Emily Owen

Masters of Global Human Development

Georgetown SFS 2021

I founded Intrepid Women after graduating from my master’s degree in May 2021. Motivated by my own, and my friend’s, experiences with street harassment and safety concerns, I decided to develop proactive safety solutions full time.

I first experienced street harassment and catcalling in my hometown while in junior high on my paper route. Counseled to “just ignore it” and “don’t react” I did exactly just that. For years.

Fast forward to Cairo, Egypt in August 2011. The Egyptian revolution was in full swing and police presence on the street was minimal. I was working at the American International School as a teacher when I was mugged in broad daylight while walking with two colleagues. Over the course of the next four years, I would be touched on public transport, followed on the street countless times, and verbally harassed on a near daily basis.

The level of gender-based insecurity was so high that I could no longer “just ignore” it. Sexual harassment changed the way I oriented myself to moving about in public. It was more than just a barrier while in transport, it influenced my decision-making process.

And I knew it wasn’t just me.

I read essays about experiencing sexual violence from my female high school students. I heard my colleagues open-up about their own experiences as I shared mine. I have several friends who’ve been sexually assaulted while working.

In every place I’ve lived and worked gender-based violence is a problem. Again and again, the solutions of “just ignoring it”, staying off the street, and using private transport are not good enough. For millions of women, and myself, this is not an option. For the past ten years, I’ve lived without a car. I rely on various forms of public and private transportation to get me where I need to go.

Fortunately, women around the world have created informal safety networks and solutions for themselves. Calling friends, location sharing, and traveling in groups are common strategies. Intrepid Women solution is simple: creating a platform to scale safety strategies that women already use.
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