Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 12 student.
This opinion piece is meant for children 16 and above..
What is gender-based violence?
A gender-based act of violence (GBV) is any act of violence directed at an individual based on their gender. Its roots lie in harmful norms, power abuse, and gender inequality. According to the United Nations, Gender-based violence is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue.
This violence occurs in families, on the streets, and increasingly online, and can be physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, or economic in nature.
A report published by UNICEF states that COVID-19 and related containment measures have triggered a shadow pandemic of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Technology: A weapon or force for good?
While there are many benefits to digital technology, there is little doubt that it may also facilitate violence. Women are more likely to be victims of online violence, including physical threats, sexual harassment, bullying, stalking, sex-trolling, and exploitation.
Due to a 50-70% increase in internet usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, women and girls have been threatened, shamed, and controlled by the non-consensual sharing of images. Additionally, online sexual exploitation and abuse of children has reached a crisis level, with girls predominating in these materials.
It is vital to address this online abuse and use technology as a force for good, especially in the prevention and response to gender-based violence. Women and girls must take the lead in developing safe technologies to address gender-based violence, and they must work together to achieve this goal. Design must place a strong emphasis on the rights, requirements, and preferences of violence survivors in particular.
There are several ways in which technology can be a positive force.
Technology as a safe space
Information and services can be accessed safely, culturally appropriate, and easily via virtual safe spaces (VSS), regardless of the availability of physical services. Girls in emergency-affected areas have been given access to virtual safe spaces that provide information on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, self-care, and empowerment.
Technology for prevention
Technology-based solutions can reduce a user’s risk of violence and increase awareness. A mobile app called “Safetipin” (based in India) crowdsources and maps real-time data from users to provide information on public safety.
The software uses location safety scores to assist its users, mostly women, and girls, to plan their routes and find safe places to stay. Safetipin is used by almost 100,000 people in 65 cities, and its data is also being utilized to improve public areas and make them safer for women and girls.
Technology for protection
UNICEF is integrating discrete information about gender-based violence and referral details(to those seeking help or disclosing violence or risk) into its COVID-19 online platforms and chatbots to increase safeguarding. High-risk words and phrases, such as “rape”, “hit” or “fear”, entered by users on chatbots will trigger an automated safeguarding flow of GBV and psychosocial support information.
Technology as a response
Technology has the potential to improve the quality and reach of GBV services. ROSA,
( Remote Offered Skill-building App) assists case workers and community focal points in understanding how to deal with increasing Gender Based Violence(GBV). In addition to providing essential training and information exchange, it provides support for victims of gender-based violence.
Technology offers many opportunities to improve online protection, mitigate risks, and respond to GBV. The digital gender gap must be closed, and women and girls need to have access to safe and accessible technology.
It is imperative that the tech industry be engaged, held accountable, and encouraged to improve accessibility and incorporate violence prevention and response strategies into their initiatives in order to achieve the scale of change needed. In order to develop tech solutions that address women and girls’ needs, we need user-centered design processes that focus on understanding their lives and the risks that they are exposed to.
We must continue to put girls and women at the forefront of development, make investments in secure technology, and look for new and creative approaches to stop gender-based violence while learning and developing as technology advances.
Please note: This is an opinion piece and the views expressed in all opinion pieces belong to the writer. They do not reflect the opinions of the platform.
I Kid You Not believes in giving a voice to today’s children, no matter what side of the debate they are on.