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Tech solutions to help GBV victims


Microsoft SA director Lillian Barnard

 

Johannesburg – Microsoft South Africa and gender-based violence (GBV) NPO partners, 1 000 Women Trust and TEARS Foundation, have launched the Safe@Home Hackathon to address GBV in South Africa.

The virtual hackathon will run from 22 September to 19 October, and invites the developer community to create and develop technology-based solutions to help GBV victims, vulnerable women and children. Access to the right technology can enable a better and safer way for women and children to reach out for help, the organisers say.

Microsoft SA managing director Lillian Barnard says GBV is one of the most pressing and critical challenges South Africa faces. “President Ramaphosa identified it as the second pandemic our country is currently battling, and a war that is being waged against women and children, with over 40% of South African women experiencing sexual and physical interpersonal violence in their lifetime,” she says.

A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that 42% of females between 13 and 23 in the country reported experiencing physical dating violence. The incidence of unreported violence is much higher and getting worse.

1 000 Women Trust founder Tina Thiart says violence against women and children is escalating under the current circumstances, with many South Africans confined to their homes.

“This indicates a clear need to take action to address gender-based violence,” she adds.

Hackathons are aimed at finding solutions to specific challenges through collaborative brainstorming and programming in a short time. The Safe@Home Hackathon will look to facilitate collaboration to create and develop technology-based solutions that will work in the context of South Africa’s unique circumstances and challenges.

“Ensuring that we are able to build these kinds of fit-for-purpose technology-based solutions will require partnerships with developers, NGOs in the gender-based violence space like TEARS Foundation and 1 000 Women Trust, government, corporate South Africa and other technology players. Together, we will provide the support needed as we call on developers across the country to come together, understand the issues surrounding gender-based violence, create and develop technology-based solutions that can help save lives,” says Barnard.

Safe@Home in South Africa is replicating the successful initiative piloted by Microsoft Israel in partnership with the Michal Sela Forum, headed by the sister of a victim of GBV, and the country’s developer community to create and develop technology-based solutions to help GBV victims. The hackathon resulted in the development of a number of applications that will be deployed in Israel to help other women and children who need it.

Likewise, South Africa’s hackathon aims to help the country’s most vulnerable. The winning idea will be developed into a full application that will be deployed to support women who need help. The top three teams also stand to win cash prizes; winners will be announced on 26 October.

Founder and director of TEARS Foundation, Mara Glennie says: “I look forward to exploring the possibilities that technology can provide to help keep women and children safe, and working together to tackle the scourge of gender-based violence.”

Developers who would like to participate can join the hackathon on https://safeathome.bemyapp.com/