WOW | Interview
More than smartphone app, a tool for self empowerment
Amuda Mishra is the Executive Director of Ujyalo Foundation. She graduated with a Masters degree in Public Health from the University of Colorado, Denver in 2013. She came home with the Project Ujyalo initiated by Clinton Global Initiatives commitment to action program. The program sought to bring light to the homes of underprivileged communities using cycled plastic bottles in Birgunj. Ujyalo foundation is a non-profit organisation that focuses and emphasizes in sustainable development in rural states of Nepal, conducts programs that promote innovation, encourage social enterprises and increase capacity building through community based projects which are practical cost effective technologies. Working with a diverse group of people and understanding the challenges, she wanted to increase the scope of Ujyalo Foundation’s reach to also focus on development issues and young women’s empowerment. She runs a successful women’s leadership program called EmpowHer. Besides this Ujyalo Foundation has recently introduced a powerful, practical, cost effective and innovative tool to battle violence against women. It is an smartphone app called NiDARR and was recently launched at an event in the capital by the Australian Ambassador to Nepal Glenn White.
Every day women and children face gender based violence across the world. According to the global review of available data in 2013, 70 percent of all women are reported to have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. The Crime Investigation Department of Nepal Police reported that the number of domestic violence rose from 1,355 in 2010/2011 to 2,250 in 2011/2012. In 2013 alone, INSEC reported that 2,348 women and 700 girls were a victim of gender violence in Nepal. As these numbers accelerate every year, the need to develop and implement effective system to mitigate GBV (gender based violence) is very important.
Amuda shares experiences of harassment and feeling vulnerable despite being seen and known as a progressive and strong professional. She knows that lodging a complaint, follow procedures, perusing justice can mostly be confusing, painstaking and tiring for women. Majority cases go unreported. She understood that the difficulties multiplied for women and girls who are underprivileged to seek justice and protection. With astounding growth in mobile and internet penetration in Nepal, NiDARR became a valid tool. Today internet penetration has reached 44.88% of the population or 11,687,819 Internet subscribers as of November 2015. NiDARR provides a secure and private platform for users to report gender based violence and maximise the safety of vulnerable groups. Through this application you will be able to file a report against any gender based violence and contact the police, relevant authorities and friends and family in the times of need.
Excerpts of an interview with Amuda Mishra:
What will be at the centre of real change for women when it comes to gender based violence, sexual assault or rape?
I strongly believe that we need to change our socialisation process. Our society consistently enforces gendering by being proud and rewarding a man when he is a protector, and is responsible for his female family members’ security and honor. Similarly, a woman is rewarded when she is obedient, submissive, and dedicated and devoted towards her husband and family. Hence, the center of real change for women happens when we can address this issue and mindset in our society. When we stop glorifying a man’s characteristics as being strong and tough and woman’s characteristics as being meek and obedient, we can keep our women and girls safe and free.
When you look at justice and accountability it’s not just about the perpetrator and the victim, it’s also about traditions and education? Do you feel there is sufficient debate around this in homes, schools, institutions and government?
In our society, violence is measured in extreme degrees or in terms of extreme physical harm. Anything in between is rarely considered violence. Corporal punishments at schools are considered disciplining not violence, or asking insensitive questions and putting individuals in vulnerable situations, especially women are not considered invasion of privacy or emotional violence. Our culture feeds into the psyche, which glories violence, especially the ones perpetrated by men. The day when we raise our sons with values and mindsets that violence does not augment manhood, and foster environments for our daughters to get out of the weeds of social structure and break their silence for any form of violence or harassment, we change the mindset and perception about violence in our communities.
You have launched NIDARR as a tool to empower women but can technology really bridge the gap that starts in mindsets?
Yes, absolutely. Imagine the day we got cell phones on our hands and we could make calls from anywhere without having to locate landlines. Remember the sense of autonomy we had over our lives, at least to some extent. Similarly, NiDARR provides its users full autonomy to maximise their safety and prevent violence through their smartphones.
When we can use our cellphones to keep our family and friends updated about our whereabouts, seek help and information whenever we need it, and send reports privately and securely without feeling socially stigmatized or fear of retaliation from the perpetrators, I believe both women and men will speak up against and report about gender based violence more.
However, NiDARR is not the “it” tool to mitigate gender based violence but it is a value addition to strengthen our frameworks to combat gender based violence.
Most often gender-based violence is addressed for women, but men are vulnerable too. Is NIDARR a tool for men too?
Yes NiDARR is for women, men, LGBTI, anyone, who wants to maximize their safety and prevent violence before it happens.
What is the mechanism when a person reports an incident online? How soon does it get addressed?
Once the users send their reports online, our response partners are notified about the submission who will then get in touch with the user within 12-24 hours.
Is it also an SOS tool?
Yes with the app there are so many things one can access. With NiDARR, individuals can create their safety contact groups, report violence from anywhere in Nepal, create a safety check-in while travelling, and access a comprehensible service database of organizations and agencies working against gender based violence. NiDARR gives its user the full autonomy in enhancing their safety and preventing violence before it happens.
For example, you can turn on a Panic alarm by pressing the power button of your cellphone multiple times, which can help you digress your perpetrator and give you some response time to get out a distressed situation. Furthermore, you can also send a message with your current location to your contacts by clicking just one button on the app.
How closely will the Nepal Police work with NIDARR? Who else have you collaborated with?
Nepal Police is aware of the application. We do not have a direct collaboration with them particularly for the app. However, in cases of any incident, the users and our response partners can engage the police whenever needed. Currently, we have SAATHI as our response partner for NiDARR.
Can the app be misused and how will this be addressed?
Well, we hope not. To use NiDARR, all users must authenticate their information so that we can reach out to the right person in times of need. If we keep on receiving fraudulent messages, the system will flag the user and we will not be able to provide any services further. However, we hope people will not misuse such a platform.
How are you going to create awareness on the app for wider use?
By talking about gender based violence and creating safe space for others to talk about it.
Currently, we are leading a community activation program in collaboration with few stakeholders, to create awareness about gender based violence, and NiDARRthrough sticker campaigns at public spaces such as restaurants and bars, and public vehicles. We also conduct workshops at schools with students and teachers, and various public and private organizations to sensitize and initiate critical dialogues regarding gender-based violence, and to help foster respectful gender dynamics in their communities.
Additionally, to ensure many individuals benefit through NiDARR we conduct free NiDARR sessions. Through NiDARR’s website (www.nidarr.com) one can request a free NiDARR session at their organizations or community center(s). Once, the team gets the request it is processed and a free one-hour training on NiDARR is scheduled. Visit www.nidarr.com and make a request through “NiDARR Zone Activation” tab on the site.
How important is it for survivors of sexual and gender based violence to talk about it? How can organisations like yours encourage this culture further?
I can understand how hard it can be to talk about these issues, especially in a culture where victim blaming is so openly practiced. The less we talk about it, the more we believe that gender based violence does not happen in our community. However, for survivors to openly talk about their incidents, we first need to create a stigma free and safe space for them. We need to stop associating assault with individual’s choice to wear certain types of clothes or lead an independent lifestyle. We also need to stop giving perpetrators a benefit of doubt, stop moral policing women, and measuring manhood in terms of violence.
At Ujyalo, with everything we do we ensure that a culture of speaking out against violence is addressed and practiced. With each of our programs, we make a clear and effective effort to initiate dialogues about gender-based violence encouraging individuals to speak up against it. We also consistently engage men and boy as allies and champions via our programs so that they can come in together to fight gender based violence and create a gender just society for all.
Overview of NiDARR…
NiDARR means “fearless” in Nepali. As the name goes, NiDARR on your smartphone makes you fearless and gives you power to maximize your safety in a distressed situation.
NiDARR is a responsive, efficient, and feasible tool where individuals can report gender-based violence without fear, stigma, and discrimination.
You can download NiDARR through Google Play Store free. Type NiDARR on your google play store and use NiDARR to stay safe and connected with your contact circle circles and local authorities. For more information visit: www.nidarr.com