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Girls work towards fear free cities

In the Ugandan capital city Kampala, girls’ safety is at risk every day. Faridah is the leader of a group of young people bravely working to make the city a place where girls no longer feel at risk.

Faridah, 18, from Kampala, Uganda
Faridah is forced to deal with the dangers of living in a city on a daily basis.

Faridah leads a group of girls in Kampala who are committed to making their city safer. At night, the dimly lit streets put girls' lives in danger. "Where my friend was killed, there is now light," she says.

20-year-old Faridah lives with her family and new-born baby in the slums of Kampala. Every evening she makes her way to the centre of the Ugandan capital to sell chips at a busy roundabout. The journey to reach this low-income job is fraught with danger.

Regular danger

"I only have to walk a kilometre but I encounter obstacles at every turn. Drunk taxi drivers harass and try to touch me. When I refuse their advances they can become aggressive and shout abuse at me."

The biggest dangers, however, are closer to home in the slums especially after midnight when Faridah comes home from work. "There is no light. I walk alone along abandoned car scrap yards and through dark alleys. There are abandoned houses that have been squatted in by gangs and every time I pass them at night they make me incredibly scared."

Faridah has good reason to be afraid. "A few weeks ago we found the body of a woman who had been attacked a few metres from my house. I have been assaulted several times and a year ago when I was pregnant I was walking in the street with a friend when a gang of drug dealers attacked us. Fortunately I was able to escape but not my friend. She was raped in this alley and killed. I can still hear her screaming.”

Girls call for safety

Girls walking through the streets of Kampala to assess the risks to their safety
Faridah leads a group of girls through the streets of Kampala to assess and map the risks to their safety.

However, Faridah is now working to make her city a safer place. “With Plan International, we formed a group of young people. I became the president. Together, we go through what is problematic and look for solutions in the neighbourhood.”

Together, we go through what is problematic and look for solutions

The youth group have also helped improve hygiene in the city and strengthened the community’s wooden bridges. "When it rained a lot it was impossible for us to cross these bridges so we had to make an even more dangerous detour. Many girls do not go to school or work when it rains because they are too scared. This makes them even more vulnerable in the long run.”

To avoid this Faridah and her peers help girls increase their self-confidence and assertiveness. "We also learn to anticipate danger. We avoid places where no one can see or hear us and travel alone as little as possible. We also now complain to the police when we are abused. Recently, a man pushed and struck me because I told him to leave me alone. I reported him to the police but before I would not have said anything."

Faridah leading a discussion about how to make Kampala a safer city for girls
Faridah leading a discussion about how to make Kampala a safer city for girls.

Unsafe in the City

In Plan International's brand new, ground-breaking research, thousands of girls and young women have shared their stories of harassment and violence for the first time, providing a never-before seen glimpse of what happens to them in their cities and the impact this has on their lives.

Based on research in Delhi, Kampala, Lima, Madrid and Sydney, Unsafe in the City  reveals relentless sexist and sexual harassment and abuse – and calls for specific actions to allow girls and young women to live without experiencing fear or discrimination on our streets.

Read the report