uses an integrated approach to creating zero-tolerance for sexual harassment and assault that includes reporting and mapping harassment incidents to document the problem; public campaigns to spread accurate information and mobilize the public to take action; and anti-harassment policies inside institutions such as universities, NGOs, corporates, and schools, to establish consequences for harassers. These policies are easier to implement and monitor within an institution, empowers their own leaders, and are an important step to spreading a culture of zero-tolerance.


An Open Mic at Cairo University as part of HarassMap خريطة التحرش الجنسي’s Safe Areas and Safe School’s program in December 2014. Photo credit: HarassMap.
An Open Mic at Cairo University as part of HarassMap خريطة التحرش الجنسي’s Safe Areas and Safe School’s program in December 2014. Photo credit: HarassMap.

One of HarassMap’s early experiences with creating a zero tolerance anti-harassment policy was in partnership with the biggest public university in Egypt, Cairo University. HarassMap provided a draft of a recommended policy that defined harassment, its types, steps for enforcement, and consequences for harassers, and then worked with stakeholders from the university, NGOs, and activists to customize and implement it. This policy is now used as a guideline and reference for 15 other universities in Egypt. HarassMap also assists businesses with adopting and enforcing anti-harassment policies.


The reporting system provides a safe space to victims and witnesses of harassment to speak out safely and anonymously about their experiences via text, social media or on the HarassMap website. HarassMap then connects them to options for legal aid, instructions on reporting to police, and psychological counseling. Data detailing the location and type of harassment is then published and visualized on a heatmap, categorized by types of harassment and region.


Photo credit: HarassMap.
Photo credit: HarassMap.

Armed with data, HarassMap volunteers organized outreach days in their neighborhoods to engage in conversations with doormen, shop owners, and other people with a presence in the street, and encourage them to become active bystanders and make their spaces “harassment-free zones.”

Photo credit: Osama Maher.
Photo credit: Osama Maher.

Suggested by a volunteer during their first neighborhood outreach day, the Safe Areas program has been refined and expanded to include community businesses, ten corporations, and twelve public universities.

Photo credit: HarassMap.
Photo credit: HarassMap.

HarassMap provides them with technical support to open their own anti-sexual harassment or anti-violence units, trains staff and volunteers, and works closely with them on adapting, promoting and enforcing a zero-tolerance anti-harassment policy. As a result of one of these policies at Cairo University, there are currently thirty-four professors under investigation for alleged harassment.

We have teams of volunteers that go out once per month in their own neighborhoods and talk to their own neighbors in groups. They ask people who have a presence in the be watchful guardians of their neighborhoods. Rebecca Chiao Co-founder of HarassMap

The founders made the HarassMap concept completely open-source. Since its launch, HarassMap has advised and supported over a hundred activists and NGOs from Egypt and around the world on setting up HarassMap-inspired initiatives. Independent groups in at least eighty different countries have been advised on how to launch similar projects.