HOLLAWho? Meet South Africa.

Meet Melissa, the savvy social media activist with lots of ideas, fighting street harassment in South Africa.

Why do you HOLLA?  Why do I HOLLA? Why didn’t I holla back in the past?! I HOLLA because I experience street harassment on a nearly daily basis, because I live in a country that is dragging its feet in the past. I want to be part of the change, and I want to educate men and women about harassment because I find many of them don’t really know the difference between abuse and being polite (true story!).

What’s your signature Hollaback?  “Will you say that to your mother/daughter?”

What’s your craft?  I’m a social media manager, I specialise in social media policy and strategy and manage the online reputation of other brands and companies. I have a sneaky wine lover streak.

HOLLAfact about your city:  According to a Human Rights Watch report, 68% of women in South Africa have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment.

What was your first experience with street harassment?  I can’t remember my first experience, but I remember one of my earliest. I just got my hair done and was walking out of the shopping mall when a delivery man yelled “Hello girl!” in the most slimy tone of voice. It shattered my confidence at that moment, instead of feeling pampered and happy after a trip to the hair dresser, I felt violated and helpless in such a public space. People were standing around, nobody said a word, not even me. I just walked away, angry that I had no clever comeback, nothing to say, all the time feeling his eyes boring into my soul as I pretended not to hear.

Define your style:  Laid back and inconsistent. I drift between fashion trends and classic pieces. I’m outspoken AND shy.

My superheroine power is…Flight.

What do you collect?  I collect various things, wine, fighter-jet books, and specs and small model plane kits, badges.

Say you’re Queen for the day.  What would you do to end street harassment? I’d order every school to have mandatory gender-neutral ‘Good Manners’ classes for juniors and seniors and for their parents. This won’t be about what to say at the dinner table (ok maybe that to!), but how to properly speak to people, how to pay a compliment to another person, how to RESPECT a person, how to defend a person, how to say “That’s not ok”, how to ask for help. My mom always said this stuff should be taught at home, but I think parents should be included in these classes too so that everyone learns.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?  Treat others the way you would like to be treated, it’s all about respect.

What inspires you?  Change inspires me, I see things changing all around me, especially in this country. We’ve gone through massive, urgent changes and I’ve seen the positive side of this. It inspires me to take action.

In the year 2020, street harassment…Will be an embarrassing phenomenon that people experienced in the dark ages and looked back on in disgust like racism.

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