The cell app enhancing responses to gender violence

The total impression of COVID-19 will not be identified for many years to come back. However in lots of cases, the adjustments are already with us. One is a digital platform connecting victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria with companies able to offering assist in varied methods, together with authorized and psychological – all thanks to a few devoted activists.

[This story was provided to bird by Storify, an agency under Africa No Filter]

By Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu / Africa No Filter

In 2019, Khadijah Awwal, Khalil Halilu, Olajide Abiose and Khadijah Awwal started growing an answer for a burning concern for victims of sexual violence – methods to report circumstances with as little trouble and paperwork as potential. Working with the Heart for Civic Citizen Welfare and Group Improvement in Africa (CWCDA), they determined {that a} digital resolution was the way in which to go. 

“It’s at all times been on my thoughts,” Awwal defined, “as a result of I’ve witnessed all kinds of gender-based violence circumstances over time.” 

Whereas many different organizations had been doing related work on the time, there didn’t appear to be any sort of progress. Below the CWCDA’s watch, Halilu, a number one voice within the tech area, Abiose, a civil rights govt and Awwal, a lawyer and founding member of NorthNormal (an advocacy group working within the sexual and gender-based violence, or SGBV area) obtained work.

Then, COVID-19 hit. And with lockdown got here a wave of sexual violence experiences.

“We all know that the state of affairs was unhealthy. However the COVID interval amplified the state of affairs; it made it very apparent how unhealthy issues had been. This was a pandemic inside a pandemic… Numerous girls had been caught with their abusers at house…So we simply labored onerous on a digital resolution,” Awwal defined. One of many occasions that made individuals much more decided to seek out options occurred on the top of COVID-19.

On Might 27, 2020, with the pandemic peaking worldwide, 22-year-old Uwaila Omozuwa, a first-year microbiology scholar on the College of Benin (UNIBEN), made her option to a church in Benin, southern Nigeria, to check. Uwa sought out the Christian parish for the peace and quiet it supplied – and to really feel protected.

About an hour into her research, Uwa was attacked by three males. She was raped, her head was bashed in with a hearth extinguisher, and he or she was killed.

Omozuwa’s story sparked nationwide outrage and birthed the hashtag #JusticeforUwa. Activists organised protests in main cities, demanding justice. They had been combating for justice, not just for Uwa, however for a lot of different victims of sexual violence, together with Tina Ezekwe and Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje, who additionally grew to become rallying factors, after they had been attacked.

Based on experiences, there have been about 3,600 reported circumstances of rape in the course of the lockdown in Nigeria, which lasted a complete of 73 days. This determine is taken into account by those that work on this area as grossly insufficient. A staggering variety of rape circumstances by no means go reported in Nigeria. A extra environment friendly reporting system might have seen Uwa’s killers apprehended previous to her killing

Motivated to see an answer, the 3-person group designed a digital platform which they referred to as UNSUB. The platform works each as a cell and internet utility, connecting the victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria, with companies working within the area.

The app supplies assist in varied methods, together with providing authorized help and psychological assist. The app additionally makes use of the placement of the consumer to advocate companies close to to the sufferer to make sure that assist reaches the complainant as quick as potential.

“The app connects customers with individuals working within the SGBV-response area inside their location to entry the intervention wanted whereas guaranteeing the confidentiality of such reported circumstances on the platform,” Khadijah Awwal says.

“With the spike in SGBV circumstances in Nigeria, which may very well be attributed to the nationwide lockdown that was applied to fight the continued unfold of the virus, it grew to become imminent for us to roll out UNSUB as a contribution to the battle in opposition to SGBV in Nigeria,” Grace Peter, the communications officer, says.

Moreover, the app permits involved third events to report violence circumstances on behalf of different individuals.

The person who discovered Uwa mendacity in her pool of blood within the church that day, for instance, would have been capable of report the incident on her behalf as a 3rd occasion.

“The suppliers/stakeholders already working inside the SGBV-response signed as much as present totally different classes of interventions/assist on the UNSUB platform, all inside a timeframe that ensures circumstances are dealt with extra effectively, successfully, and timeously via using know-how,” says Grace Peter.
UNSUB has been within the works since 2019, and the group has been engaged in thorough analysis to know the way it may very well be most suited to deal with the SGBV menace within the nation. Khadija Awwal, a founding member, explains that the rise of circumstances in the course of the lockdown was one of many central motivations for growing the App.

In addition they noticed that many SGBV circumstances in Nigeria had been left unattended as “many survivors by no means see the justice they search as a result of bureaucracies concerned within the present reporting system.”

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Impression on customers

Some survivors had been left on the mercy of their assaulters with out receiving an intervention. The impression of COVID-19 measures, resembling lockdowns and restriction of actions, meant that some stakeholders had been unable to determine, help and observe up on the survivors, Grace Peter defined. 

Aisha* says she as soon as used the app to report a case of sexual abuse and search assist with post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD), which she had developed as a result of sexual abuse she skilled from a member of the family. 

She had heard of the app via a journalist-friend who inspired her to hunt assist. Aisha filed a grievance via the web site. She used the cell app, which popped up a type to fill in together with her title and phone particulars. The shape additionally required her to specify whether or not she was making a grievance for herself or on behalf of one other particular person. 

After filling out the shape, she clicked ‘submit.’

Just a few days later, a psychological well being group reached out to her and assigned her a counselor. 

“We had some periods via telephone calls and Zoom, and it actually helped,” Aisha remembers. “And remedy could be very costly in Nigeria. This group did it without cost for me.”

She explains that regardless that her remedy has since ended, the counsellor often reaches out to examine on her. Based on Khadijah Awwal, that is very essential to their work with UNSUB. 

There are about 170 companies, and platforms signed up on the platform. This contains authorities companies and CSOs. Presently, the app has round 400 circumstances at totally different levels of intervention.

Awwal defined that the method of getting organizations onboard the app is an intensive but easy one. 

“As a company or a authorities company, you join on the platform together with your platform’s sort of intervention. It may very well be psycho-social assist, it may very well be medical assist, or it may very well be shelter,” she stated.

“So that you join, stating clearly what you may present, together with your location. When you join, the admin vets you to see should you’re match to be a part of the platform. When you’re accepted, you’re a stakeholder on the platform.”

Earlier than this, there have been cases of the duplicity of features amongst stakeholders, resulting in inefficient efficiency and outcomes and diversion of assets in the direction of different results of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The variety of experiences recorded was overwhelming in the course of the first few days after the app launched, in line with Awwal, with most of the circumstances reported being of police brutality. The group is now engaged on one other resolution able to dealing particularly with experiences of police violence.

Whereas the cell app is filling a large hole within the SGBV response fee in Nigeria, there’s room for enchancment.

“Various stakeholders don’t feed again a lot information into the app until they’re being prompted by members of our group to take action,” Awwal stated. This impacts effectivity.

Additionally, because the app can solely be accessed utilizing a sensible machine and an web connection, nearly half the inhabitants stays unserved. However, digital options are essential to curb the issue, particularly on this time and age, stated Hassana Maina, a lawyer and SGBV activist in Nigeria.

“UNSUB and different digital options to sexual and gender-based violence circumstances are essential to curbing sexual violence as a result of we dwell in a digital world.

“It’s extremely essential for victims, but in addition for establishments particularly for preserving information. It’s additionally helpful when partnered with the felony justice system as a result of the police can at all times discover it a terrific useful resource … Total, on the subject of the safety of girls, no stone ought to be left unturned,” Maina stated.

Regardless of the challenges, UNSUB supplies a novel and more and more essential hyperlink between victims/survivors of SGBV like Aisha and the assistance and assist they should overcome their ordeal. It additionally reveals what will be finished, regionally, with restricted assets, to supply assist to these affected.


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