Global Youth Innovators Crack the Code on Gender Based Violence

New Delhi: 34-year-old Prachi Mittal of Team Nettwork beat 8,500 ideas to win UNFPA India’s ‘Hackathon: Crack the Code to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV)’. An automotive engineer by profession, he developed an inclusiveness assessment tool to assess access for marginalized communities, including people with disabilities. The tool has enormous potential to scale and can be adopted by various actors to map inclusive and accessible rights-based services, including GBV responsive services. Other winners were Team Stemlabs Nigeria, which developed a low-tech tool for reporting and managing NGO cases and linking survivors to appropriate services; and Aindriya Barua of Aari, who developed a bot to detect online hate speech.

Gender-based violence is everywhere, and in today’s digital age, it is also on online platforms. The negative impact of gender-based violence is more noticeable in times of crisis. This makes it even more difficult for people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ and minorities, among others.

Ending gender-based violence and all harmful practices against women and girls is a key mission of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA India, with India’s largest technology community, TechGig, launched the Hackathon: Crack the Code to Prevent and Address GBV in September this year. He invited various stakeholders to share their ideas and solutions. Participants presented ideas that have the potential to solve three main challenges:

Improving GBV prevention and response for people with disabilities;

Addressing Technology Facilitating Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) and;

Strengthening NGO services and support systems in humanitarian crises

This hackathon progressed in three phases: the first – submission of ideas, the second – submission of shortlists and prototypes and the third – final presentations with the announcement of the winners. More than 8,500 participants registered for the hackathon and about 250 ideas from 20 countries were presented. Following an assessment by UNFPA, together with their knowledge partners, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) India, the Center for Communication Governance at the National Law University, the Center for Inclusive Politics, the Center for Internet and Society, ADRA, Rising Flames, Sama Resource Group, Bedroc and On the Amazon Web Services (AWS) innovation, scalability, impact and diversity parameters, only seven teams made it to the final round.

The seven finalists – Nettwork, Stemlabs Nigeria, Aari, Social Animals, Aurovi, EVOL and Czeyon – presented their solutions and working prototypes to the jury in December 2022. The winners were announced at an online grand finale event hosted on the TechGig Facebook and YouTube pages. The hackathon generated buzz with the hashtag #EndGBVforAll across webinars, videos and articles, and social media platforms.

There were one winner and two runners-up in the event. The winner took home INR 1.5 Lakh as prize money, while the first and second runners-up received INR 1 Lakh and INR 50,000 respectively.

Speaking at the event, Andrea M Wojnar, UNFPA India Representative and Bhutan Country Director, said: “At UNFPA, we recognize that innovation is essential to deliver at scale and achieve the pace needed to achieve gender equality, equity and reproductive autonomy. Innovation and digitization are undoubtedly societal and it is one of the megatrends that creates explicit benefits for economies, and which should not be stopped or hindered, but rather should be taken advantage of to maximize the positive impact and minimize the harmful ones.

Congratulating the winners, Sanjay Goyal, Head of Business at TechGig said, “We are proud to host initiatives like the UNFPA hackathon, where solutions can directly impact society and help GBV survivors access resources and rights-based services. This is the use of technology -best case and aligning with social issues that align with TechGig’s ethos to make technology accessible to all. Congratulations to all winners!”

Prachi MIttal said: “I’ve been working as an engineer and researcher for over a decade, but this is the first time I’ve felt that my work will have an impact on society at large. I’m excited to build this on a larger scale, which wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunity provided by UNFPA.”

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