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Confetti Gun and Angry “Moo”

By Tamu Bakery, Sep 18 2016 02:37PM

“I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world” – Mahatma Gandi

It took a few months and around two assaults a day to write this blog.

Colombo in Sri Lanka is described as a safe city in all the promo materials for tourists. But try, like me, to simply walk your child to school and back in a busy, well-to-do district and you won’t feel comfortable in your skin. In the skin of a woman. “Hello, baby”, “Give me a kiss, darling”, “Let’s go for a ride with me”(sic) shout motorcyclists, guys on the passing bus, high school boys crossing the road next to me. Some trying to touch, some licking their lips, some blowing kisses and some … I can’t describe it here! My problem is not new-born – millions of women are subjected to street harassment on a daily basis. In some of the countries I worked in, women don’t go outside without taking a big stick with them, or else have to attend self-defence classes (if they lucky enough to have them where they live).

My fellow female expats are experiencing exactly the same thing! How are they dealing with the problem? Ignoring it seems to be the most popular method, followed by listening to music on headphones (if you don’t hear a thing, you won’t get upset!), driving a car or using a taxi incessantly (so you avoid problem altogether). But what to do when you have actually been assaulted?! Forget my Tamu work, I get so frustrated and appalled when these incidents occur, that more often than not I am speechless - too shocked to react at the time. Having had enough of that, I printed T-shirts with different messages about GBV on them and bought a pepper spray. I am actually walking with the spray everywhere, keeping my finger on the ‘trigger’. As if by magic the streets I walk on are practically empty as would be assailants dive for cover… But this is not the permanent solution…

I have read a lot of articles online, watched videos galore, even contacted pioneers in this field. The best advice out there? How about stopping offenders in their tracks by picking your nose or making a loud mooing sound like a cow? Or take their picture and send info about the incident to the relevant apps to map your area on the world street harassment map. But my favourite solution is from Mexico City, where a group of women activists fight street harassers with confetti guns and punk rock. “We must respond. Only with responding we can encourage more women to do the same”.

So if you hear in the news that by some mystery, all suppliers of confetti guns are sending their produce to the island of Sri Lanka, you will know that Tamu is leading a women’s rights revolution happening right here in the country! But until my shipment arrives for now I will have to make do with mooing on the streets of Colombo and taking pictures of the offenders with my spy camera glasses…