Welcome to the second part of The Pixel Project’s July 2015 Inspirational Interview with Hera Hussain. In this part of her interview, she continues the discussion about open source solutions to domestic violence. Hera started Chayn in 2013 after spending months researching domestic abuse laws in Pakistan and UK to build an asylum case for a survivor. Her goal using open source is to put the information somewhere so it can help other women navigate the difficulty technical aspects. She started this while part of MakeSense , a network of ambitious change makers who want to help solve solve societal problems by helping social entrepreneurs and we do that through crowd sourcing
Picture credits: All pictures courtesy of Chayn.
6. Chayn works as a pro bono service to charities who work with vulnerable women. Could you expand on the type service you provide?
We produce resources that charities can use. The sad reality is that most charities are still under-staffed and don’t have the time to produce new resources and/or support women who visit their websites but will never get in touch. All of our resources are open source, openly licensed and written in a way to be adaptable in most countries in the world. This allows charities to make those resources their own as they wish.
We also run social good hackathons to come up with solutions that will help front line charities reach a wider audience and manage their workload better!
7. Chayn is very tech driven. How can people create and use technological solutions to address real world problems, specifically Violence Against Women?
Women are great adopters of tech and, as the gap in access decreases, women are demanding their place as both creators and consumers of tech.
Tech gives us the chance to reach a wide audience on shoe-string budget and enable those women who are looking to understand what is happening to them and what to do about. From finding sources of help to escape abuse, tackle mental health issues, find refuge to educate themselves and finding ways to earn money – there is no limit to how we can use the appropriate technology to enable women to become creators of their own fate. The Internet democratises access to information to some extent and offers a platform for women to learn, share and grow which can be life-threatening for women, in some situations, to do in real life.
8. One of the issues Chayn faced in 2014 was partnering with fellow women’s organisations. Do you feel that women’s NGOs/non-profits/charities are intimidated by the use of technology as the tech field is viewed as predominantly male orientated, and what can be done to get more women involved in tech?
There is definitely a big problem in the tech space of not enough women being encouraged to enter and pursue careers or passions. I do think that’s one reason why charities have been slow to adopt tech – because even though creators of tech are overwhelmingly male, the user base of technology is less unequal. For instance, 200 million more men have access to Internet in the developing world than women. That is a fact but the situation is changing; so in the future, we are likely to see this gap decreasing.
As a woman in tech, I can say the sector is experiencing a renaissance in trying to understand barriers to entry for women and why it may be a hostile space for women. Thankfully, these things are being addressed due to the public scrutiny which I hope remains as strong in the coming years.
On why I think we have trouble working with charities: Charities are traditionally quite reluctant to embrace change because they are working under resource constraints often spread quite thin across the work they have to deliver. They think they do not have the time to try out new ways of working because they could be doing so many other urgent things.
The problem with that approach is that it is very short-sighted and though I sympathise the stress they are constantly under, it is important to have a long-term vision for your work. Technology has real value to add to their work and the people they serve. I meet charities all the time who have more than 200,000 thousand visitors to their site and they are only getting contacted by hundreds of which they can help tiny portion because of resources. That is thousands of women that go away from the website without any support. Having a welcoming and rich resource section can help these women plan their future.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support your work?
Share our tools and projects! Positive word-of-mouth is the easiest way for people to make a difference is by simply sharing information whether on Facebook, Twitter, or your local school and library. Women everywhere are experiencing abuse and violence so sharing something like our “How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer” guide on your Facebook page could mean this information could its way into the hands of a woman in your network who may need it but could never ask for help.
If you are a charity, we urge you to put resources like that on your websites. You would be surprised how many women will browse websites for information that can help them make up their mind and never get in touch.
Another great way to support us to join us. We’re 100% run by volunteers and we’re always looking for more people around the world who are passionate about empowering women in their community as well as globally.
We’re also looking for Chayn Ambassadors – game changers in the tech and social enterprise sectors who have been active for at least 10 years to act as a voice for us in their community. If that is you – get in touch with us.
10. In your opinion, how can we end violence against women?
There is no easy answer to this question. Women are living under the burden of thousands of years of patriarchy and injustice that is deeply embedded into our societies. The mindset that women are public properties and do not belong in any space independently as well as not having a right to agency is most the most pervasive culturally undercurrent of our time.
How do we change the way people think? There is so one way of doing so and I think as a global community, people and organisations are trying different ways of tackling it. In my opinion, education, training, financial empowerment and legal equality are the benchmarks of a fair and feminist society. These are the problems we need to solve and work on to end violence against women.