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Women Meet Harassment with Technology

Publish Date: 29 June 2017

Street harassment is one of the biggest barriers to young women participating in the economic and social life of Afghanistan. In many cities, including Kabul, harassment is commonplace.

Code Women Challenge, the first contest of its kind in the country, was organized by Code Weekend and USAID’s Promote: Women in Economy (WIE) program to help address the issue. It invited women to propose practical mobile device applications to help women confront street harassment in Afghanistan. A panel of judges selected the winners.

“When I was at my university learning code, I did not see how technology could positively impact women’s lives. But the challenge immediately resonated with me,” said Fatima Shafaii, one of the three women on the winning team. “Street harassment is a real and personal problem for many women, including me.”

WIE funded the competition as part of its larger goal to improve women and girls’ access to and participation in economy, civil society, and education. USAID’s Musharikat and Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE) projects helped the young developers learn coding and other skills.

The winning team was awarded 300,000 AFS ($4,500) for their app, which allows women to report harassment in real time, identify problem areas, call a nearby police station, photograph abusers, and send messages to friends, family members, or other nearby users to ask for help.

“It will act as a deterrent. We are leveraging the power of social media, the police, family members, self-reporting, everything. Abuse and the abusers can be exposed,” Fatima said. The app will be available in four to five months.

WIE launched recently in five regional economic zones in Afghanistan. It expects to support women-friendly businesses in growing in size and increasing revenue, help 25,000 women find new or better employment, help 15,000 women receive a 10 percent or greater rise in pay, and help enact five gender-sensitive policies, regulations, or reforms..

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