Access To Mobile APPS Eliminates Violence Against Women
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.