Technology keeping women prepared in the fight against abuse

The #MeToo movement from 2017 was certainly a pinnacle moment in the fight against woman abuse in that it brought to the fore conversations about what constitutes woman abuse, the number of people affected and what should be done to stop woman abuse from occurring. Society at large was encouraged to take action and turn the issue of women abuse on its head by illustrating it is not a private matter between two people but rather a problem which affects all of us.

This is a sentiment shared by 1st for Women, who for over 13 years has been actively engaged in the fight against woman abuse and to date has raised over R65 million for woman abuse causes and assisted over 90 000 abuse survivors. Much of this incredible work is thanks to the contributions of their customers, who donate a portion of their premiums to the 1st for Women Foundation each month.

Inspired by initiatives like #MeToo, and with the aim to take action against woman abuse, 1st for Women used technology to develop a solution – ForWomen, a 1st for Women initiative was launched during 16 Days of Activism in 2017. This online platform aims to consolidate woman abuse fighting efforts in one place and give all South Africans the chance to take action, 365 days a year, by giving help or getting help in the fight against woman abuse.

Visitors to ForWomen can connect with NGOs who focus on measures of prevention (organisations that work to address the multiple and often interlinked causes of abuse), preparation (organisations that empower women with the tools they need to put an end to this social tragedy) and provision (organisations that can support and assist abuse survivors on their journey).

Platforms like ForWomen have been developed in response to what has become shockingly apparent since the launch of the #MeToo movement and this was the seeming acceptance of the abuse and the powerlessness women felt to come forward. ‘Everyone knew it was happening’ became the phrase during the movement which illustrated not only the extent of the problem but society’s seeming complacency towards it.

In the end however, what the movement showed was that by uniting against woman abuse, taking action against woman abuse and sharing the numerous stories about woman abuse, not only in South Africa, but globally, people were asked to confront the problem rather than downplaying it and in so doing, highlight the potential solutions. The conversation has therefore shifted towards positive outcomes aimed at finding real solutions for women to be prepared should they be confronted with an abusive situation.

Corporates, as a critical stakeholder in the fight against woman abuse, have in recent years heeded the call to find solutions which will shape and assist the ways women can be prepared, just in case.

In 2018, Schweppes created a “Dress for Respect” to illustrate the number of times a women is inappropriately touched while out dancing at a club. In less than four hours, the three women who took part in the social experiment were touched 157 times, or over 40 times per hour. While the campaign can be used to educate men on their behaviour and the impact it is having on women in such a situation, it also hints at the importance of technology being developed for women to assist them in being prepared, should they find themselves in a potentially violent or abusive situation. 

Another brand successfully developed a tool in 2015 for women to be prepared should they find themselves in a dangerous or potentially abusive situation. Vodafone created an app that women could use in secret to get help when they were in danger of domestic abuse.

All a woman needed to do was shake her phone and a message along with her location would be sent to three people she trusts. Around 254 000 women in Turkey downloaded the app and it has been activated over 103 000 times. Vodafone has gone on to launch another app, called Bright Sky, which allows women to record domestic abuse through photos, text, audio or video without any content being saved on their devices. It enables a survivor of abuse to be prepared, should she choose to open up a case against her abuser.

In 2017, People Opposing Women Abuse, (POWA), launched an app for South Africans in an effort to curb the under-reporting of gender based violence and help women fight abuse by providing them with emergency services as and when they need it. The app is linked to the Department of Social Development’s Gender-based Violence Command Centre. At the click of a button, the 24-hour command centre can establish your location and provide assistance such as emergency services and the police. You can also send distress messages, report categorised GBV-related crimes, and find local help centres and track reported incidents. There are many other apps geared towards women which not only provide safety tools, educational resources and access to personal emergency numbers for women to download.

Technology has brought together, across nations, and broken down many barriers through its mass dissemination. This is absolutely critical as ending the scourge of woman abuse will take the collective action of millions of people. Be part of the solution by giving help or getting help at ForWomen and, together, let’s #giveabusetheboot.