City girls digitally map safety with ‘Free to Be’

17 APRIL 2018

An ambitious online safety map launching in five major cities worldwide aims to uncover the areas where urban girls and young women feel most safe and unsafe.

The Plan International Free to Be city safety maps, created in collaboration with Australia’s Monash University and the online mapping provider CrowdSpot, are now live in Delhi (India), Lima (Peru), Sydney (Australia) and Madrid (Spain). Girls and young women in Kampala, Uganda, will also be able to use the map by the end of April.

Girls and young women are encouraged to use the web-based map of their city by dropping a purple ‘good’ pin on areas where they feel safe and an orange ‘bad’ pin on the locations where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

They can then provide a description as to why they like or dislike that part of the city, including details any incidents they experienced there. All responses are anonymous.

Analysis of girls’ safety data

The map will remain open for entries for six weeks, until 31 May. The data will be collected and analysed by researchers from Monash University to provide valuable insights into the best and worst areas of the cities and what makes each safe or dangerous for girls. 

Around the world, girls and women feel unsafe in their home cities, yet they go unheard when it comes to decisions that impact their safety.

Alex Munive, Global Head of Gender and Inclusion at Plan International, said “Around the world, girls and women feel unsafe in their home cities, yet they go unheard when it comes to decisions that impact their safety.”

“All girls have the right to feel safe. Free to Be is an interactive map that lets girls and young women map out places they love, places they avoid and places that need to be improved. It’s free to use, it’s fun and easy and importantly, it has been designed by other young women and girls.”

“The Free to Be map builds on the success of Plan International’s Safer Cities for Girls programme that empowers girls living in cities to have their say about the issues that matter to them, like street harassment, violence and fearing for their safety. 

“We want girls and young women to be heard. We want their experiences of the city known to people with the power to make change. Cities are for everyone and should be safe and welcoming for all.”

Designed by women and girls

The global launch follows a successful pilot of the Free to Be map in Melbourne in 2016, where more than 1,300 young women shared their experiences of city safety ranging from street harassment, such as cat-calling and menacing behaviour, to sexual assault. 

Alice Rummery, a university student who helped co-design the Sydney city safety map for Plan International Australia, said she has frequently experienced street harassment in her city but that Free to Be had empowered her by enabling young women like her to tell their stories.

“I was proud to be part of developing Free to Be because it’s designed by young women like me, for young women, to help make our streets safer,” she said. “I don’t want to have to change my behaviour so that I’m not harassed. I want decision makers, authorities and men to act.” 

Dr Nicole Kalms, Director of the Monash University XYX Lab, said the data gathered from the five maps will provide the very evidence girls and women require to demand action to make their cities safer places to live.

“This research will allow Plan International to advocate on behalf of and alongside young women and girls so that their voices are heard by key decision makers in architecture, urban planning, government and public transport,” Dr Kalms said.

Editor’s notes:

High quality images and quotes from girls are available for media use. Young women and Plan International spokespeople in Delhi, Lima, Sydney, Madrid and Kampala are available for interview.