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“Superwoman”: A Safety Advocates community that maps incident reports and identifies nearby safety buddies

Women in urban areas, whether they are resident or are just passing through, are often trapped and isolated by the fear of harm when moving about or travelling outside, especially at night. Our idea is to create a Safety Advocates community that will build a geo-tagged database of self-reported incidents of sexual harassment or intimidation. This crowd-sourced data then becomes the reputation of the locale. These numbers can be used to convince local councils or businessses to take action on improving the area. Additionally, women who feel threatened can use to app to find a safety buddy from fellow safety advocates in the area. Additionally, a panic button feature, when activated, emits a loud alarm and sends an alert to nearby members.

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Written by DeletedUser

Women in urban areas, whether they are resident or are just passing through, are often trapped and isolated by the fear of harm when moving about or travelling outside, especially at night. Though this fear is often justified, we believe that it can, firstly, be moderated by a clear knowledge of which areas are risky and to be avoided, and secondly, that identification of these areas allows a proactive response from the women – by enlisting safety buddies, or lobbying local councils or nearby businesses to take steps to improve safety.
 
Our idea is to create a Safety Advocates community that will build a geo-tagged database of self-reported incidents of sexual harassment or intimidation. Often women will close one eye to incidents of sexual intimidation or harassment – perhaps it is too “minor” to report, perhaps she has no “proof” of the intimidation, or perhaps she is resigned to it as a normal state of affairs. Through an app or website, each incident can be filed to the community database, and tagged to a location. While individual incidents reported can be doubted or ignored by the authorities, in aggregate, these data points identify the riskiest areas in the neighborhood.
 
This crowd-sourced data then becomes the reputation of the locale. Users who access the map can see which specific areas to avoid, allowing them to plan their route. Additionally, these numbers can be used to convince local councils to take action on improving the area, possibly by installing lights or increasing patrols. Local businesses as well would be incentivized to take action – increasing the footfall will generally improve their bottom-line.
 
Additionally, the numbers will give the victims confidence to speak up and act – they are not alone, they are not the only ones harassed, and continued inaction would be complicit to future incidents of harassment.
 
In the interim, women who do find that they have to pass through such risky areas can use to app to find a safety buddy from fellow safety advocates in the area. They can then arrange to travel together, or if threatened, can seek shelter in their company. To ensure that members are legitimate, users can also rate each other, and give and receive thanks for their help and contributions to the community.
 
Notably, this app will be particularly useful in explicitly sharing local knowledge on safety to people new to an area. For example, tourists will know which streets or areas to avoid when they reach a new city.
 
Finally, the app also takes advantage to the geo-tracking to provide a community panic button feature that, when activated, emits a loud alarm and sends an alert to nearby Safety Advocates to the incident and its location. 

**This idea is the product of a brainstorming session at the Singapore OpenIDEO meet-up. The team members are: Anisa Johnny, Nadia Laabs, Lahari Chukkala and Zoe Villanueva. The session was facilitated by Carmen Escaño.


Questions:
  1. The success of the app hinges on having a large number of users. How do we achieve this?
  2. How do we fund this or make this a sustainable venture?
  3. While many people, including women in low-income urban areas, have smartphones, some features would be limited if they do not have continual access to data. 

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Knowledge is power – “Superwoman” crowd-sources reports of sexual harassment or intimidation to identify and map risky areas, and encourage proactive action.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

(1) Community - Bring together a community of women safety advocates in a local neighborhood. (2) Data Collection - Make a record of incidents of sexual harassment or intimidation, no matter how “small” or “hopeless”, noting down the action, location, description of perpetrator and other comments on. (3) Mapping - Create a searchable map of all the incidents. Include official reports of crime where available. (4) Analysis - Establish data-backed “reputations” of each area, looking at all the reports. This also serves as an explicit explanation to people new to the city on which areas to avoid. (5) Proactive Response - Provide evidence to spur local councils or businesses to take action (6) Safety Net - Locate safety buddies nearby when feeling threatened or in need of companions. Members can rate and give/receive thanks to each other. (7) Alarm feature - One click feature to sound an alarm and push alerts to nearby members.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Local residents and travellers will benefit. The end result is offline – areas of risk should be improved to reduce the opportunities for harassment.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

The app has to be created by a tech and design team. Ideally, there would be an organization to maintain it and actively promote its use.

Where should this idea be implemented?

This idea would be most useful in countries where there is substantial mobile internet access and literacy, but where there is inadequate protection provided by local authorities or social norms. A pilot can be run in Manila, but we are open to other suggestions.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

To begin, sketches of the app’s functions and features can be shown to the target users to get their feedback. This tests whether the app will (1) be useful, (2), be used. After iterating, a working prototype can be rolled out in a test city and monitored for a few months.

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Team

Great contribution, Zoe and team! Sounds like a promising idea for those communities with reliable smartphones and wifi access. Can you imagine a version of this idea that could be adapted for lesser- connected communities, to address your question #3 above? And do you have an existing network in Manila who could begin some on=the-ground research? Thanks for the inspiration!

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DeletedUser

Thanks Jamie! I've touched a bit about the SMS solution in the conversation above with Meena. I think this is a doable solution -- although would still require a phone. Another option is the physical map suggested by Natasha above. This is a more offline solution, that can later be collated for online update.

At the moment I don't have any contact with a women's group in Manila. However, I did find a list of some institutions and NGOs addressing violence against women (http://www.unwomen-eseasia.org/projects/evaw/vawngo/vamphil.htm). We might be able to partner with one of these organizations, and jump off the network that they already have in place.