OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more


A hand held device to use when attacked to both stop an attack and mark the attacker so he may not be able to deny his actions.

Photo of Allen Samuels
2 1

Written by

What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

In many remote villages in Zambia and other regions of Africa, men rule and a girls or women's voice is often not heard. If a girl or woman is attacked, the attacker can deny his actions and no further action is taken. In these places, there are no police and no one to report and hold an attacker accountable. Even where police may patrol, a girls accusation may be disregarded and dismissed. By marking an attacker, denying one's actions becomes more difficult. Our design provides each girl and woman a means to defend themselves and mark an attacker with long lasting ink so the village will know that she was in harm's way and he was the aggressor.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

We want a girl or woman to be able to defend themselves and mark an assailant, however, we are concerned that a girl or woman could mark an innocent man out of anger or thoughtlessness. Our dilemma is to provide a defensive device to girls and women and through a related educational program inform and teach girls and women (and boys and men) about matters related to sex and sexual behavior, attitudes and responsibilities.

Explain Your Idea

The hand held device utilizes existing a pepper or mace spray that would be contained in a Co2 cartridge and released by pushing down onto the cylindrical device. Our defensive spray also includes an indelible and long lasting and unwashable ink that would mark an attacker as a result of the same push to activate action. Thus, an attacker may be both put off and marked by a girl or woman being attacked. Our hand held device also has two sharp and pointed ends, on at the top and one at the bottom that can be used by a girl or woman to jab or stab an attacker as a last means of defense. We want to stop, mark and defend if necessary. The cylindrical device can be hand carried or used with a wrist band or put into a pocket or hung from a necklace. When visible, the device also functions as a visual cue to alert men that this girl/woman will defend herself!

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

Our device would be part of a comprehensive sex education program designed to educate a community. Our design would provide girls and women some sense of confidence as they would be enabled and empowered. If attacked, a girl/woman would know how to defend herself and this may provide more freedom, day and night as they live their lives in a culture where they, as females, may be less valued.

How is your idea unique?

There are hand held devices that dispense pepper spray or mace but to our knowledge, none also include an indelible ink that would mark an assailant. No other hand held spray device provides two pointed and shaped ends that could be used as a defense weapon.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

There are serious concerns about variations in cultures where sex, sex related issues, and girls/women's rights vary due to different traditions, customs, laws, and values that could keep our design out of the hands of girls and women. We could, without knowing it, be causing new and other serious problems for girls and women in certain cultures and locations.

Who are your end users?

Our end users are girls and women everywhere where sexual assault occurs. The need to put off an attack and identify an attacker is universal. Our primary concern is for girls and women who live in places where they are valued less and protected less and often have no defense to assaults of many kinds, physical and otherwise.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Zambia

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Other

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Everywhere girls and women are valued less or used by soldiers or abused as part of a violent strategy to undermine and terrorize a people under duress.

What is your organization's name?

Design For Good

Tell us more about you.

Allen Samuels, Industrial Designer and Emeritus Professor and Dean, The University of Michigan, School of Art and Design. I design products for underserved people, the elderly, the poor, those in disasters and differently abled people. Lindsay Brink, a Social Worker recently graduated from The University of Michigan, School of Social Work. Served in the Peace Corp. in Africa and has spent considerable time in Zambia over soem years dealing with women's issues.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Still in planning phase and does not exist yet

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Ann Arbor, Michigan

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered for-profit company, including social enterprises.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tammi Chen

The attacker should be accountable for they do. Would this product be inexpensive to produce and distribute?

Photo of Allen Samuels

This product should cost little more than an existing, hand held pepper spray device. We are adding an ink to the spray and modifying the shape of the plastic enclosure top and bottom. Could be pennies more at most to provide more features not found in existing products.