Meet The Visually Impaired Engineer Who Designed A Bot To Help Women To Report Harassment
May 16th, 2017
Alarmed by the Nirbhaya rape, an app and website named SafeCity was launched in 2012 to make India safer for women.
Elsa D’Silva, Founder and CEO of SafeCity, said that women can use it to report “what happened, where it happened and when it happened”. She was inspired by HarassMap – a project that, among other things, uses online and mobile technology to work towards ending sexual harassment and assault in Egypt (more here).
Since then, SafeCity has encouraged women to come forward with their stories of harassment and share their experiences. In India, the share of reported rapes and acts of sexual violence is abysmally low compared to the actual incidences of occurrence. This is because of a conservative society that tends to blame the victim, lack of police sensitisation, lack of awareness etc. In such a situation, a venture like SafeCity, which gives women a platform to vent their frustration and warn their counterparts while choosing to remain anonymous, is highly welcoming.
Based on the reports, the site also generates a crowd map of sexual harassment incidences. The crowd submits reports of harassment incidents, and a map is generated based on the frequency of reports from the concerned areas and cities. This map can be used by the general public and by authorities for various purposes.
Recently, SafeCity added a new component to encourage more women to report harassment – a Messenger bot. The bot is one way of receiving complaints and adding more detail to the crowd map.
The Logical Indian spoke with Sagar Sodah, the Mumbai programmer who designed the bot. Sagar is 26 years old and his 10% vision has never deterred him from striving to contribute to society.
“Basically,” he said, “I’m a software engineer and I’ve been developing apps for the last three-and-a-half years. Over time, I realised that when I combine my programming skills with social impact causes, it creates something beautiful.”
It was Sagar who pitched the idea of a chatbot to help women report harassment cases. Elsa was very happy with it and green-lighted it immediately. “I figured the SafeCity model could be evolved to accommodate a bot. After all, everybody is on Facebook and Messenger these days. It took two months of hard work, but by February it was good to go.”
To use the bot to report a case, the user should search for the bot on Messenger. The bot’s name is Safecitybot and it can be found here.
Once you access the bot, it works like a usual chatbox. It asks you a few questions about your experience, or you can access the SafeCity crowd map for your location.
As for SafeCity itself, you can report a harassment case on the site by simply filling up the form on the website.
You can report a case of harassment to SafeCity by any of these means: