How Madrid used web-maps to highlight safety issues for women

2019/02/14
Madrid Free To Be city safety map

In April 2018 Plan International launched the Free to Be city safety maps, an initiative that used crowdsourcing to map where girls and young women felt most or less safe in their cities.

The maps where created in collaboration with Australia’s Monash University and the online mapping provider CrowdSpot and went live in Delhi (India), Lima (Peru), Sydney (Australia) and Madrid (Spain). 

Girls and young women were encouraged to use the web-based maps by dropping a purple ‘good’ pin on areas where they felt safe and an orange ‘bad’ pin on the locations where they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. They could also provide a description any incidents they experienced there, all anonymously. 

After six weeks of operation in Madrid, Plan International was able to collect and analyse the data consisting of 951 responses of young women between 16 and 30 years old, mostly students.  

The results published in the "(In) safe in Madrid" report revealed that 84% of the points collected in Madrid were associated with experiences of harassment, of which 72% corresponded to street verbal harassment, without physical contact: unwanted compliments, insistent glances, whistles, approaches. 

This was the main cause of concern for girls and young people in Madrid, since it creates feelings of insecurity and vulnerability and leads to the constant fear of escalation to more evident forms of violence. 

Most of the unpleasant experiences were concentrated in the spaces of "the street" and "public transport". In the case of the street, positive points accounted for 52% and negatives for 67%, concentrated mainly in crowded areas, such as Puerta del Sol, Atocha train station, Gran Vía and Hortaleza streets and the streets Argumosa, Ave María and Tribulete in Lavapiés.

"The report highlights that street harassment is something habitual and normalized: girls live it with resignation. However, it has its origin in unequal power relations and directly affects their rights: it limits their freedom and prevents them from living the city in conditions of equality," said Emilia Sánchez, director of Political Advocacy at Plan International.

However, it is a part of city life Madrid is tackling with full vigour, led by its mayor Manuela Carmena. Having launched a number of initiatives to promote gender equality and mediation as a way to solve problems, Mayor Carmena has set her sights on eradicating violent behaviour.

“We know that it is really good that there is safety for women, that the streets have enough light, that there is an attitude in the neighbourhood that supports girls and women, but we can’t only link violence to these safety initiatives,” said Carmena. “We will never have enough police officers for this. We need to eradicate violent behaviour and we think that this is possible.”

See the Free To Be city safety maps at planfreetobe.org.