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'Her body, her choice:' Chalk messages hollaback against street harassment

The Chalk Walk is meant to raise awareness about the problem of street harassment faced by women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and other groups.

Four-year-old Belinda Sibbitt gets some help from Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback Ottawa, writing out an anti-harassment message during Sunday’s Chalk Walk on Elgin Street in front of the Human Rights Monument.

Jesse Cnockaert / For Metro / For Metro

Four-year-old Belinda Sibbitt gets some help from Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback Ottawa, writing out an anti-harassment message during Sunday’s Chalk Walk on Elgin Street in front of the Human Rights Monument.

Participants in the Hollaback Chalk Walk were out with coloured chalk Sunday, literally drawing attention to the problem of harassment on the streets where so much of it takes place.

The Chalk Walk is meant to raise awareness about the problem of street harassment faced by women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and other groups.

Slogans such as “Her body, Her Choice,” or “Safe Streets for Everyone,” were written out in chalk in front of the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street where participants could also engage in dialogue with curious pedestrians as they passed by.

"Every time we do this people stop us, women stop us and thank us. Oftentimes women will stop and ask for a piece of chalk and join us, and that I think is really powerful," said Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback Ottawa, the local chapter of the international organization.

Lalonde talked about how street harassment such as groping, flashing or cat-calling all need to be opposed.

"Violence exists on a continuum and if we live in a society in which young girls should expect to be cat-called when they leave their house, then we shouldn't be surprised women don't make as much money in the workplace, that they have such high rates of intimate partner violence … All of those things are connected. Street harassment is a symptom of a larger problem," she said.

Amy Zhou, 23, took chalk in hand to participate in the Chalk Walk.

According to Zhou, she has been cat-called herself, and although it hasn’t happened to her “a lot,” she still thought it important to help spread the message of equality and safety.

"Anyone walking on the streets should be able to walk freely without any sort of harassment," Zhou said. "Everyone's experience is different. I haven't had it happen to me too much and I feel like I'm fortunate to be able to say that. For other people, that's not the case.”

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