SABRE is proud to share our blog today with Kuro Tawil, a young entrepreneur dedicated to doing just that. For him, the mission to end gender-based violence starts with giving women a fighting chance in the form of pepper spray.
"I want you to think of 5 women that you know. They can be family members, friends, co-workers, but who they are and their relation to you isn’t really whats important here; what is, is the fact that 1 in every 5 women is sexually assaulted at least once during her life time according to the United Nations. I’m sure that for most people, this is a sobering statistic, but the harsh reality is that sexual assault and violence against women are very real issues that transcends geographic boarders and ethnic boundaries.
November 25th is the United Nation's "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women". A day when we as a world should reflect on the stark reality of the situation. A situation that many people are aware exists, but unaware of how large and far reaching it's consequences truly are.
After college, I found myself backpacking alone across south-western Asia. Up until my travels, I had never been aware of how large the issues of sexual assault and violence against women were around the globe. But the harsh reality is that these issues are especially rampant in the poorer regions of the world, where their threat and consequence can be a matter of life or death. In many developing countries, the justice systems are completely ineffective, rife with corruption and apathy and the millions of women living in them are in desperate need of immediate physical protection. They need an opportunity to take their protection -- and their lives -- into their own hands. They need an opportunity to break free from relying on the protection of others. They need something that helps them grow and develop as individuals without living under the constant fear of being unarmed and alone.
So I started thinking… what if we take a different approach to addressing these issues? Why don't we start arming women with a means to protect themselves while also continuing to raise awareness through peaceful protests and attempts to change the laws? I knew several young women who I went to school with in Texas that carried pepper spray on their key chains. For them, carrying non-lethal forms of protection like pepper spray provided a way to feel empowered, a way to fight back if necessary. However pepper spray, while legal in many of these countries, is economically unattainable when the average living wage is less than $2 a day.
So I created a mechanism to give pepper spray for free to women in need around the world. While on my travels, I came across some Nepali wallets that with some minor changes in design, I have been selling here in the states through my website www.kuros.org/shop
. In an attempt to address issues of sexually-based crimes on both ends, I employ men in the creation of the wallets to not only give them a source of income, but to also keep them off the streets and give them a positive outlet for their time and energy. Getting back to the roots of a socially conscious company, for every product sold, we arm a woman who couldn’t otherwise afford it with a can of pepper spray. We started focusing our initial efforts in India, where the reported number of sexual assaults doubled within the last year alone. So we began with our very first drop arming a small village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The response was overwhelming. Women and girls ranging in age from 14 to 50 showed up to arm themselves, some of whom traveled several hundred miles by train just to get a free can of pepper spray.
The effects of arming these women has been more far reaching than we had first anticipated. Not only have a number of the girls been successful in preventing attacks, there has been a noticed change in many of these young women's self-perception and self-confidence. Many have voiced feeling incredibly empowered by this seemingly simple thing; how being armed has freed them from their fear of being attacked while unarmed and living the life they choose.
While our efforts have been seeing success in not only preventing attacks but empowering women, we’re still taking it one woman at a time. The overall solution to this problem of sexual assault and violence against women is education; however, education takes time, and in the time it takes for us to really see change millions of women are at risk to being raped and murdered. This is why in 2015 we are spreading our efforts to arm and empower women on yet another continent, to help provide a practical and immediate solution to the sexual assault and violence women and girls face daily in their communities.
If you’d like to join us in our mission, learn more by visiting us at www.kuros.org
and following us on social media @kurosproject. To get involved with the United Nation's efforts, share the hashtag #orangeurhood and see how people around the world are standing up and speaking out against gender-based violence."