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Access To Mobile APPS Eliminates Violence Against Women

Rescuing girls.jpg

Our project will utilize mobile technology to eliminate violence against women. The following is an excerpt from an article published by the economist which accurately summarizes the basis of our project. “PAYING for a taxi ride using your mobile phone is easier in Nairobi than it is in New York, thanks to Kenya’s world-leading mobile-money system, M-PESA. Launched in 2007 by Safaricom, the country’s largest mobile-network operator, it is now used by over 17m Kenyans, equivalent to more than two-thirds of the adult population; around 25% of the country’s gross national product flows through it. M-PESA lets people transfer cash using their phones, and is by far the most successful scheme of its type on earth. Some of the factors behind Kenya's lead cannot be copied; but many of them can, which means it should eventually be possible for other countries to follow Kenya's pioneering example”

I am a software engineering Information Technology professional in the ICT4D Sector (Information Communication Technology for developing countries sector). I was born and raised in Kenya. Growing up as a little girl and young woman in Kenya, I was exposed to the issues that endanger the lives of women and girls in Kenya. Every so often, I watched a new case of different types of violence against women. This conditioned my psychology in a way that I realized I had learnt how to walk in fear whenever I was in the streets. Girls and women experience different types of violence such as rape, mutilations, physical assault, intentional transmission of HIV/AIDS by serial killers and the worst cases of emotional trauma that women face in domestic violence. I cannot count the number of times when by word of mouth we had been warned by our friends or family against walking on certain streets because one of our friends had been a victim of rape or a serial killer had been lurking in the streets with a syringe filled with HIV infected blood.
While the government in our developing country tries to guarantee safety in a scenario where eliminating poverty drives financial decisions, it is challenging to focus on keeping the peace and safety of citizens at a high level priority. This leaves us vulnerable; women and girls are the most victimized. Sometimes law enforcement takes advantage of poor surveillance systems and demands for bribes to “guarantee” security. This makes law enforcement loose the confidence and trust of women and girls. Police brutality and bribery has escalated the insecurity in Kenya leaving security in the hands of the citizens. I can confidently confirm that you can only be safe if somebody who is your family or friend monitors your safety through real-time communication. The citizens of Kenya have the ability to protect each other from violence if they have the tools they need to isolate criminal activities via internet enabled real-time technology. If a case of insecurity is in the hands of family and friends, a woman or a girl can be saved from violence because giving bribes can be evaded by the exposure of notorious crime spots through real-time “big data”. The safety of girls and women cannot be guaranteed by relying on law enforcement in most developing countries because male predominance has shaped the rules in a manner that does not prioritize women’s security.

I am passionate about this project because I have watched violence against women happen at grassroots level. An example of a case of violence against women that changed my life forever happened when I was a 13 year old girl. The 1991 St. Kizito tragedy happened in my own village when 71 girls were raped and killed in one night. The New York Times documented this as the worst case of violence against women in the world happening in one night. I remember when it happened because the deaths of these girls happened in my village and we had to stay indoors. Until this tragedy happened women and girls in my community had their self-esteem and walked with confidence in the byways. But one night was enough to bring our self-esteem crashing down and our hearts crushed as we mourned the loss of our friends and family members. As a lady in my 30s I still feel the pain that stayed with me when I realized that we were prisoners to “find safety” when my grandmother kept us indoors because girls could not walk in the village alone. Our lives were altered and our movement was put under a mandatory curfew and if possible under lock and key. The only way to guarantee our protection was by ensuring that somebody knew our whereabouts or was home with us. The stench of death had engulfed my community and the screams of dying girls had become “sound worms” in everybody’s minds. Sometimes when I feel discouraged, the voices of the girls that we heard during that tragic night keep me motivated to keep on giving back to the same community. I have had to work very hard with the help of my therapist to recover my sense of security by identify anything that could trigger the fear and low self-esteem that I had watched in my community when I was growing up. That experience conditioned my mind to understand that my security was only guaranteed when my family members were aware and protecting me from any danger lurking in my environment.

I was a little girl when I endured the aftermath of St Kizito, but today I am an educated woman. I have drawn strength from other women who have endured their own pain and used that painful circumstance to change their story. So I embarked on a journey; I decided to walk down memory lane one more time, I decided to walk down the same path that the girls that lost their lives in the St Kizito tragedy walked. As I walked that path, I was no longer afraid, I realized that I can change the story of that path and make it the path of courage. So I made up my mind that the best way I will honor the beautiful girls who lost their lives in the St. Kizito tragedy is by changing their story. I want that tragedy to be the motivation that will make me innovate something that will keep women and girls safe all over Africa. I asked myself what I had in my hands and realized that I had an education. I am one of the best requirements engineers and I have won awards because of the systems that I have deployed. That is why I am giving back to change this story. I will develop an APP that can be used on every mobile phone platform by leveraging on the success of mobile technology in Kenya. I am not reinventing the wheel but I am using the already successful platform that has launched M-PESA to create an APP that we have called “SAFE PEOPLE” This APP will keep women and girls safe from violence against women. Depending on the funds we raise we can even customize the APP to the level of utilizing biometrics to record on realtime video a case of violence against women that can be used to prosecute perpetrators in court.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

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Comments

kellyannaustin's picture

incredibly powerful story

Thank you for sharing this incredibly powerful story with the folk at World Pulse. Your proposal to develop an app to use real-time reporting in conjunction with the already existing digital technology sounds promising! What a wonderful way to use your talents to help keep women safe from violence. And it's an inspiring way to respond to the tragedy you endured as a child. How empowering to realize you could draw courage to begin to change the world even from the darkest of experiences.

I look forward to hearing more about the app as you begin development!

Wishing you strength in your endeavors,

Kelly

egatuma's picture

Thank you very much!

Kelly,
I appreciate your very encouraging words. It is people like you that hold this vision together. Your good thoughts towards this project propel it to fulfillment. I promise that I will make sure that the whole world reads about the story of my village on the New York times again, only that this time the headline might go like: "Many years after the St. Kizito tragedy, surviving girls manage to keep women safe globally" I am honored to share my journey with world pulse.
Many thanks once again!
Esther

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Greengirl's picture

Hugs to you!

I am so inspired by your ingenuity and quest to change the story of women and girls in your community, and beyond for for best. It is really important that women are able to live normal lives, devoid of the fear of the human dangers that haunt and hunt women down. I am tremendously inspired by your commitment to use ICT to end an age long nightmare called Violence Against Women and Girls.

Best wishes as you bring your laudable initiative to reality.

Warmly,
Greengirl

egatuma's picture

Thank you very much

Hugs back to you, I really appreciate your very kind words. It has been a long journey for me but I am determined to raise my voice. I am confident that this is what the world needs to know about my community and I am honored to share my journey with world pulse.
Thank you very much my friend!
Esther

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Dear Esther,
Thank you for sharing your story here. While learning of the situation you experienced was heart-breaking and maddening, I am inspired by your courage to do something about the situation and to empower women through your ability to leverage ICT to help rid the world of violence against women. I hope you will continue on your journey and find support to make your vision a reality. Please keep us all posted on your progress and challenges and know we support you!
SIncerely,
Susa

egatuma's picture

Thank You Very Much!

Dear Susan,
Your wonderful words have encouraged me so much. You are the ones who make it possible for me to keep on in my journey. I appreciate your complements, best wishes and good thoughts towards this project. I will keep you all posted and I desire to walk this path with every woman in the world, this is our journey and we can choose to make all our paths pleasant paths of peace. I am very happy to connect with you!
Best,

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

busayo's picture

So Inspiring!

Dear Esther,
I am so inspired by your powerful story, your courage and the vision to help your people. You have really demonstrated the qualities of a leader that is ready to take the bull by the horns. Ride on Sister, the sky is the beginning for you. Thank you for sharing this powerful story!

Hugs
Busayo Obisakin
Founder/CEO
Women Inspiration Development Center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

egatuma's picture

Thank you my Sister!

Thank you so much for sharing hope with me in this journey. We continue to raise our voices as many women and girls look up to us for their safety. I am so happy to connect with you, it is women like you that hold Africa together and I am very confident that there is an new generation that is changing the story of Africa. Much love to you!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Nabiye Tal's picture

Wow! Powerful Story

Dear Esther,
Thank you for sharing your story, it is so powerful and inspiring, i was really touched. In all my work with violence against women i have never ever imagined that a syringe filled with HIV infected blood is injected into women and girls. this breaks my heart. Thank you for the great work you are doing, i look forward to learning from you more about the APP you are working on, we would need you to come teach us here in Nigeria someday. Great work you are doing, I am inspired!!!!

Nabiye Tal,
Founder/CEO- IEVAWC.
@nabiye, @ievawc

egatuma's picture

Thank you!

Nabiye,
Thank you very much for your very encouraging words. Yes, violence against women has been escalating and declining security makes us vulnerable. The reason why my project is already succeeding is because I am one of the women that could fall into such circumstances and therefore I do know the kind of dangers that I have encountered and that of my own friends and family.I would not know much about the type of violence that the women of Nigeria deal with but we certainly have cases of HIV Transmission through infected blood in syringes. You can read more about it because it happens in locations where there is"flash blood" as they call it even on the media.

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

Ashleigh Lauren's picture

You are incredible

Esther,

Thank you for everything you are doing to support women and girls in Kenya. I can't wait to see how this project turns out and how it can be utilized in other parts of the world.

Please keep us updated on your achievements. You are a very brave and strong woman, and I admire your work very much.

Thank you again!

Best wishes,

Ashleigh

egatuma's picture

Thank you very much!

Ashleigh,
You words have warmed my heart, it is the very encouraging words of women like you who believe in us that keep us going. I will keep you posted and once again I truly appreciate you very much!

Esther Gatuma
President/ Founder
Woman of Paradise International

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