Organizations and apps making women’s safety a priority
Empowering women is one of India’s most critical needs right now, and all the pillars of our democracy claim to contribute to it. Organizations too are focusing more than ever on gender diversity and inclusion. This collective effort ensures that women’s issues begin to take a fair place in social discourse. Yet the statistics on women’s safety in India continue to look grim.
According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, 39 crimes against women are reported every hour. For every 100,000 women in the country, the crime rate reaches 55.2. A staggering 2.5 million crimes against women have been recorded in India over the past decade. Add to that the number of unreported crimes – including domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape – and it’s not hard to see that the law and order situation surrounding women’s safety needs a lot of attention. .
Even as NGOs and activists continue to advocate for policies and laws for women’s social and financial safety, empowerment, and inclusion, several startups and organizations have joined them in the cause. Together, they are taking the initiative to use technology for women’s personal safety. Here are some of those good Samaritans you need to know about.
Leaf Innovation makes safer or wearable products, such as smart jewelry, which are actually smart devices for women’s safety. Currently sold as amulet necklaces, the device can trigger alarms and send messages to pre-identified phone numbers in the event of an emergency. It also helps guardians to monitor the movements of their loved ones, which becomes useful especially during night commutes.
Founded by IIT engineers Avinash Bansal, Ayush Banka, Chiraag Kapil, Manik Mehta and Paras Batra, Leaf started as a small project that was recognized as a world champion during Gitex Technology Week in Dubai. It became one of the top 10 innovative startups in India recognized by the Department of Science and Technology and won the Ericsson Innovation Award.
Pink Hoysalas and the Suraksha Panic App
A few months after the horrific Brigade Road incident last New Year’s Eve in Bangalore, local authorities took women’s safety seriously. 51 pink hoysalas (patrol vehicles) have been added to the fleet of patrol vehicles in Bangalore. Another tool developed by local authorities is the Suraksha Panic app. In case of distress, victims should hold their devices in front of the attacker. Following this, the camera automatically turns on, records a 10 second video and sends a trigger to the control room. Users can also click the power button five times to request help from the command center.
Launched earlier this year, Pink Samaritan is an Asianet initiative, supported by Facebook. The app-based ecosystem is focused on social transformation by creating a citizen-led community to complement local law enforcement systems. In its initial phase, the app hired male and female female safety volunteers, also known as Pink Samaritans. These Samaritans are accessible to women in danger for help and assistance via a GPS system.
Other Pink Samaritan features that are being released in phases include content and maps to locate the nearest police stations, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as automatically triggered calls to the police station.
Fear Not – Steadfast Search
Founded by 27-year-old Nikhil Kumar, Undaunted Research also uses technology to promote personal safety. Their personal safety app currently in development, Don’t Fear, is scalable beyond 4G penetration as it uses SMS communication and downloads geolocation information directly from satellites.
There are around 200 regular active users currently using the app.
Using GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping/geospatial technology, Safecity documents instances of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces and presents this information on a map. Women can use the platform to report any type of violence or abuse, and even upload photos and videos. The main focus is on reporting the incident or crime – where it happened (as specific a location as possible), and the date and time of the incident. With over 10,000 reports from more than 50 cities across India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal, the platform brings together information on dangerous “hotspots” that women can share and access.
A crowdsourced application, My Safetipin allows users to audit the security of a location, which is pre-assigned a “security audit” score. Launched in 2013 by husband-wife duo Kalpana Viswanath and Ashish Basu, My Safetipin seeks to uphold women’s need for safety and does its part by generating enough data for advocacy and improvement.
Clearly, the startup and tech ecosystem pays close attention to personal safety. As the needle moves towards safer, inclusive and women-centered public spaces and infrastructure and not only personal safety, we expect more organizations to join the bandwagon. What we have so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Much work remains to be done.