Safe YOU: an application created by Armenian women to help women around the world
Safe YOU mobile application was created in Armenia by a group of women who decided to use their professional knowledge in order to save people from violence.
Having downloaded the application they created to the mobile, in case of danger, you only need to click on one icon. In a matter of seconds, the data of a person in danger will be transferred to the police and to the people they trust and can turn to for help.
The details of how the application was created, how it works – from the words of the author who came up with this idea.
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“Even unborn girls need protection”
“Two years ago I started working on a program implemented by the World Bank. And the Enterprise Incubator Foundation, as part of this project, conducted research on innovative solutions that could help people experiencing violence.
Then the idea of creating something arose, but the Safe YOU mobile application materialized thanks to a coincidence that, in fact, changed my whole life.
I was pregnant, waiting for the birth of my daughter, when one of my relatives told me: “You have become so much prettier, you will definitely have a son”. When I said that we were expecting a girl, she looked at me with sadness and sympathy and said: “Don’t worry, you will give birth to a son next time”.
At that moment, the world around me seemed to collapse. I began to wonder why one woman could tell another that being a woman is worse than being a man. This became my intrinsic motivation. I realized that even unborn girls need protection in this world, and I don’t want my daughter to live in such a society”, says Mariam Torosyan, founder and CEO of Impact Innovations Institute, a social enterprise that created the SAFE mobile application YOU.
As a first-class lawyer, Mariam also worked in the field of social anthropology and public health issues. She decided that her idea should include all these principles and should serve to save lives.
In 2020, when the idea was already fully developed, the team created an application in a short time. It coincided with a difficult period for Armenia – the 44-day Karabakh war began. Due to financial problems that arose during this period, it was not possible to launch the application in Armenia. At first it was launched in Georgia with the assistance of one of the local public organizations for the protection of women’s rights, Union Sapari, and in Georgia, more than 20,000 people are already using the application.
It performs several functions – from preventing violence, collecting valuable data for the investigation, to rallying state and public structures and private specialists who can provide assistance to women victims of violence.
“Having downloaded the application to a mobile phone, the user gets the opportunity to call for help in dangerous situations by pressing the HELP icon. In just 3 seconds, the user’s first and last name, and their location in real time are immediately sent to several addressees, including the police.
The number of possible addressees can reach 7, it can also be trusted persons, family members or friends of the user. At the same time, the application automatically starts recording the events taking place around, which can be very useful when investigating.
In addition, the application allows you to see the location of government agencies on a map, hotline data that can be useful to people who have been subjected to violence. The application also has a section of forums where relevant specialists – psychologists, lawyers and social workers – talk, guide or give advice to women who need it.
In the new version of the application, we have also created the opportunity to have ‘individual rooms’, thanks to which every woman can get advice from an appropriate specialist”, says Mariam.
As they worked on the application, she said, the entire development team was encouraged by others to help them. On social media, they were offered help by people of different specialties who also wanted to make efforts to prevent violence against women.
“It became obvious to us that the problem is fully understood in society, we no longer deny the existence of violence, but are trying to find ways to solve the problem”, says Mariam.
According to the police, in the first 9 months of 2021, 364 cases of domestic violence were recorded in Armenia, two of them were fatal, with husbands killing their wives. In 2020, the police investigated 444 cases of violence against women. In 834 rape cases, the rapist was only warned of the possible consequences, but did not bear any responsibility.
In more than 80% of cases, women were subjected to violence. In 244 cases, the abuser was the husband. In only 87 out of all cases of domestic violence registered this year, criminal cases have been initiated.
In addition to the femicides, there have also been registered cases of murders of children by parents and parents by children. Separate statistics are kept on this, which is not yet available, they will be published early next year.
From 2010 to the present day in Armenia, more than 80 women have been killed by their husbands or ex-partner. The Coalition Against Violence against Women in 2021 received 4,000 reports of cases of domestic violence. Last year there were more calls than at any other time in the past 11 years – almost 13,000. Experts believe that this was primarily caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions imposed.
“The application was created for women by women”
Safe YOU is the only “digital solution” in Armenia, which, according to the UN Secretary General’s Digital Cooperation Roadmap, is recognized as a Digital Public Good.
When determining projects worthy of such an assessment, a number of technical characteristics are taken into account, as well as the transparency of the system and the security of personal data. In this case, the social significance of the application and the fact that it was “created for women by women” was also taken into account.
This gives app creators many new opportunities for application development and international collaboration.
“We were able to come to an agreement with the App store and Google Play, so that they would allow the user to change the application icon in the mobile, if desired, in case, for example, the attacker get hold of their phone.
This also allows the woman to have two passwords, so when the attacker gets suspicious and makes them show their phone, the woman enters the password that makes SAFE YOU appear as another application, for example, as a folder for photos or a calendar”, explains Mariam Torosyan.
In addition, the authors of the project were invited to participate in the Google For Startups program, which can greatly help the further development of the application.
The interest towards the app is growing around the world. It has already been translated into Arabic and two dialects of Kurdish; work is underway to translate it into Russian and French.
“One of our new achievements is that, together with the offices of the United Nations Population Fund in Armenia and Iraq, we have also implemented the application in Iraq. This is a major advance for us, as the app will be available in Arabic as well. We are already in talks with the United Nations Population Fund office in Syria, and perhaps the next country to use the app will be Syria.
At the moment we are interested in introducing the application in Morocco, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, as well as in Denmark, the Netherlands and France. Negotiations are underway with several US universities that want to launch an app to ensure student safety”, says Mariam.
A few months ago, Forbes magazine published the story of a woman and her child who were saved by the app. Mariam hopes they won’t be the only ones to be rescued by Safe YOU.
According to the UN, every third woman in the world experiences violence at least once in her life.