Hollaback, Behind the Scenes N#1

Gosh, Hollaback! Brussels has been running to and fro and it’s ‘bout damn time to sit down and tell you all what’s been going on ‘Behind the Scenes’ ;-)..

This September, we had a meeting with Bruno de Lille (Groen! = Green party) – who’s pretty cool by the way – but for those who do not know him; he’s the Brussels’ State Secretary for Equal Opportunities (& other departments, too many to mention!:)).

The exchange was genuinely interesting as he wanted to know what we’re all about and at the same time it was an opportunity for us to understand what he and his team hope to achieve. One of his main concerns is tackling homophobia, racism & sexism in Brussels.

Two governmental projects have been set up thus far;
One called “Report Violence” (Meld Geweld / Signalez la violence) informs citizens where to report ‘hate crimes’, this means; discrimination, harassment & violence with a homophobic, racist or sexist nature.
The site navigates you to the 2 main institutions that are already in place to deal with these types of perpetrations: the Centre for Equal Opportunities & Opposition to Racism and the Institute for the Equality of women & men.
Having filed 2 complaints ourselves to the ‘Institute for the Equality of women & men’, we noted that the Institute’s description for ‘the types of things for which you can file a complaint’ does not provide the option to choose street harassment and sexism in the public space, media or other areas for that matter.
However the “Report Violence” campaign is a first (& much needed) step to inform citizens of their rights, and to send out a message from the Brussels’ government that there’s no tolerance for hate crimes in this city.
Another campaign/event – called the Fourteen Days of Equal Opportunities (Quinzaine de l’Egalité des chances) – ran from November 9 till 26.

With a theme called RESPECT it hit the Brussels streets and venues. With many debates, events, performances, lectures and films, the campaign raised awareness that Brussels needs the involvement of all its citizens to create an atmosphere of respect.
All in all, the meeting with Bruno de Lille and his team came as a nice surprise.
First, we noticed that a critical dialogue with politicians can teach us things as a movement. Second, to fight street harassment, sexism and other discriminations we need an active commitment from our local politicians, institutions and public services and we also desperately need a new legislation that can address the current grey areas wherein street harassment and sexism fall. So, any step towards this has a ‘hooray’ feeling!

Hopefully these 2 campaigns can spark citizens’ awareness and participation, because we need the entire society involved. We all carry a responsibility to end street harassment and other types of discrimination and violent acts.
Let’s also keep in mind there’s only so much legislation can do. The root causes of street harassment, sexism, homophobia & racism need to be unveiled, research is needed, educational projects need to be set into place– there  has to be more will to examine the full spectrum of what we’re up against.

Onwards in September, we had our very first Community Circle. This event was set in motion by a large group of American expat students & their Resident Coordinator who invited us to come and talk about ways to deal with street harassment. Hollaback! volunteers formed a circle with the students where we talked privately about our experiences. The volunteers gave tips on how they deal with harassment, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what to avoid, but also we talked about if there’s a difference in experiencing street harassment in the USA and here in Brussels.
The evening was a success and gave support. It has inspired us to organize more of these ‘Community Circles’ as we see how small groups of women can empower each other.
The next one we’re doing might be with a group of VUB students, but more news on that soon.

On October 6, we had our 3rd Chalk-Walk. The Hollaback girls from Ghent came to show their support and we had a television crew from the French National Television TF1 who filmed our chalk-writing and street talks with passers-by.
Yet again, there’s certain new strengths that come into play with these Chalk-Walk-s. Women feel the support of each other to reclaim and write down the feeling or words they need to express. Doing this & feeling this, means a lot.
However powerful as we felt, we started to wonder why not many of the participants really felt like sharing a story or going to reclaim the spot where they experienced harassment.
After some reflection, we reached the conclusion that we need to go about these Chalk-Walk’s differently.
Thanks to an idea of a volunteer, we’ll be proposing a new kind of Chalk-Walk..

More news on this soon!

On October 9 & 10, Hollaback! Brussels got together with Greta from Hollaback! Poland and Gail from Hollaback! Czech Republic and we went to the European Parliament.
Reason? We received a welcoming invitation to take part in a Pan-European Platform (PEP) hosted by the NGO SOLIDAR. The invitation was described as an opportunity to speak up in the EU Parliament about women’s issues and gender-based violence, but secondly also a chance to meet and share experiences with people from other civil movements in Europe who were also in attendance. The aim was to learn from each others’ fights and construct a platform together where we would present alternative solutions for Europe’s state of affairs. The predominant areas the attendees are most active in are violence against women, street harassment, human rights, eco-sustainable projects, clean energy, social injustice, saving water from privatization and the movement against the privatization of the commons and public space, direct democracy, .. .

All in all, the experience was great for Hollaback! Brussels because it gave us the chance to meet our Hollaback sisters – who are truly awesome – and learn from them. Yet other parts of this experience were less than great. These 2 days contained some feisty discussions, a lot of abstractions and some underlying distrust. Suffice it to say, if you get a lot of engaged, concerned citizens into a room together, you get a lot of opinions ;-). But also to this we listened and we learned..
The result of all of these goings on is that currently we’ve set up a workgroup with some other European Hollabacks and our aim is to orchestrate the first European Council on Street Harassment. So fingers crossed, we hope, to be continued… 

On November 14, we had our 1st ever HOLLA Support Action Team (= S.A.T.) meeting.
Since our 6 month anniversary, we Hollaback! Ladies had been scheming about how we could get all our badass volunteers more involved in Hollaback! Brussels, how we could know everyone better, and how we could become more efficient as a movement. So the idea came to form a Support team who could take up certain roles within Hollaback! Brussels. The first meeting was success, and we’re happy to welcome Joanna, Quentin, Emily and Judith to the Hollaback! family. All are fully committed to kick some serious stuff forwards! We currently set up a education-project team, a translation, graphic and guest-blogging team and we’re trying it all out as we speak. Other beautiful ideas came to the surface and we hope that in the next months to come, these ideas may grow into reality.

What’s in store ? :

On January 12, we ‘HOLLA in da Street’.
That’s right. We’re trying out a new, yet simple thing. Every 2 months, a group of us will pick a public spot & announce that’s where we’ll be. Our purpose for being there is to talk to you, to talk respectfully about street harassment, sexism, homophobia and racism in this city. We are there to talk about what you feel needs to be done, about how street harassment affects you, how you handle it, how we handle it, to give each other tips, to listen to each other, to be curious, to talk to passers by who want to be informed and to simply meet each other as citizens of this creative city… So Come Holla! Meet us in da street on January 12 from 2pm till 4pm. (Location to be determined soon, follow up with us on our Facebook page)

On February 14, we RISE-DANCE-STRIKE and join the #1bn Rising all over the world.
One Billion Rising urges people around the globe to rise up and demand an end to violence against women, in a mass protest on February 14, 2013.

Eve Ensler  (founder of the One Billion Rising movement): “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Ending violence against women is as important as ending poverty, or Aids or global warming.”

Hollaback!Brussels will hit the streets with a group of musicians inviting everyone to join us. We’ll dance energetically, sending out the energy this world needs to end violence against women.
Please follow our Facebook page to stay tuned, we’ll be announcing the event soon!


Yes, well, that’s it for now. Pheew! Maybe you have stopped reading along the line, wondering if it was ever to end ;-).
But no worries, we hope to keep you all better informed from now on with regular “Behind the Scenes” to come!

If you also want to be involved in Hollaback! Brussels, you can simply send us an email, and we’ll get back to you promptly! Also don’t hesitate to share your ideas with us, we’ll be happy to listen.


Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Anna, Angelika, Julie and Ingrid

5 Responses

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  3. […] Brussels was invited back to CIEE, after a well-received session last semester, to hold a second ‘Community Circle’ with their study abroad students. Anna and Jo met with a group of about 20 American college […]

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