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IWD: George McEncroe

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Are you a man? If the answer is yes, I encourage you to find the closest woman* to you and ask if they or a woman they know has ever walked home with their keys between their fingers, felt unsafe in a public space or felt threatened by a taxi/uber driver or on public transport? I can guarantee the answer will be yes to at least one of these examples.

Moving through public spaces as a woman, day or night, can be terrifying. A recent soundscape put together by Plan International aims to give men some idea of what it can be like for women walking home alone at night. Calling a friend might feel like it makes things safer, but as in Aiia Maasarwe’s case, being on the phone to her sister did nothing to stop her from being murdered.

So aside from overthrowing the patriarchy and overcoming society’s toxic attitudes toward women – what’s a girl to do?

This is where my inspiration for this 2019 IWD post stems from – George McEncroe. George has created a way for women to get around safely. A revolutionary, women-only ride sharing app called Shebah. George has seen the dire situation that is women’s safety and channeled her frustration and creativity into a solution. No, it’s not a solution for all violence against women, and it may not be accessible for everyone due to economic reasons, but it’s a service that has been created in response to a world that hasn’t yet figured out gender equality. George has created more than a service, she’s created a community – an army of aunts ready to create safe spaces for women and children for when they need it most.

Shebah hasn’t always been received well by folks, with some claiming that it is reverse sexism to offer a women only ride share. Shebah copped a barrage of online abuse and hate at one point, where people (men) felt entitled to leave 1-star reviews on the ride shares Facebook page in a display of outrage at such a service being offered. The community’s response was to drown out the haters with glowing reviews, people sharing their experiences about how much Shebah has helped them and their children, how nice it is to sit in the front seat, or to have their kids picked up from school when they’re in a pickle and can’t make it.

The fact is that we live in a world that is unsafe for women and gender non-conforming folk and until we can shift the structures in place that allow these attitudes to thrive, women* only spaces are vital. Women supporting women is vital.

*By women we (and Shebah) mean ALL women – cis, trans, genderqueer and non-binary folk who are femme-identified.

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