BBC’s 100 Women devise bluetooth button to tackle public transport assaults

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Sexual harassment and assault on public transport is a “pervasive issue” but “silence and shame” that surrounds it prevents the issue from being tackled, one of the BBC’s 100 Women has said.

Dr Ellie Cosgrave, a lecturer in urban innovation at University College London, is part of a list of international women from across business, charity, sport, technology, academia and entertainment.

The 100 women have joined forces to come up with innovative ways to tackle four leading issues for women and girls today: the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, street harassment and sexism in sport.

Speaking at the Women In Innovation event in London, Dr Cosgrave spoke about the “hackathon” she took part in to tackle harassment on public transport.

She said: “Even though we know that this is a pervasive issue, that most women have experienced assault on public transport in the public realm, the silence and the shame that goes along with it is one of the biggest damaging effects in my opinion.

“So if we can share our stories, if we can make some noise and come together through various platforms, then I think that is when substantial social change can happen.”

In a discussion with journalist Nancy Kacungira, Dr Cosgrave said she was part of a group that spent a week devising ways to tackle the problem, including devising a bluetooth enabled button that could be pressed when someone on public transport witnessed an assault.

She said: “There is not one single solution that is going to solve any big social issue but we all have a contribution to make so we had representation from engineers, we had marketing, we had a coder, someone who specialises in sexual violence and we all came up with our own personal contribution.”

She added: “The coder Anne-Marie Imafidon, chief executive officer of Stemettes, came up with a button Unmute The Commute to raise awareness and make some noise.

“Let’s not make this about the victim of the assault but all participate in making some noise and taking actions.

“The button is something people could wear and bluetooth enabled so if someone sees an assault or anything they are uncomfortable with they can activate the nearby buttons and they would flash, which shows people something is going on.”

She added: “It’s going to take more than a week to solve these huge issues but I did feel that at the momemt we are certainly in a wave of very capable, very passionate people who can solve it together.”