Hera Hussain is the founder of Chayn: an advocacy group that leverages technology to empower women against violence and oppression so they can live much better lives. One of the main themes of this group is to use the power of technology to help people most overlooked by society. Hussain says it is usually women, especially women of color that are affected. One of their projects included a hackathon to create solutions to end sexual violence in high conflict zones. Another was an online toolkit for domestic abuse survivors to build their own legal case.

A particular hackathon held more than a month ago called #PeaceHackBEY helped to resolve the issue of integrating women into the picture of solving societal challenges. In partnership with the global NGO International Alert, Chayn brought together a variety of technologists, activists, thinkers, and engaged citizens aiming to create solutions to some of the major social problems facing Lebanon today.  Before, there were two extremes in civil society: events that focus solely on women and the latter dominated by men. In events leading up to the Hackathon, anti-government protests swept the city over issues like public services and the lack of resources and support for the Syrian refugees that entered Lebanon to escape turmoil.

“Civic tech is a term that emerged because there was demand for citizens to create solutions when the response from government was slow and people wanted to make change on their own,” Hussain says. “This hackathon felt like it was the right thing because it was tackling issues that Lebanese society faces as a whole—access to services, resources, and information—but which tend to affect women most because they’re disenfranchised.”

Chayn is headquartered in London, but Hussain is originally from Pakistan and heads a team of volunteers from all over the world. Hussain hopes the organization acts as facilitators, active in working with stakeholders and finding sustainable solutions to build peace. “We believe in a ‘build with, not for’ approach—that’s all about working with people you’re building solutions for, rather than building it for them without including them as part of the design process,” she says.

Article via Good Magazine, September 22, 2015

Photo: Globe in Purple via Norm Hoekstra [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Ushahidi‘s name means “testimony”, which is fitting. The peacebuilding organization creates software that allows individuals to share their “testimonies” about events in order that other people may become better informed. These “testimonies” can be used to keep track of outbreaks of violence, as was the case after the election in Kenya in 2008. They can also be used to map where relief efforts are needed, such as after the earthquake in Nepal earlier this year. So far, Ushahidi has received over 6.5 million “testimonies” through their programs. In this way, Ushahidi is accomplishing their goal of “creating technology that solves global problems.”

Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing software is applicable to many industries, only one of which is peacebuilding. These industries include human rights, environmental activism, humanitarian aid, and development on the international level, among others. Their software contains multiple features, including collecting and managing the “testimonies”, or data, presenting the data in a visual format, and alerting users to changes in the data. The open source code software also allows users to create their own branding. In addition to creating the software, Ushahidi will also work with users to train them and provides technical support.

In addition to their crowdsourcing software, Ushahidi has several other products. For example, RollCall allows members of team to contact each other on any and make sure that each member is okay, which is particularly useful in crisis situations. CrisisNet, on the other hand, allows people who have collected data on crisis situations an easy way to format and analyze their data. This allows journalists, analysts, and others to get the information they need from the data more quickly. In turn, this allows them to spread information about the crisis in a more time-efficient manner. To learn more about Ushahidi, their crowdsourcing software, and their other products, visit their website.

Sources: QuakeMap Cast Study; Ushahidi

Photo: Peace via Steve Rotman [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]