On the phone to walk home without fear

On the phone to walk home without fear


"Like every woman, I too have felt the fear of walking down the street alone, that sense of insecurity that ends up limiting our choices: such as what time to go to work or to the gym or what path to take." Silvia Barbareschi, 29, a degree from Bocconi in 2018 in Economics and Social Sciences and a PhD in business and public policy  in progress at the Berkeley Haas School of Business, tells without hesitation one of the reasons that led her, in 2021 during the  first year of her PhD, to take part in the  to the new association with DonnexStrada and to  lend her time to help everyone.  Unable  to leave for California due to the pandemic, she was still in Rome, from where she followed the activities of the doctorate remotely: "And in the aftermath of Sarah Everard's femicide in London, killed while she was walking home.  I learned, through a post on Facebook, that some young women were creating an association and starting a virtual escort service for single women. I immediately felt the problem as mine."

DonnexStrada is the association that aims to improve the safety on the street of women and victims of gender violence: through its Instragram page, which since September is also international ('Viola walk home'), virtually accompanies home those who request it by activating a video call. In case something happens, the volunteers (pre-authorized by the user) activate the recording of  the call, so that they can provide video evidence, and, if necessary, alert the police.  With the success of the service, which in 10 months of 2022 was used by 600 people, the projects of the association - which today has over 80 volunteers - have expanded: for example, with the creation of Punti Viola (Purple Points) to create a support network in the area through the involvement of businesses.  The aim is to create 'safe places' where you can find aware and trained personnel, if necessary, to provide initial support.

"This is an important activity, an initiative to stigmatize a fear that all women feel but of which they are often ashamed and tend to hide". Silvia is passionate about the support activity provided through the call center, giving availability for night shifts, those in which there is more need for volunteers (but the service is active 24 hours a day).  A service  that she continued to carry out even after moving to Berkeley: "I am doing something that  really helps society.  The role of DonnexStrada goes far beyond supporting women who ask for support day by day: these are activities that produce culture, that create awareness in men  and that push women to   overcome shame and fight to improve their condition."
Looking back   at the work done in this first year and a half, Silvia betrays a certain bitterness in telling how this sense of insecurity represents a much more widespread problem than we think and than she herself expected. And how, above all, "it is shared in a transversal way in all age groups and in all social groups."  At the same time, however, "I learned  that the little things,  the simplest ideas can be the ones that make the difference. And this is the great strength of this association."

For the future, Silvia Barbareschi already has a project in mind: "I will continue to collaborate with DonnexStrada and I  think I will do my doctoral thesis on these issues, or understand how the perception of insecurity conditions choices differently between men and women and how we can find a solution involving citizens without distinction of gender."

by Andrea Celauro

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