Toronto woman wants to make travel safer for women after a solo trip gone wrong

Yaa Birago never expected a solo trip to Rome in 2017, purchased as a birthday present to herself for her 30th, to go the way it did.

After the female traveller was sexually harassed in front of her Airbnb apartment, Birago turned to her host for help.

"The first thing he said was, 'This happens all the time, nothing will happen to you.' I was shocked and that was really the 'A-ha' moment for me," she told blogTO.

Thinking that she couldn't be the only one with this experience, Birago started to survey women, eventually hearing from nearly 250 around North America.

And over 70 per cent of them said they would feel safer with a woman host when staying at a short-term rental.

"I started having conversations with different women and that's when I realized that this actually happens all the time," she says.

"A friend of mine who lived in the UK rented an Airbnb when she went to New York some years ago. She was nice to the host and the guy ended up trying to kiss and sexually assault her. She had to leave that same day. There are so many of these stories out there."

Backed with over 10 years of tech experience, Birago has come up with Femmebnb in efforts to make travel safer for women going forward.

"Anyone that identifies as a woman is allowed to be on the platform, it's women hosts renting to women travellers," she says."The whole point is to really maximize safety for women and reshape their travel experience."

Solo travellers will also be able to find like-minded travel buddies before and during their trip with the service that matches them up with others based on a questionnaire.

"We ask them what kind of traveller they are, whether adventurous or more of a leisure or business traveller, what kind of activities they like to do, and what kind of friends they'd like to connect with," Birago says.

"That allows us to match up women that have similar itineraries so that they can connect with each other while they're on their trip."

She's hopeful that the service will help redefine solo travel for women once travel restrictions lift around the world.

"We're not only allowing them to travel fearlessly but also allowing them to travel knowing that there is someone out there looking out for them." 

Lead photo by

Yaa Birago

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