The Plight of the Plantation Sector and how we can Help

As the Youth Advocacy Network, we don’t just advocate for rights. We do what we can to empower people lead better lives. This includes training, mentoring, and spreading awareness—all while having regular day jobs.

One of the projects our co-founder Sarah was recently involved in was to help combat sexual and gender-based violence in the plantation sector of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka already has a Domestic Violence Act, and is a signatory to multiple international machineries and mechanisms. Yet, there is a significantly higher amount of sexual abuse and violence in the plantation sector than in other urban regions.


Well, there are multiple reasons for this. However, to put it simply, some of the biggest factors are poverty and lack of education. The plantation workers have long been an exploited segment of disenfranchised people. Though they have basic rights now (like the right to vote, and being granted Sri Lankan citizenship), they still have long, hard battles. The daily wage system is especially problematic, in addition to being geographically isolated from basic and necessary infrastructure, and not being able to communicate fluently due to language barriers.


Over 31% of women in the estate sector are underweight, as are most of their children. The under five mortality rate is 33/1000 live births as opposed to the national figure of 11/1000 live births.

Additionally, women in the estate sector have extremely low knowledge of gender-based violence, sexually transmitted disease, and related healthcare services.

Alcoholism is rampant in the estates, especially among men. 40% of the estate sector families are drinkers, compared to the 17% in urban and rural areas. This in turn leads to violence in homes.

Estate employees live in line rooms—tiny lodgings with barely any ventilation. They also lack basic facilities. Numerically, only 66.3% have sanitary facilities, 11% has clean drinking water, and 68% of the homes are equipped with electricity.

According to the poverty headcount index in 2012/13, 8.8% of the estate sector families live below the poverty line. 18% of married women between the ages of 15-49 have never been to school.

What can be done to alleviate this?

Community members stated that gender-based violence can reduce if there were effective, and active systems in place. This includes strengthening the police system and enforcing the law properly, getting the support of estate managers in resolving community issues, and ensuring male involvement in discussions.

In addition to this, everyone from children upwards should be made aware of legal repercussions as well.

This includes collective discussions with all concerned authorities. To this end, we organised sessions with

  • Public health midwives
  • Public health inspectors
  • Child development officers
  • Women development officers
  • Government Agents office staff

We covered topics ranging from sex and gender, forms of violence, the current situation in Sri Lanka, fatal and non-fatal outcomes of sexual and gender-based violence, laws and policies, how to respond, and more.

As a result

We can happily say that access to quality SGBV services for community members,
specifically, women and girls, has improved. There’s also an improvement with  Government officers and authorities, in their service delivery
skills on SGBV. They have developed non-judgemental attitudes, especially in  gender-responsive, rights-based approaches.

We did have several challenges; from being able to conduct sessions with the police, to getting permission, and developing a healthy relationship between the authorities and volunteers, especially in breaking the power-hierarchy. Not to mention it was also time consuming! However, we think we have managed to make this project sustainable, at least to a certain extent.

And we are definitely happy that we managed to help empower these communities, in a measurable way.

What we discussed on issues related to SRHR and bodily autonomy of women at the Think Tank

In September 2015 Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka initiated the National Youth champions Think Tank on unsafe abortion and network building meeting. The Youth Champions of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and young peer educators of YPEER Sri Lanka decided to come together and form Youth … Continue reading What we discussed on issues related to SRHR and bodily autonomy of women at the Think Tank


BEIJING+20 YOUTH STATEMENT ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY SRI LANKA 2015 We, as the young people of Sri Lanka, recognize the important achievements in the field of  education and employment opportunities for women since the Beijing Platform for Action  1995. … Continue reading BEIJING+20 YOUTH STATEMENT ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY SRI LANKA 2015

The Beijing POA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights & participate in decision making meaningfully. IS THIS A REALITY?

Beijing+20 youth review and advocacy training was an eye opener for me in terms of understanding the Beijing Deceleration and Platform for Action and the 12 critical areas of concern. It made not only me but the rest of the participants also who are activists … Continue reading The Beijing POA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights & participate in decision making meaningfully. IS THIS A REALITY?

මව්වරුන් විදේශගත වීම

ලංකාවේ වසරකට ලක්ෂ 25කට ආසන්න පිරිසක් විදේශගත වන අතර එයින් වසරකට  ඩොලර් බිලියන 7කට ආසන්න ආදායමක් ලැබෙන බව විදේශ රැකියා ප්‍රවර්ධන හා සුභසාධන අමාත්‍යතුමා පවසා තිබේ. අප රටට විදේශ විනිමය ලැබෙන ප්‍රධානතම මාර්ගය ලෙස ද විදේශ රැකියා කේෂත්‍රය පත්ව ඇත. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උසම ගම්මානය වන … Continue reading මව්වරුන් විදේශගත වීම

අඩු වයස් විවාහ හා ගර්භණීභාවය

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පවතින ප්‍රශ්න අතරින් එක් ප්‍රධාන ගැටඵවක් ලෙස අඩු වයස් විවාහ හා අඩු වයසින් ගර්භනී තත්වයට පත්වීම දක්නට ලැබේ. 2016 වසරේ  ජන විකාශන සෞඛ්‍ය සමීක්ෂණයට (Demographic Health Survey) අනුව ලංකාවේ අඩු වයස් ගර්භණී තත්ත්වය 4.6%ක් බවට ප්‍රකාශයට පත් කර ඇත. ගම්වලට සාපේක්ෂව වතු  ආශ්‍රිතව … Continue reading අඩු වයස් විවාහ හා ගර්භණීභාවය

Women in politics: Why they aren’t and why they should be

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), all people disregards of gender, social status, and ethnicity can participate meaningfully in governance and influence decisions that affect them. Also, the attainment of democracy presumes a genuine partnership between men and women in conducting affairs of … Continue reading Women in politics: Why they aren’t and why they should be

සංස්කෘතිය විසින් ස්වභාවිකත්වය තීරණය කිරීම නිසා අස්වාභාවික වූ සමරිසි භාවය

ඔබ විෂම ලිංගිකයෙකු නම් මදකට ඔබ කල්පනා කර බලන්න සමරිසි භාවය ගැන ඔබේ මතය හෝ අදහස කුමක්ද කියා. ඔබට දැනටමත් සමරිසි මිතුරන්, මිතුරියන් සිටිනවා වෙන්නට පුළුවන්, ඔබ සමාජ මාධ්‍ය ජාල වල සමරිසි භාවයට සහය දක්වන්නාවූ ලිපි හුවමාරු කරනවා වෙන්නටත් පුළුවන්, නමුත් ඔබට හැකිද සමලිංගික පුද්ගලයෙක් … Continue reading සංස්කෘතිය විසින් ස්වභාවිකත්වය තීරණය කිරීම නිසා අස්වාභාවික වූ සමරිසි භාවය

Importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights knowledge among the adolescents.

Adolescence is a period in which a person undergoes many social, physical, and psychological changes and this is the period in their life where you develop from being a child into being an adult. The most common problems among the adolescents are related with the … Continue reading Importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights knowledge among the adolescents.

නිමක් නැති අනාරක්ෂිත ගබ්සාව

ගබ්සාව යනුවෙන් අදහස් වන්නේ කලලයක් සති 28 කට පෙර ගර්භාෂයෙන් ඉවත් වීම හෝ ඉවත් කිරීමයි. ඉවත් වීම (නිතැත් ගබ්සාව) යන්නෙත් අදහස් වන්නේ ස්වාභාවිකවම කලලය පිටතට පැමිණීම වන අතර, ස්වභාවිකවම එලෙස කලලයක් පැමිණීම සිදු වන්නේ ශරීරයේ පවතින රෝගී තත්වයක් හෝ වෙනත් ගර්භාෂයේ පවතින රෝගී තත්වයක් නිසාවෙනි. … Continue reading නිමක් නැති අනාරක්ෂිත ගබ්සාව

A Victim of the Law


I was separated from my parents in India when I was small and so came to live with my grandparents in Sri Lanka. As soon as I turned 18 and left school, they wanted to marry me off. I didn’t want to marry at such a young age. I was young and I had dreams – I wanted to work, to study, to really live my life before becoming a wife. I didn’t see any other option that to leave my grandparents, and I moved to Colombo to seek the life I wanted.

I was alone and making a fresh start. I was lucky to find a job soon and it paid well enough to allow me to continue my studies and live. I was boarding with a friend and I was feeling good.

As a part of my work, I had to attend an event. That was when I first met R. R happened to be a friend of a friend, so I met him on multiple occasions and he was clearly interested in me, yet I took my time and did not give him any indication of interest or commitment. After spending time together, my interest and affection for him began to grow and eventually developed into more intense feelings of love.

He planned the whole thing

One day, we went to the beach together. We were teasing and pushing each other by the water, and I got wet by the waves. I was not in a position to travel on public transport with wet clothes and I told him I needed to change. We went to a shop to get some clothes and then we had to think of a place to get changed. He said he knew a place and he took me to a place where there were rooms. He got access to a room – we didn’t even have to show our identity – and it became clear to me that he had been here before as the staff seemed to know him.

When I went inside the room, I asked him to wait outside, as I would finish dressing soon and meet him after. He didn’t listen to me. He overrode my wishes, and raped me. I realized now that he had planned the whole thing. Almost everything. From the beginning.

It took me a few months of not having my period to realise that I was pregnant. I was almost four months into it. I felt absolutely helpless and I didn’t know what to do. I was raped and I didn’t want to go through with this pregnancy. I wasn’t ready, I was in the city alone, and I was in no condition to support myself.

Alone, depressed, devastated

I contacted R and he told me he would get me the pills for a medical abortion. I somehow got the money together and gave it to him for the pills, but he disappeared with the money.

Then I sold a gold chain I had to make the money to try for the pills again, yet going through this medical abortion did not work. I was alone, depressed, and devastated.


Through a network of contacts, I finally found a place where I would be able to terminate my pregnancy. It was extremely costly and I had to ask for help not just from friends but also from strangers because I could not afford it myself. I was scared, feeling insecure about my life and my safety, yet I didn’t feel as though I had any alternative but to go ahead with a potentially life-threatening procedure.

I experienced many physical complications following this. Additionally, I was tackling the mental strain of feeling hatred towards R and what he had done to me. I would see him leading his normal and comfortable life amidst all my pain. I was going through trauma and there were times when I wanted to end my life. To end it all.

No faith left

I didn’t want to share my story with anyone because people would judge me. They would blame me for putting myself in this condition – for leaving my grandparents, for not agreeing to the marriage, for living alone in Colombo, for having a boyfriend, for wearing the clothes I wore, for being raped, and for undergoing an abortion.

My family, society, culture, religion, legal setting, the patriarchy and the oppression has made me feel as though I am the perpetrator. I don’t have faith in life, love or people.

It will take me years to trust a man again and to forget what happened to me. Honestly, I don’t know whether I will be able to ever forget what I went through. I was raped and I was in no condition to report it. I was faced with a forced pregnancy. I was a victim of the law.

*Dayani’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

We are working to ensure no one goes through a horrifying ordeal like this again. IPPF, directly and through its hosted Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) partners, delivers a range of abortion related services, including pre- and post-abortion counselling, surgical and medical abortion, and treatment for incomplete abortion. Masitula, a mother-of-two and sex worker from Uganda is one of those who have benefited from this support through SAAF – read her story now.

In 2017, IPPF projects averted 1.7 million unsafe abortions, and we delivered nearly 5 million abortion-related services globally. Play your part by joining I Decide, IPPF’s movement fighting for safe abortion access for all.

YANSL collaborated with IPPF for this piece, which was originally published in IPPF’s blog.

The Empowering Internet Safety Guide for Women: Part Two

Have you ever been harassed in the street? Received a crass message on a dating app? Had a coworker make a comment about your appearance that just didn’t sit right?

You’re not alone.

This is the second part of an article originally published by You can read the first one, here.

Harassment at Work 

Unfortunately, abuse is also prevalent in work environments. According to one studyone in three women ages 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work. 25% of those women were harassed online via texts or emails, yet 71% of these women did not report it.

We can only speculate the reasons for this, but one could be because sexual harassment is not clearly defined.

However, some examples of sexual harassment include:

1. Sharing sexually innaproporiate images or videos.

2. Sending letters, texts, or emails with suggestive content.

3. Telling lewd jokes or sexual anecdotes.

But even these are ambiguous! If someone sends a dick pick, that is clearly sexual harassment, but an off-hand comment could be misconstrued.

So, how do you know it’s sexual harassment?

For those moments where you’re not sure, think about how you feel. Did that comment make you uncomfortable? Is there something off-putting about it? If yes, chances are there’s an underlying tone that should be considered sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment comes in different forms, and when it’s online it’s often even less obvious. Yet, it still happens. If you’re in a professional situation where you feel uncomfortable, you should immediately start recording it. Often larger cases are built on a pattern of small incidents, which, if not documented properly, won’t be useful as evidence.

Even if you’re not sure if an encounter counts as harassment, it’s better to treat it as such just in case the situation gets worse and you decide to eventually take action.

How to Report Harassment at Work 

1. Document Every Encounter

Any comment, inappropriate email, or other correspondence that can possibly qualify as harassment should be recorded and stored somewhere where only you have access to it (not on the company’s Google Drive, for instance). It could be that one comment was unintentional, but if it happens again, you’ll be able to build a case.

If an encounter involves something said verbally or inappropriate touching, as soon as possible, write yourself an email (from your personal account) describing the incident in as much detail as you can. Include the time, date, and location of the incident.

2. Monitor the Situation

Take screenshots, record times and dates, save emails, and keep a file of everything that makes you uncomfortable.

3. Report It

Once you have evidence, it’s time to file a report. While it is sometimes uncomfortable, reporting harassment in the office is one of the most productive ways you can stop it.

Send your evidence to the HR department, which hopefully already has a policy in place as to how to proceed. If there is no HR at your company, then you should construct a well-informed email and send it to office management or to your manager (as long as they are not the one harassing you).

How to Write an Email to Report Sexual Harassment:

It can seem daunting to construct that first email. For this reason, we included a template for you to use.
Subject line: Official complaint of sexual harassment

Dear [HR] and [boss],

I am writing this email to notify you that [name of harasser] has been sexually harassing me for the past [x amount of time].

The following incidents have occured during that time:

  • [Example 1: Describe what happened and when. Try to include as many facts as possible. ]
  • [Example 2: Describe the second incident that made you feel uncomfortable. Remember to include if you told anyone else at work about it.]
  • [Example 3: Attach any documents or evidence that will support your case.]

[If applicable, include what actions you believe the company should take. For instance, you can write, “I would like to be transferred to a different department” or “I would like this matter to be looked into, and I would like a formal apology from [name of harasser].”]

Thank you for looking into this matter. Should you need any more information, I am happy to provide it.


[Your name]

Your office should have a policy on how to assess the situation and take action.

If you don’t feel as though your complaint was adequately addressed, remember that you can always seek outside legal counsel. A professional well-versed in the laws in your area should be able to guide you in your next steps.

We should also note that for many, reporting the incident internally is not an option, as many women freelance or are self-employed. In this scenario, you need to take the situation into your own hands.

Sexual Harassment if You’re Self-Employed 

If you’re self-employed and experience an inappropriate encounter, since there’s no one to report to, you need to take care of the situation yourself.

This is exactly what happened to Ariel*, a musician who received sexually charged messages from another professional in her industry. After commenting on the way she shakes while playing music, Ariel responded “don’t be an ass” to which the harasser responded “Oh, I love the way you talk.”

While Ariel decided not to publicly shame him, she did respond that his comments were suggestive and aggressive. The harasser disagreed and left it at that.

Ariel found it empowering to confront the harasser head on. Others may find that the best method of self-preservation is to ignore the harassers. There’s no right or wrong way to address harassment in this scenario. It is your decision.

Sexual Harassment on LinkedIn 

LinkedIn, an online platform for career-networking and business, has unfortunately also become an outlet for sexual harassment. While LinkedIn’s policy prohibits any form of harassment, there’s no way for LinkedIn to totally prevent it, and – unfortunately – sexual harassment still happens there every day.

Because it’s a networking site, some treat it like a dating site. Among other complaints, women have reported men sending them inappropriate messages, and making lewd comments on their appearance based on their profile pictures.

Another potential pitfall: your resume.

Many people upload their resumes without considering that their email address and phone number appear in the header. Unless you want the entire internet to have access to that information, delete it from the version you post.

Unwanted phone calls asking to go out may not seem like sexual harassment to some men, but for women receiving phone calls from strangers, it could definitely feel like it.

But, that’s the problem. Because most harassment is not so blatant, it’s harder for women to validate and report it. While you can’t prevent creepy guys from messaging you on LinkedIn, there are ways you can protect yourself.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself on LinkedIn 

1. Before accepting a LinkedIn connection, check the degrees of separation. Do you have connections in common? Do they work in your industry? If not, don’t accept.

2. If you receive an unsolicited message, you can decide to block them. Just click on the three dots at the top right and then click Report this conversation.

3. You can also block that person from viewing your profile or contacting you. Go to the person’s profile, click More>Report/Block and follow the instructions.

4. If you upload your resume, check to make sure your phone number, home address, and other contact information are not listed. If someone wants to contact you for your work, they can do it through LinkedIn.

There is no guarantee that these suggestions will protect you 100%. However, they do provide you with more control regarding who can contact you.

Online Dating and Sexual Harassment  

Kylie* had been chatting with Marco* for about a month after having connected on OKCupid, but they hadn’t yet met in person. One night, after over an hour of increasingly flirty texts, Marco suggested that they switch to a more visual forum – he wanted to Skype sex.

The next day, Kylie was horrified when one of her friends called to tell her that she received a recording of the encounter. An hour later, Kylie got a message from Marco: pay up, or the recording would be sent to even more people in her social network.

Online dating is where women are most vulnerable to cyber-sexual harassment.

That’s because unlike most social networks, dating sites are where you go with the express purpose of meeting, and potentially getting intimate with strangers. Whereas on other sites strict privacy settings could serve as a shield, on dating sites those tactics for staying safe would just result in another solitary Saturday night.

While dating apps are supposed to be fun, they’ve also been known to lead to some pretty unpleasant encounters.

For instance, Esme* met Raphael on the app Happn. After chatting on the app, the conversation moved to WhatsApp, but when Esme checked his profile picture, she noticed Raphael looked different and his profile did not match the one on the dating app. Not wanting a confrontation, she told Raphael that she had some personal issues to work out before she was ready to date. Instead of accepting her explanation, he started bombarding her with aggressive questions about where she was and who she was with.

Finally, Esme blocked him and reported him to Happn. Knowing he would seek her out on social media she also blocked him on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. And when he tried to call her, she blocked his number too. Whether Raphael finally got the hint (unlikely) or simply found it too hard to maintain contact, Esme was able to stop the abuse – but not all women are this lucky.

What happened to Esme is known as catfishing – or when someone misrepresents themselves online, often using fake photos and profiles. While Esme was able to clearly see that the person on the Happn profile was different from the person in the WhatsApp profile, most catfishers are smart enough to better hide their tracks.

Similarly, it’s pretty easy to unknowingly become the accomplice of a catfisher. Take Cori*, for instance. One day she got a call from a friend that her Facebook profile picture was being used on someone else’s dating profile. Cori reported the fake profile and it was deleted, but who knows how many people saw her face and information before then?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to both meet people online and ensure you’ll never be a victim. However, there are ways to protect yourself.

3 Ways to Protect Yourself on Dating Sites

1. Do a Background Check

When you first connect with someone online, search them on Google, Facebook, and other dating apps if you’re on them. Look for inconsistencies in their pictures and profile descriptions. If you find any, report the profile to your app.

2. Get to Know Them on the App

Chat on the app before moving the conversation to a different platform. This gives you a sense of who they are before exposing further details about your personal life. Once you do feel comfortable enough to move the conversation to another platform, be aware of what they can see there. For instance, both WhatsApp and Telegram allow profile photos, WhatsApp allows status updates, and Telegram lets you write a little bio about yourself. Both apps also have a “last seen” feature that shows your contacts when you were last on the app. If you don’t want someone to see any of this information, change your privacy settings. And if you do end up getting together in person, make sure to meet in a public place, and let a friend know where you’ll be.

3. Keep Your Social Media Accounts and Pictures Private.

This minimizes the chance of someone stealing your pictures and using them on dating sites.

Safe Sexting

Most adults are familiar with safe sex. But what they may not have given much thought to is safe sexting.

This is especially important, since sexting is on the rise. In fact, according to one studynearly half of the adults surveyed said that they sext.

However, the fact that a lot of people do it doesn’t mean it’s not without its risks. Stories of revenge porn and hacks that have exposed people’s intimate photos are commonplace. And it’s not hard to imagine how having your nudes fall into the wrong hands could devastate your professional and personal life.

The easy answer would be to tell you to stop sexting, but we’re not going to do that. Sexting can be a fun and fulfilling part of your relationship or dating life, and we’re not here to deny you a good time.

What we are going to do is give you some easy tips on how sext safely. Some of these may seem like common sense, but we’re also going to get into some high tech hacks so you can relax while your smartphone gets steamy.

7 Ways to Protect Yourself While Sexting 

1. Don’t Include Your Face or Other Identifiable Features

Your first line of defense if your photos go public is plausible deniability. That means making sure your pics don’t include your face, unusual birthmarks, or tattoos.

2. Don’t Drunk Sext

You may be feeling frisky after a couple of margaritas, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to unbutton your top and bust out your camera.

Fortunately, there are several apps available that can prevent morning after regrets. For instance, Drunk Locker is a really comprehensive app for when you know you’re going to be partying. Besides finding you a designated driver, it can also block certain contacts so you can’t get in touch via calls, texts, and social media.

3. Make Your Photos Self-destruct

The app Disckreet is specifically designed for sexting, and requires that both the sender and the receiver input a passcode in order to see a sent image. The main benefit Disckreet offers is that it allows you to delete you images from the phone of the person you sent it to. That said, there’s nothing stopping the person receiving your photos from taking a screenshot and saving them.

An app that somewhat gets around the screenshot issue is the popular SnapChat, whichautomatically deletes photos a few seconds after they’re opened. Although SnapChat allows screenshots, it’ll send you a notification when one is taken. That said, it’s not a perfect solution, because a little Googling provides several ways to bypass the notification – so it’s still possible for someone to save your photo without you knowing.

Confide, a well-encrypted app that automatically deletes messages and photos, doesn’t allow receivers to take screenshots. But again, if someone is really committed to saving your nudes, they’ll find a way.

4. Password Protect Your Phones and Photos

To ensure that no one accidentally gets an eyeful when scrolling through your or your partner’s phone, both of you should protect your phones with passcodes.

You can also download an app that will keep your sexy photos in a seperate, password protected folder. Some options are KeepSafe and Gallery Lock. One of the cool things about Gallery Lock is that you can choose to keep the icon hidden, so others won’t realize it’s on your phone. Plus, if someone repeatedly tries to login and fails, the app will take their picture.

Be aware, however, that not all these apps provide encryption, meaning you could be at risk of having your photos hacked.

5. Securely Save Your Photos

If you happen to snap a pic that makes your butt look like the work of art you know it to be, you may opt to save it rather than have it self-destruct. In that case, it’s better to store it on a desktop, rather than a mobile device, which is more likely to get lost or stolen.

Bear in mind though, even on a desktop it’s possible to get hacked. Therefore, you should save your sensitive photos in an encrypted file. VeraCrypt is a free open source program that allows you to encrypt individual files on either your Mac or your PC.

Bear in mind though, that once your photos are in an encrypted folder, you still need to permanently erase them from your computer. It’s not enough to put them in the trash and then take out the trash.

Until that data is overwritten by new data, it still exists and can be found by an enterprising hacker. Fortunately, there’s software out there to permanently delete files. For Windows, one of the most popular free options is Eraser, and for a Mac you can use Permanent Eraser.

6. Don’t Sync Your Photos

If you have an Android, it’s likely that your photos get automatically saved to to Google Photos, and if you have an iPhone, they get saved to the iCloud.

You may recall the infamous iCloud hack of 2014, in which the private photos of several (mostly female) celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, were leakedfollowing a phishing attack. Since you don’t want that happening to you, you’re best bet is to keep your sensitive photos off the cloud.

That said, we don’t recommend disabling automatic syncing, since that can lead to your losing your info in the event that your phone gets lost or stolen. Instead, you should log into Google Photos or iCloud and delete them individually. Be aware though, that if you have automatic syncing on, this could result in the photo also being deleted from your phone the next time it syncs. So if you want to save the photo, back it up somewhere else – preferably in an encrypted folder (see above).

7. Don’t Send Pictures to People You Don’t Trust

We know, this seems really obvious, but with 16% of people reporting having sent sexts to complete strangers, it’s worth emphasizing.

Not sending potentially compromising photos to someone you’re not sure about is especially important, since as you may have noticed from this list, there’s no condom for sexting, so there’s no way to stay totally safe. So take the precautions you can, and choose your sexting partners wisely.

IRL (In Real Life) Attacks 

Obviously, attacks on women don’t just happen online. Often attacks spill over to the real world, with perpetrators using technology to help them stalk and abuse their victims. In fact, a survey of victim aid providers revealed that 79% dealt with victims who had been surveilled using social media.

Sometimes perpetrators are people we know, like a controlling partner. Other times, attacks are crimes of opportunity, like stealing a cell phone, or taking advantage of someone who’s simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In any case, from giving a friend the heads up as to where you’ll be, to encrypting the data on your mobile devices, to keeping your passwords secure, there are precautions you can take to keep yourself safe.

How to Safely Use a Ridesharing App 

Back in 2014, a woman in New Delhi was raped by her Uber driver. After it was revealed that the driver had a decade-long criminal record that included sexual assault, some were calling for the ridesharing app to be banned altogether.

After a slew of bad press, Uber now has a new CEO at the reigns. And it looks like the company is finally ready to take passenger safety seriously by rolling out some new initiatives.

The main one that has already been implemented allows you to share your ride with up to five trusted contacts. This means your friends can follow along during your trip and see that you arrived at your destination. If you want, you can also set the trusted contacts feature so that it’s only enabled for nighttime rides.

Trusted contacts is similar to Lyft’s Send ETA feature, which allows you to send your route and estimated time of arrival to a friend. For both Uber and Lyft, these messages include the car’s make and model, the license plate number, and a photo of the driver.

Uber also has a 911 feature in the works that will allow you to call emergency services with a click of a button, and which automatically provides them with your location in real time. Other initiatives that Uber is planning include driver background checks and scans of new DUI and criminal offenses that can be checked against their list of drivers.

In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take yourself in order to stay safe.

5 Ways to Protect Yourself While Using a Ridesharing App 

1. Make Sure You’re Getting into the Right Car

Before hitting the road, check the car’s license plate, make and model, and the driver’s name and photo to make sure everything matches up.

2. Don’t Let Your Driver Know if Your Pick-up Point or Destination is Your Home or Place of Work

In fact, if it is, you might want to make a little small talk so you can slip in a white lie to make him think otherwise. For instance, if he asks how you’re doing, you can say “great, excited to be going out to meet friends.” Another option is to give a nearby location as your destination, rather than your exact address, and walk an extra block.

3. Check the Driver’s Reviews

One nice feature of ridesharing apps is they allow riders to rate their drivers. If yours has bad reviews, cancel the ride and call another one. To keep from having to wait too long, have a couple of apps already installed on your phone so you can use the one that’ll most quickly get you a reputable driver.

4. Track Your Route

If you’re familiar with the area you’re traveling in, you’ll notice if the driver is going the wrong way. But if you don’t, open the map app on your phone and track your route to make sure you’re headed toward the destination you requested. If the route looks strange, speak up.

5. If Something Doesn’t Feel Right, Get Out

Yes, you may be late for your appointment, and you may be out a few dollars, but if you feel unsafe, ask the driver to pull over and get out of the car. Too often women put themselves in unsafe situations because they think following their gut will lead to awkwardness. Screw that.

What to Do If Your Phone Gets Lost or Stolen 

For many of us, it’s as if our whole lives are on our phones. Our phones contain our contacts, our photos, and the apps we use to navigate, keep up with the news, organize our work and personal schedules, and stay connected with friends and family; it’s a lot of personal information we don’t want in the hands of some stranger.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself if your phone gets lost or stolen.

4 Ways to Protect the Contents of Your Phone 

1. Password Protect Your Phone 

In order to keep someone from immediately gaining access to the contents of your phone once it’s in their possession, it’s best to already have a password set.

The exact way to set a password will vary depending on your device, but for an Android, you’ll probably have to go to Settings>Security>Screen lock type. Here you can choose to unlock your phone by using a pattern, pin, or password.

A password is the most secure option, but it’s also the most annoying to have to input every time you want to glance at your Facebook notifications. You might also have the option to set your phone so it will only open with your fingerprint.

Another cool feature is the smart lock. If you use this, your lock function won’t kick in while your phone is on you, if you’re at certain locations (e.g. your home), or if you’re near other trusted devices. Some phones will even give you voice and facial recognition options.

2. Locate Your Phone

One of the great things about having a GPS on your phone is that if it goes missing, you can track where it is. However, in order for this feature to work, you need to set it up in advance.

If you have an Android, you have a couple of options. Some devices, like Samsung, have this feature built in – although in order to access it you have to create a Samsung account. By enabling the feature, you’ll be able to locate your phone by going to from a different device and logging in. Another option is to download the Find My Device app from the Google Play Store. This app works the same way as Samsung’s and only requires you to have a Google account. Plus, if you’ve just misplaced your phone somewhere around the house, it has the ability to make it ring, even if your phone is set to silent. Just go to, sign in, and you’ll be able to see your phone’s location on a map. From there you’ll also be able to reset your phone’s password.

Bear in mind, however, that if you have an Android, you’ll only be able to locate your device if your location services are enabled and you’re connected to the internet. A smart thief will know to disable those functions so you can’t track where he – and your phone – are.

If you have an iPhone, you’ll need to download the Find My iPhone app. Once it’s installed, you’ll be able to locate your device on a map by going to and signing into the iCloud.

There you can also put your phone into Lost Mode, which will lock it. Lost Model also lets you set a message to the locked screen, so if your phone is simply lost, you can write something like, “Lost phone. Please call 212-555-1234 to return.” Or, if you know your phone has been stolen, you can write something like, “You suck.”   

3. Erase Your Data

This is the nuclear option. If you’re sure you’re not getting your phone back, you can use the Find My Device/Find My iPhone apps to remotely erase all the data on your phone, so even if the thief manages to break through your password protections, they won’t be able to access your personal information.

Bear in mind that when you do this, since all your personal accounts will be deleted, you lose your ability to track your phone remotely.

That said, your phone could still be getting service from your wireless carrier, meaning whoever has it could be making calls from your number and using your data plan. To cut them off, call your service provider and let them know your phone has been stolen.

Knowing you might have to one day erase your phone data is another great reason to backup your phone’s contents (which you should really be doing anyway). If you have an Android, the easiest way to backup your data is to use the Google cloud. If you have an iPhone, use the iCloud.

But what if you didn’t have the foresight to install the Find My Device/Find My iPhone apps, and now you can’t change your passwords, lock your phone, or erase your data remotely? In that case you should…

4. Change the Passwords for All Your Apps

Make a list of all the apps you have on your phone that require passwords, get onto another device, and start changing your passwords. This will likely include your email, social media accounts, bank accounts, and app stores.

Staying Safe on 

One of the amazing things about the internet is that it can bring together total strangers who have something in common, but would never have found each other otherwise.

A great way to do this is through the website, which lets users create and join events and activities based on themes that interest them. Popular categories for meetups include film, health and wellness, LGBTQ, and pets. It’s a fantastic way to make new friends and cultivate your interests.

But didn’t your mom always tell you not to talk to strangers? Was she really onto something, or just being paranoid?

A little of both. You should absolutely get yourself out there and take a big bite out of life… but also, take some precautions.

3 Ways to Protect Yourself on 

1. Don’t Include Too Much Personal Information in Your Profile

Be aware that your profile page is completely accessible to anyone with internet, so only include information you’re comfortable being totally public.

If you have a passion for food, and can’t wait to find culinary meetups in your town, definitely mention the new taco truck you’re totally obsessed with. But don’t say it’s located right outside your building on 333 Main Street, where you live in apartment 4D – which by the way doesn’t have a deadbolt.

Or if you’re looking for family meetups, go ahead and write that you have a ten year old and six year old, but don’t include that their names are Timmy and Sue, and that they go to Lincoln Elementary, from which they usually walk home alone at 2:30 pm.

2. Get to Know People IRL Before Communicating One-on-one 

Meetup has an email forwarding system, so you can get messages from members sent to your email without them having your actual email address.

But even so, if you’re just not interested in people contacting you before meeting and hitting it off in real life, you can choose to block messages from users and only receive messages from event organizers. Just go to your account and click Settings>Privacy.

From there you can choose whether you want your groups or interests listed on your profile. You can also select who can contact you on Meetup – whether that just be organizers, members of your meetups, or anyone on the website.

3. Let a Friend Know Where You’re Going 

For any situation in which you’re going out to meet strangers, it’s good practice to tell a friend where you’re going, and set a time to check in with them so they know you got home safe. Also,if the meetup involves drinks, never leave yours unattended.

Preventing Intimate Partner Violence 

Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects nearly one third of American women. Although technology can provide tools for victims (e.g. for collecting evidence against an abuser), it can also unfortunately be used by perpetrators. That’s because control is an integral element on IPV, and the misuse of technology can give abusers a means of exerting control over their victims.

According to a recent study, while many perpetrators use technology specifically designed for surveillance, it is far more common to repurpose other types of apps in order to achieve the same goals. Some of those used include find my phone apps, and family tracking and child monitoring apps.

The problem with this is that advocates against IPV can’t go after the companies that manufacture these apps, and app stores can’t block them, as most of the time, they’re used for perfectly legitimate purposes.

Many of these apps allow abusers to track their victim’s location, read their messages by having them forwarded to a different device, and even watch and listen to them remotely by activating the phone’s camera and microphone.

As mentioned above, there are also apps explicitly marketed for nonconsensual surveillance. While it’s rare to find these in a legitimate app store, there are plenty that can be found in other corners of the internet. And even though most phones come with a default setting that blocks off-store apps, guides for overriding it can easily be found online.

One of the most nefarious elements of these type of apps is that they can usually be configured so the app icon is hidden, thus making it nearly impossible for the victim to detect it on their phone.

You might think the solution would then be to scan the phone for spyware, but unfortunately, even some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Symantec, Kaspersky, and Avast, have proven largely ineffective at detecting these apps.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

3 Ways to Keep an Abusive Partner from Surveilling You 

1. Keep Your Phone on You at All Times

Almost all the apps studied require that the abuser physically have access to the victim’s phone at least once.

2. Be Cautious Using Any Phone You Didn’t Obtain Yourself

Abusers with a lot of control over their victims often control their money too – and so end up being the ones to purchase their phone. In these cases not only can they pre-install dual purpose apps, but with a little tech savvy, they can can even root the device, giving them the ability to install the most nefarious off-store apps. There are even companies that will sell phones that are already rooted, or that have surveillance software pre-installed.

3. Password Protect Your Phone, and Don’t Share Your Password with Anyone

As mentioned above, having a password to keep your phone locked is the first line of defense in keeping its contents secure. If you suspect your partner is accessing your device, immediately change your password. Make it long and complex, and make sure not to use elements they might be able to guess, like your birthday or pet’s name.

That said, we’re not naive, and can’t ignore the reality that many victims of IPV are coerced into revealing their passwords or “allowing” these dangerous apps to be installed on their phones.

Whether or not you’re in the position to safeguard your device, if you are the victim of IPV, there are resources that can help you get out. These are just a few of the organizations that have made helping victims their mission:

National Network to End Domestic Violence:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233,

Family and Youth Services Bureau:

SOS Apps 

In general, it’s a good idea to have an emergency app on your phone, just in case. These let you notify friends or family when you’re feeling unsafe, and/or contact emergency services.

Some types of phones have these features built in, so it’s worth checking to see if yours does.  If not, check out these apps, all of which are available for both Android and iOS.

1. ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency, allows you to send a message and your GPS location to selected contacts when you want your friends or family to keep tabs on your whereabouts. You can also set the message to be delayed, so say, if you don’t come back from your hike by nightfall, that’s when they’ll get the message.

2. React Mobile does the same thing as ICE, but also has an SOS Help Me button that notifies your pre-chosen contacts via email and text, and if you choose, posts a message to Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, the app automatically contacts local emergency services.

1. Siren GPS won’t contact your friends and family, but with a push of a button, will alert emergency services and provide them with your location. You can also set up a personal profile with relevant information that is then passed on to the authorities in case of emergency. This can include medical conditions and emergency contact info.  The app also gives you the option of calling the fire department, an ambulance, or the police.

You can also show certain information on your lock screen to be used in case of a situation in which you’re unable to give information about yourself to emergency services. For instance, you can write something like, “In case of emergency, call [name of your partner]” and then write their phone number. Or, if you have a specific medical issue – like a severe allergy or epilepsy – you can include pertinent information there.

How to set a lock screen message will vary depending on what model phone you have.


Technology and the internet play a big part in our lives both in good ways and in bad. As women, we are targeted online for many different reasons, but that does not mean we should disengage or disconnect.

Our hope is that this guide empowers you to protect and defend yourself online and in person and that the tools we provide will help you to do so.

If you found this guide helpful in any way, please share it with others so more women can learn how to stay safe, both on and off the web.

This guide was made by women for women

* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.