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— Chantal Mukeshimana

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Using Cell Phone Networks to Protect 815 Women from Domestic Violence

This team of 10 is working in the rural village of Mutara, where up to 50% of women are victims of domestic violence, including denial of property rights, sexual violence (marital rape) and physical abuse. Many more may experience this problem, but are afraid to talk about it. Women who are victims of domestic violence need someone to provide emotional support and to accompany her to report her problem to the local authorities.

The team will teach women about their rights and identify local representatives who will be given cell phones to report cases of domestic violence when they occur. When not in use for emergency purposes, the phones will act as village phone businesses to help support the project's operating expenses. The team will work closely with the police and local authorities to improve the legal protection of women who experience violence, and seek to change community norms that tacitly condone domestic violence by shifting stigma toward the men who abuse their wives. Project goals include:

  • An increase in the number of women who report acts of violence, from 50% to 55%, within the first 6 months
  • A reduction in the number of women facing domestic violence from 55% to 5% after 2 years
  • Within one year, the local authority response time will be reduced to one week

The team aims to see women safe in their community, to see women's rights respected and to shift the burden of stigma onto men who commit violence rather than on the women who are victims of domestic violence.

Since beginning their venture in 2008, the women of this team have grown to be highly trusted and valued by their community. They continue to educate women about their legal rights and their options when those rights are violated. They are also providing intensive, personal training to 34 couples living with violence, and are working to help change the underlying attitudes that allow it to be perpetuated. When intervention is necessary the Relax team acts as advocates for victims of violence in dealing with the police and the court system. Local leaders have praised the team's efforts, recognizing that they are often able to stop a situation before it escalates.

Project Details

RELAX: Using Cell Phone Networks to Protect 815 Women from Domestic Violence

Grant Amount: $3853
Team Size: 10 women
Social Impact: 815 people

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