The National Council for Women (NCW) along with Egypt National Railways (ENR) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) put their hands together to make Egypt’s railway network safer for female passengers. The trio agreed to launch an awareness campaign against sexual harassment on public transport in particular and violence against women in general.
Safaa Habib, NCW’s political coordinator, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Al-Sekka Aman (Railway is Safe) campaign includes billboards and promotional videos on social media platforms that will be used on the busiest train routes. “The campaign which has already started is assigning volunteers who will inform the public about the campaign and its goals. In addition, passengers will be informed via different social media platforms on how to contribute to a more open dialogue about safe transport in Egypt,” Habib said.
According to Habib, the ENR has set up hotline 15047 and -Shakawa@enr.gov.eg to report any harassment incident against females while travelling via the railway network. The hotline is connected to the railways police officers who will receive the report and take the necessary legal action against the harasser. “The campaign also informs women how to report any harassment incident and follow up on it. Until now 11 posters have been distributed to railway passengers and employees raising their awareness about gender equality as well as the legal consequences of sexual harassment,” Habib said.
Habib pointed out that the campaign educates a wide range of citizens with a variety of social and economic backgrounds on the campaign’s messages which contributes to spreading awareness of women’s issues. “The NCW has excellent experience in a previous media campaign which took place in the underground metro where it increased people’s awareness about family planning issues, sexual harassment, the harm done from early marriage and participation in work.”
ENR is the second oldest railway company in the world and is considered one of the major daily transportation means for passengers in Egypt, with about 1.2 million passenger journeys per day. By improving safety on trains and platforms, ENR Chairman Ashraf Raslan expects the number of women travelling on its network to increase from 16.8 per cent in 2015 to 19.8 per cent in 2022.
According to a press release, EBRD has donated more than €400 million to strengthen safety and security on public transport and to promote gender equality by renewing its ageing fleet and improving the safety and quality of railway passenger services.
Hoda Gado, an employee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that the campaign is an excellent initiative “during these difficult days. This will encourage me to travel more often by train to my parents instead of by car. I have to travel almost every day to check on my parents in Banha,” Gado said.
Mona Ahmed, a university student who lives in Alexandria and commutes to Cairo to attend her classes, said she had heard about the campaign from her friends. “Though I never had a problem with travelling by train and I never experienced any sexual harassment while travelling, I believe it is a good step towards the protection of women against any violation of their rights and privacy,” Ahmed said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.