Sexual harassment and domestic abuse: there’s an app for that

Getting catcalled, followed, harassed, or abused? The majority of women all around the world know exactly what that feels like. 

To combat such a phenomenon and its impact, three 16 year old girls from Albania have developed an application through which women can anonymously report cases of sexual and domestic violence, as well as obtain post-incident aid. 

Dea Rrozhani, Arla Hoxha, and Jonada Shukarasi came up with the idea while observing how male partners treated their female friends and relatives. Victim-blaming and the stigma attached to experiencing sexual harassment and physical assault also inspired the D3c0ders team to use their technology skills to curb a disturbing occurrence in Albanian society. 

The recent murder of Sarah Everard in early March has highlighted the endemic and ubiquitous nature of gender-based violence. However, sexual harassment and domestic abuse are cross-national issues. A study conducted by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reveals that almost nine in 10 adult women in Albania believe violence against women from strangers, acquaintances, and partners is fairly or very common. Moreover, only 1% of Albanian women aged 18-74 who are victims of sexual assault have reported the incident to the police in 2019. 

Albanian Women Protest in Street Against Sexual Violence | Balkan Insight
March against sexual violence towards women in Albania. Sign is an Albanian saying which roughly translates to “better have them take your eye than your reputation.”. Image: BIRN.

GjejZâ, which stands for “Find Your Voice” in Albanian, includes a 30-day programme which incorporates mental health advice and meditation exercises, resources for legal and psychological help, a job board through which users can find employment opportunities, and even an SOS menu that incorporates emergency contacts and relevant hotlines. 

The app initially appears to be a calculator, and to activate its features the user has to insert a special code and press the = button. Dea Rrozhani, one of the developers, says “many girls and women in the country are in intrusive relationships with no real, defined privacy boundaries. I think with a disguised approach we can encourage more women to report cases of sexual assault or abuse.” 

As sex-based violence is prevalent and often underreported in rural areas of the country, the D3c0ders team has launched GjejZâ Lite, a version of the original app that contains the key features and functions offline or in phones with minimal storage space. 

Albanian Teens Develop App For Domestic Violence Victims - AboveWhispers |  AboveWhispers
The GjejZâ app was developed by a group of Albanian teenagers. Image: AboveWhispers.

Dea, Arla and Jonada believe GjejZâ has been especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns forcing many women to cohabit with threatening and aggressive spouses. 

When asked about what they hope to achieve with the launch of GjejZâ, Arla Hoxha quotes “women deserve to be supported and they need to know they are not alone. We want to help them overcome violence, to change this centuries-old mindset that women should be subordinates in their relationships. Change is happening everywhere and we want to be a catalyst in this process.”

The initiative has received widespread support from the U.S embassy in Tirana, the U.S Department of State, and the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Albania. The app has also received international recognition at the Technovation Challenge competition in Silicon Valley, where it won first prize. 

GjejZâ is currently available in the UK on Play Store for all Android users.

By Alba Goskova

Featured image from Global Voices.