Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is not new to Uganda; the harassment of women (mostly) on grounds of their gender roots back in the norms of our culture. It has mostly been domestic (in homes, between husbands and wives). However, recent shifts have seen more and more young unmarried people fall victim, with rampant cases of rape and kidnapping of young women reported.
The 2017 Annual Crime Report by Uganda Police Force recorded 15,325 cases on domestic violence, 1,335 on rape and 211 cases on kidnap around the country. This reflects more than just mere statistics; it’s a call for intervention. In walks Sister’s Keeper (clap, people; clap :-D).
Who is Sister’s Keeper?
Sister’s Keeper are a youth-led NGO using community engagement and participation to curb down the rampancy of GBV in the country. It was started by Herman Okia and Emmanuel Wandabwa in 2016. The organization has since held a couple of community campaigns in universities, with the goal of creating awareness on GBV among the students there. The most recent one was dubbed #KiggwaLeero, calling upon students to speak out on GBV in their communities.
Team and partners
The organization is run by a team of about 5 members. Okia is the Director, while Wandabwa doubles as the secretary and legal advisor. Together, they also manage potential partnerships. Esther Atuhaire is the project coordinator, and Angel Ayebare is the Chief Financial Officer. Both ladies are still students at Uganda Christian University in Mukono. The team also has a developer, helping to integrate technology into their operations.
They currently operate single-handedly, and are still on the look-out for partners, especially in running and maintaining the Sister’s Keeper app, a mobile application that will enable victims to report GBV cases on the spot.
How the app will work
The user will set an emergency number; the first person they’d want to alert if they found themselves in a violent situation. Clicking a button in the app will send a text message to the emergency contact, indicating the sender’s location so the receiver can provide help or find more nearby help.
The app will have a page for stories; a platform where former and current victims of GBV can share their stories and experience, with an option to do this under anonymity.
The app will also have a “Sisters” section, that offers guidance and counselling services to former and current GBV victims.
Wandabwa says feedback from some of the potential partners has fed insights into their work on the app, that they have had to reflect on and implement before they can partner with them.
“Susan, a specialist with UN Women on issues concerning GBV, questioned the professionalism of the counsellors we would be working with to provide counselling services on the app. We made a consultation around this with the Uganda Counsellors Association, and realized that professional counsellors were actually going to cost us money. So we have had to revise this and come up with a plan,” Wandabwa recollects.
Wandabwa and Ayebare also share that it’s not easy to run and sustain the app on their own, since it will be providing a free service. They need partners to help facilitate the counsellors, provide legal services as well as medical help to victims.
The team plans to run in-app ads to cater for maintenance costs of the app. The app will also have a GPS feature added to make locating the victim easier. In the event that one’s selected emergency contact is not close by, the GPS feature will also alert more proximal help.
On a long-term, the team will open up a call centre with available trained counsellors. They would also like to partner with corporate firms in a campaign to channel a very minimal percentage of their revenue towards sustaining services of the app.