This month, I'm proud to report thatthe GBV Help Map was featured in the Youth Solutions Report put together by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network! The app wasincluded as one of the top 50 solutions / ideas in the world to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality, and has also specifically been curated as a Case Study on "The Era of Digital Accountability." Download and read the reporthere!
While the app is being tested for its functionality, technical strength and vulnerabilities, I've had a busy time! I've been adding a bunch of consultants, and also did a deep dive into city-wide data accumulation for organisations offering up support for women. It's been a wonderful journey of discovery, yet again, to see more and more initiatives providing support for survivors of violence. On some days, it also overwhelms me to see that the issue seems to be overtaking us in the number of instances that appear to take place.It also makes me see that there is another gap to plug: making information accessible. One of my core aims with the GBV Help Map App is to make it accessible to everyone—either directly, or with the support of an intermediary organization that can access information and provide it to those who need it.
As part of this, I have begun operationalising a three-part curriculum that I tested last year. This looks at three angles of operation:
(a) Information for women and girls on how to stay safe physically and how to respond to violence if they are in such a situation
(b) Information for women and girls on how to operate digital tools to not only access information such as the map, but to also speak out against violence on platforms such as World Pulse (YAY!)
(c) Information and tools for women and young girls to cope with trauma, to heal from trauma, and to reclaim their lives.
My plans for the time ahead of me are to host these workshops for as many women as I can.My primary aim is to have 500 women in the first year covered.
Last week, I was at a hostel for orphaned young women in Chennai, teaching them ways to stay safe, to keep their bodies safe, and how to respond to violence in the event that they find themselves in the middle of it.We had an immensely fulfilling time with the young women at the SRS Sarvodaya Hostel in Chennai last week, where we worked on safe and unsafe touches, the concept of consent and personal integrity and simple ways to stay safe.
As an ice-breaker, we askedthe girls to share their names and their ambitions / dreams. It was touching and inspiring to see such a band of bright, energetic and vibrant young women who werenurturing ambitions and goals including such things as becoming pilots, doctors, singers, teachers, lawyers, diplomats and even police officers. (Thanks to Sneha Sridhar, Varsha Balajee, Vaishnavi Pallapothu and Ms Saraswathi Anoop of the Akshar Aarbol International School for including us within the scope and ambit of Sneha Sridhar's CAS Project, which put all this together.)
During the session, one of the girls asked us a question that made us think deeply. "Sometimes, no matter what we wear, we are groped / harassed / abused. Does this mean that we must dress conservatively?" We explained to her that NOTHING she did or chose to doinvited abuse or harassment. We told her that she should never assume responsibility for the wrongdoing of another. It was an insightful and profound moment for the girls to reflect upon. They have been fed multiple messages that the girl is at fault for every incident of abuse she faces. These messages havetaken away some elementof their personal agency. Later, the girl herself volunteered and stood before the group, and sang a song for us. While at first she said it was because she aspired to be a singer, she also said that the workshop gave her confidence to sing freely, to be an "uncaged songbird."
The second part of the curriculum with these girls will take place once the app is tested internally and ready for release, until which time I will be working on the third part with the help of my motherwho is a trauma healer by profession. We hope to teach women and girls simple meditations, positive affirmations, trauma healing techniques using art, dance, music, yoga and writing (depending on what each of them take to).
That was such a powerful moment for me: It made me realize that I am on track, both online and offline. This is the offline dimension of the GBV Help Map: It is not enough that there is a tool that gives women and girls information;it is also vital that they know that the tool exists. They must know how to use and access the tool, and most importantly, they must be able to find self-sufficiency and independence to regain control in their lives after an incident of violence has occurred, especially because violence takes away their right to control their lives.