Fight violence against women through an app - Competition „Empowerment of women through digital solutions“
A newly developed smartphone app in Lesotho was one of the winning contributions of the GIZ-competition "Empowerment of women through digital solutions". The EU- and German-funded GIZ-programme “Participatory Initiative for Social Accountability” (PISA), in cooperation with the NGO Gender Links Lesotho and IT-service provider Mainlevel AG, seeks to contribute to the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) in Lesotho through the development and introduction of a digital solution (Smartphone-App).
A recent survey found that 86% of women in Lesotho have experienced GBV in their lifetime. While Lesotho has committed itself to eliminating all forms of abuse and violence against women through legal measures, the issue remains at the enforcement level. Only 26% of GBV victims report the abuse to the police. When reporting takes place, only few cases are treated as criminal offence as mediation between victim and perpetrator is an often-used strategy by the police.
Consisting of four key features the mobile application “Nokaneng” was developed to inform women about their rights, GBV-related services and to provide a safe space for "virtual support groups". The feature “your cases” contains acted scenes of abusive situations and how to deal with them. It aims at increasing women’s understanding on GBV types and coping strategies. “Your rights” informs women on their GBV-related rights and laws in Lesotho. “Your services” is an overview of locally available GBV-related services with the aim to facilitate access to counselling, government services, hospitals etc. Finally, “your networks” provides access to an online support group (e.g. chat or information board) to enable women to share experiences, ask questions and provide support to each other.
For each feature, explanatory content was developed including videos, a collection of services and contacts or a clarification of the legal framework regarding GBV. The design process was accompanied by community dialogue sessions to aid a sound understanding of the dynamics and norms around GBV in the selected test communities, as well as to sensitize community leaders about the process and its intentions and garner their support.
Finally, test workshops were conducted with 90 GBV survivors to identify risks and to provide a platform for feedback and future strategy development. It was pointed out that bilingual content in English and Sesotho and a virtual counselling service would be welcomed. Furthermore, build-in guidance on how to respond in situations of abuse or the witnessing of abuse and an emergency speed-dial button were recommended. Further evaluations have concluded that the application is more accessible for urban and younger women due to higher IT-literacy and better access to smartphone devices and internet. Thus, further up-scaling of the initiative will focus on the accessibility through text-based features (eg. SMS and USSD codes), radio and TV soaps as well as community-based approaches to improve rural accessibility. Lastly, the importance of physical and mental safety was further highlighted by suggesting a discrete icon of the app to avoid violence based on the disclosure of the app use. Direct access to online counselling could additionally reduce or address the risk of potentially traumatizing effects for survivors when confronted with their history through app content.
Looking forward the “Nokaneng” App will become a “flagship project” in the Lesotho-component of the new regional GIZ program on the “Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls in Southern Africa” (South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia). This enables an increased reach across and beyond Lesotho.
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