BART launches campaign to end gender-based violence on its trains

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As part of an initiative to end gender-based violence on BART's transit system, the BART Board of Directors committed to a partnership with Alliance for Girls. More action regarding safety is expected to be taken in the upcoming weeks, specifically with safety reforms aimed at protecting young women of color.

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In a joint press conference with several community leaders Friday, BART announced the launch of Not One More Girl, an initiative to re-imagine safety on public transit and end gender-based violence.

Haleema Bharoocha, advocacy manager for Alliance for Girls, began the initiative before partnering with several other organizations that advocate for communities of color and LGBTQ+ people. In partnership with these organizations, Bharoocha said they presented the BART general manager with a “12-point action plan” to increase rider safety, including reimagining harassment reporting mechanisms and creating alternatives for emergency contact in addition to the police.

“This year has been rough for all of us; gender-based violence has continued and increased in the middle of a pandemic. When COVID hit, it was clear that transportation needs Not One More Girl,” Bharoocha said at the press conference. “We are at a crossroads. We can either center a system that serves only men, or we can face the challenging task head-on.”

The BART Board of Directors passed a resolution in February 2020 committing to partnering with Alliance for Girls on an initiative to end gender-based violence in its transit system, according to a BART press release.

Alicia Trost, chief communications officer of BART, said BART was not tracking data about sexual harassment prior to the partnership. In October, BART added a question to its Passenger Environment Survey that asked if riders had experienced sexual harassment or battery, and 10% of respondents answered yes.

“We cannot let this continue,” said BART Board of Directors President Mark Foley at the press conference. “We want to regain trust, and we should start with the communities that rely on us most, who face barriers to accessing transportation — safe transportation. Sexual harassment has no place on BART.”

Uche Esomonu, a strategist for Not One More Girl, expressed the value and importance of legitimizing youth voices and input, pushing leadership to trust young people as “experts in our own safety.” With the entire BART executive staff present at the conference, she added that the partnership has not only been performative, but rather she felt that they valued her efforts and empowered her to change “the system” for the very first time.

Lateefah Simon, who is on the BART Board of Directors, emphasized the importance of the campaign for the safety of young people, especially children. Simon highlighted that as schools start to reopen, more children will be riding BART as a means of transportation to schools across county lines. 

In the coming weeks, more action is expected to be taken regarding safety reforms aimed at protecting young people, particularly young women of color. BART Board of Directors Vice President Rebecca Saltzman said she will propose a resolution with Foley to ensure transitional age youth are a part of the hiring process for crisis intervention and de-escalation services.

Foley also added that at the Board of Directors’ April 22 meeting, he will bring a motion that will make the prohibition of sexual violence part of the rider’s handbook.

“I want this to inspire all of you to look out for girls,” Esomonu said at the press conference. “Intervene and offer your support. Your actions, you never know, may be validating for them. Your actions will prove to them that their safety matters.”

Matt Brown is a city government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @maattttbrown .