New app  developed in sri lanka to help women fight sexual harassment in public gathers momentum 

An island-wide research carried out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) recently stated that over 90 percent of Sri Lankan girls and women face harassment in public transport on a daily basis.

Sexual harassment against women on public transport can be identified as one of the most common forms of gender-based violence.

According to Wikipedia, street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf-whistling, cat-calling and other actions by strangers in public areas.

Stop Street Harassment (SSH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment worldwide, defines the scourge as unwanted comments, gestures and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression or sexual orientation.With International Anti Street Harassment week running from April 2 to 8, the topic could not be better timed to raise awareness on the plight of women and young girls.

Whatever has to be said about sexual harassment of women, it is yet to be known to what extend the matter can go or to what length it can be addressed. Arguably women are reported to suffer harassment on a daily basis irrespective of their age, size, religion, ethnic background or attire.

Officially most cases are unreported and one non-profit organization called Women In Need (WIN) is dedicated to the cause of the elimination of all forms of violence against women and Sri Lanka.

“Many cases of harassment go unreported mainly due to the victim’s unwillingness to report it personally. The victims feel shy to report it themselves because of their status or profession.  They are afraid their reputation could be ruined. They are afraid of things getting worse,” said Muditha Ayeshani, a psychological counsellor at WIN.

“Another reason for such cases going unreported is the lack of awareness about legal relief and the absence of sexual harassment prevention policies,” she added.

Muditha says that as Sri Lanka is mostly dependent on technology they thought of procuring an app developed to answer the cases that go unreported.

She already has an app on her mobile phone with 2SIX4 said to be the first mobile application which is designed to combat Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Sri Lanka. Women In Need in partnership with Asia Foundation launched the App on March 8 to coincide with World Women’s Day 2017.

“The app was developed as a solution to give women a chance to report the harassments they face even without coming out personally. They can report what happened to them being where they are”, revealed Muditha.

The app’s name 2SIX4 was coined to remind users of the   Children and Women’s Bureau Hotline 011- 2444 444.
“We wanted a name that can be identified easily,” said Muditha.
The app can be installed only on smart phones with the android system in Sinhala and English and according to Muditha they are still in the stage of further developing the device.

“Just as any other app, 2SIX4 can be installed via Google play store. The app seeks to provide users with prevention and response services via three separate sections: Emergency Assistance, Information and Guide-me sections.

“The SOS button will help her to contact five trusted friends immediately,” Muditha explained while showing how it works through the app on her mobile.

The emergency assistance segment will direct users into the emergency page that will contain an island-wide database of contact and location information of police and hospital services. The section will also be equipped with a GPS locator, to provide users with proximate information of hospital and police services within the vicinity of her current location according to Muditha.

“The emergency section will also be provided with access to the direct (dedicated) hotline to Women in Need to provide users with quality support and guidance on Gender Based Violence (GBV) issues during an emergency. The emergency assistance section will also be equipped with a personal location identifier (intervention) which will essentially allow the user to select six personal contacts of her choice while emergency message and location coordinates may be sent in situations of emergency,” said Muditha.

The Information section is a one-stop shop to arm users with a world of information on gender based violence and contains quality information packaged in the form of influential videos, inspirational stories and instructions on different situations of Gender Based Violence.

The “i2E” corner will be constantly updated by Women In Need to equip users with the most useful and contemporary information on GBV given the local context. This information will run into different thematic areas such as legal counsel, medical instructions and guidance on interaction with police services.

The Guide-me section will provide guidance upon which the user has an opportunity to make her own choice between three different options designed to provide her with assistance more tailored to her needs during that particular time of access.
Muditha said the first option will redirect the user to the i2E page, the second option will give users the choice of speaking “to a trusted friend from WIN” and the third option will redirect users to the “Women and Children Desk” page, for access during situations of urgency.

Each option will contain some guidance to allow users to make a more informed decision in different situations of GBV.

“As it is not more than a month since the app is launched, women are not much aware of this new chance of letting their voice out. We are still in the process of developing the app. And we hope to inform the public more about this privilege. At the moment we have a Facebook page and we keep on getting a positive feedback,” said Muditha.

As a developing nation, launching of such a mobile application which gives the ability to seek help in a serious issue as gender based harassment with a single touch of your mobile phone is really an improving step towards a nation that lets women break the silence.

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