Thirty-four-year-old Prachi Mittal from Team Nettwork beat 8,500 ideators to win the UNFPA India ‘Hackathon: Crack the Code to Prevent and Address Gender Based Violence (GBV)’. An automotive engineer by profession, she developed an inclusiveness rating tool for assessing access for marginalized communities, including persons with disabilities. The tool has immense potential to scale and can be adopted by a range of stakeholders to map inclusive and accessible right-based services, including services to respond to GBV. Other winners included Team Stemlabs Nigeria, who developed a low-tech tool for reporting and managing GBV cases and linking survivors to appropriate services ; and Aindriya Barua from Team Aari who developed a bot to detect hate speech online.
Gender-based violence is everywhere, and, in today’s digital age across online platforms as well. The negative impact of gender based violence is felt more during crises. This gets further compounded for persons living with disability, LGBTQIA+ and minorities among others.
Ending all forms of gender- based violence and harmful practices against women and girls is a core mission for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA India, in association with India’s biggest technology community, TechGig, launched the Hackathon: Crack the Code to Prevent and Address GBV in September this year. It invited diverse stakeholders to share their ideas and solutions. The participants submitted ideas that have potential to solve three key challenges:
- Improving GBV prevention and response for persons with disabilities;
- Addressing technology facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) and;
- Strengthening GBV services and support systems during humanitarian crises
This hackathon progressed in three stages: first - idea submissions, second - shortlisting and prototype submissions and third - final presentations with announcement of winners. More than 8,500 participants registered for the hackathon and around 250 ideas were submitted from 20 countries. Post evaluation by UNFPA along with their knowledge partners United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) India, Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University, Centre for Inclusive Policy, Centre for Internet and Society, ADRA, Rising Flames, Sama Resource Group, Bedroc and Amazon Web Services (AWS) on parameters of novelty, scalability, impact and diversity, only seven teams made it to the final round.
Seven finalists - Nettwork, Stemlabs Nigeria, Aari, Social Animals, Aurovi, EVOL and Czeyon - presented their solutions and working prototypes to the jury in December 2022. Winners were announced in an online grand finale event hosted at the TechGig Facebook and YouTube pages. The hackathon created a buzz with #EndGBVforAll hashtag across webinars, video and articles and social media platforms.
One winner and two runners-up were declared during the event. The winner took home INR 1.5 Lakh as the prize amount 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 Country Director Bhutan, said “We at UNFPA recognise that innovation is essential to deliver at scale and to achieve the pace needed to realize gender equality, equity and reproductive autonomy. Innovation and digitalization, is, without a doubt, one of the megatrends that generates explicit benefits for societies and economies, and one that should not be stopped or obstructed, but instead leveraged to maximize positive impact and minimize any adverse ones.”
Congratulating the winners, Sanjay Goyal, Business Head, TechGig said, “We take pride in hosting initiatives such as the UNFPA hackathon where the solutions have potential to directly impact the society and aid the GBV survivors in accessing resources and right-based services. This is the best use case of technology and its fusion with social issues that resonate with the ethos of TechGig to make technology accessible to all. Congratulations to all winners!”
Expressing her happiness at winning the top laurel the event, Prachi MIttal said, “I have been working as an engineer and researcher for more than a decade but this is the first time that I feel my work will make a difference to the society at large. I’m excited to build this at a bigger scale, which wouldn't have been possible without this opportunity given by UNFPA.”