Gender

FrontlineSMSat7: KOFAVIV Supporting Haitian Women

In the fourth of our seven blog posts celebrating the month that FrontlineSMS turns 7, Sean Martin McDonald, CEO of our social enterprise, reflects on howKOFAVIV, a women's organization in Port-Au-Prince, supports women affected by rape and domestic violence via SMS, in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake. 

KOFAVIV

KOFAVIV

"My favorite thing about working at FrontlineSMS is just how commonly we’re exposed to people doing inspirational things to make their communities stronger. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a community that has needed more strength than Port-Au-Prince in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.

Amidst crushed concrete and the desperation of the tent camps, there’s an organization called KOFAVIV that has built a haven amidst the chaos. KOFAVIV is a network of women and men who reach into the often dangerous, neglected neighborhoods of Port-Au-Prince to extend a helping hand to victims of sexual violence in the moments when they need it most.  KOFAVIV connects victims to healthcare, legal representation, and, most importantly, community, giving them a voice and a way forward.  KOFAVIV was started by victims of rape who are now changing what it means to be a victim.

"In Spring of 2011, the women of KOFAVIV allowed me to stay with them for a few days, observing their work and contributing a few ideas about how FrontlineSMS could be used to improve coordination.  The organization has used FrontlineSMS to organize gatherings, send urgent security alerts, and manage their network of agents.

"It’s easy to talk about communication; it’s hard and dangerous to see it done so well.  When I celebrate FrontlineSMS and think of the things that we’ve accomplished over the last 7 years, my proudest moments are when I get to see how we’ve contributed, in the tiniest way possible, to the incredible feats of human courage and compassion enacted every single day by the women of KOFAVIV and the organizations like them."

We’re collecting photos of our users telling the world how they use FrontlineSMS. If you want to get in on the act, take a photo of yourself or your team holding a piece of paper or a whiteboard telling the world what you do with FrontlineSMS. For example: ‘I monitor elections’, ‘I safeguard children’ or ‘I make art’. You can see a slideshow of the photos we’ve had so far on our Flickr page.

It doesn’t matter what language it’s in as long as it’s legible and if possible you should be able to see from the photo where it was taken, so, if you can, get out of the office!

You can: - post to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #FrontlineSMSat7 - email the picture and we’ll post them - post the picture on our Ning network and we’ll post them - post them on Flickr or any other web service and let us know where they are

New In-Depth Case Study: FrontlineSMS Used for Rapid Prototype of mHealth Service

One of the major strengths of FrontlineSMS is the wealth of knowledge and experience existent in our vibrant community of users. In order to enable our community to share lessons learned from deploying FrontlineSMS, we are in the process of building up a collection of in-depth user case studies. Acting as a guide for those who aim to use FrontlineSMS in their own programs, these case studies can be used by practitioners as well as be passed on to managers, donors and others seeking to learn more about using mobiles for social change.

The latest of these case studies is out today, and is based on Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) using FrontlineSMS to provide a rapid prototype of a new mHealth service. This service — called CycleTel™ — empowers women by providing them with accessible reproductive health information through SMS. You can find a guest blog post about this project here, and you can find out more and read the full case study here.

Each of the case studies is produced in partnership with an organization using our software to enable positive social change. The case studies provide analysis of the need for FrontlineSMS in different contexts, show the preparation required for using our software, demonstrate lessons learned by different users and the impact FrontlineSMS can have towards enabling positive social change.

The new case study we have made available today accompanies another case study released last year in partnership with Plan International, which is based upon their use of FrontlineSMS to track incidences of violence against children in Benin. Both case studies are available on our newly styled Case Studies webpage. Previously this webpage showed the wealth of guest blog posts we have from FrontlineSMS users, and these are still linked to directly from the same webpage. However, moving forward, this webpage will also be used to house the small but growing library of more in-depth FrontlineSMS case studies.

If you are using FrontlineSMS for your work and think your program would make a great case study, then please do feel free to get in touch. If you would like to share ideas and feedback on our newly released case study, please visit our community forum here to share your views. Your input is always welcome!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) and Plan International for working on these case studies with us. In addition, many thanks goes to Tim Howe for his ongoing website support, Jessica Lo for her graphic design work, and to FrontlineSMS Hero Megan Goldshine for her graphic design support, too!

Plan International Create SMS Helpline to Tackle Violence Against Children in Benin

This case study looks at how Plan International, a global organization dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world, integrated FrontlineSMS into their work in Benin. Plan International's use of FrontlineSMS for violence tracking was piloted in Benin, and this case study demonstrates the role FrontlineSMS software played, and lessons learned from the pilot. Click here to read the full case study.

This program has now expanded to include 'Zemidjan', or 'Zem', the motorcycle riders that are common in Benin. Zem are trained to report violence against children through SMS sent to Plan Benin's FrontlineSMS installation. This is then mapped using Ushahidi and passed on to government officials. You can read more about it in this blog post from our Foundation Board Member, Linda Raftree, and watch a video made by Plan Benin about the program! Don't forget to check out the case study, too.

Innovation in practice: Family planning via SMS

Florence Scialom, FrontlineSMS Community Support Coordinator, speaks with Esha Kalra, Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) Programme Associate

It is difficult to bring an innovative idea to life, without first proving its potential in practice; there is a need to demonstrate on a small scale that something actually works before it can make a big difference. FrontlineSMS can be used as a tool in this process - as a free and easy to use software it can be used to test a concept before an investment is made in any costly software development.

Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) is a global organisation dedicated to improving reproductive health worldwide, and they have been able to test the value of their latest m-health initiative using FrontlineSMS. This m-health service, called CycleTel™, empowers women by providing accessible reproductive health information via SMS. I recently spoke with Esha Kalra, India-based IRH Programme Associate, to find out more about CycleTel, and the value IRH gained through using FrontlineSMS.

As IRH explains, “CycleTel facilitates use of the Standard Days Method® (SDM), a fertility awareness-based method of family planning based on a woman’s menstrual cycle. Appropriate for women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long, SDM identifies days 8 through 19 as the fertile days. To prevent pregnancy, the couple avoids unprotected sex on these days.” By making this fertility information accessible via SMS, CycleTel empowers women to have more control over their reproductive health. “We found the process straight forward and easy to explain to women who participated in testing the service,” Esha told me, explaining her experience of managing one of CycleTel’s testing phases.

IRH used FrontlineSMS to support two phases of manual testing of the CycleTel concept, in Lucknow and New Delhi, both in India. For the first phase in Lucknow, 30 women were selected to participate in the trial, and in the second phase in New Delhi the number of participants rose to 90 women. Esha was responsible for managing a number of the study’s components, including operating FrontlineSMS during the second phase in New Delhi. Esha explained to me that she very quickly picked up the variety of FrontlineSMS functionalities which could serve the needs of the project. “I do not come from a technical background, but I found messages easy to organise and send, using the group and key word functionality. In addition, the data we collected was easy to manage because we were able to regularly export it from FrontlineSMS,” Esha explained.

A notable step taken by IRH to get staff accustomed with FrontlineSMS was to create a project manual ahead of using the software. This manual drew content in part from information in the FrontlineSMS help files, but it was tailored by IRH to suit CycleTel’s programme needs. Esha described the value of this, stating that, “it really helped to have everything documented before the start of project; the manual laid out how to use FrontlineSMS to meet our project requirements and made project management much easier.” It was this forward planning on the part of IRH, combined with ease of use of FrontlineSMS that led the project to its initial success.

There have been positive proof-of-concept results from this test phase – with the majority of test users saying that they would like to continue to use the service and would recommend it to a friend. The formative research using FrontlineSMS, and especially the feedback from test users, was absolutely essential to determine the potential scope of the CycleTel service. As a result of CycleTel’s formative research results, IRH decided to pursue customised software development to automate the service. For IRH, being able to test CycleTel using FrontlineSMS proved to be a critical step in the iterative process they are now taking from concept to scale.

IRH are currently working with us to produce a full case study on their use of FrontlineSMS, so keep an eye on our blog for further details on this coming soon!

Future proofing child protection in Benin

em>Regular readers of the FrontlineSMS blog may remember the FrontlineSMS case study we published last year, documenting Plan International's project on SMS Reporting and Tracking of Violence against Children (VAC) in Benin. In this re-post, from Linda Raftree's blog Wait... What, Paul Goodman talks about the tools he is using to support Plan Benin for more effective and sustainable programme management. There is more on the overall project and process via the links at the end of this post.

"Future proofing? Wishful thinking! There is of course no way to “future proof” an ICTD project. There are ways, however, to ensure that an ICT project has a fighting chance at sustainability. Here in Benin we’re revisiting the entire VAC Benin workflow in an effort to document the non-technical aspects of the project so that each person that touches this system fully understands the way that information moves through it. In addition to supporting training, this small but critical step will help drive consensus around how the project should and can work well into the future.

A succinct overview of this project:

The beginning of any development initiative is often marked by energetic optimism. At the onset, when a project enjoys the attention and enthusiasm of its creators and supporters, it is easy to forget that over time this attention will wane, priorities will shift, and critical personnel will undoubtedly take on new responsibilities or even different jobs. Purposeful problem definition and documentation can minimize the impact of these eventualities and only with a thorough understanding of the problem is it possible to discuss appropriate technology-enabled responses. And yes, in the real world, the problem often shifts over time as the situation changes or new information comes to light. But with a well-defined problem you have clarity around your intent and can face new challenges head-on.

Once defined, the problem and corresponding solution must be documented so that others may benefit from the insight gained during this process and apply that insight systematically. This seems elementary, of course, but in years of ICTD work I’ve found that the documentation of both technical systems and non-technical processes is often neglected in the rush to deploy or as a result of over-reliance on a few knowledgable individuals. Furthermore, in international development, documentation sometimes plays second fiddle to the production of reports and case studies.

Now I’ll happily get off my soap box and get back to business in Benin.

After sketching out the various aspects of the information flow with my colleague Elsie, I documented the workflow in a way that can be used to inform, train, and guide others as they interact with this project. I’m working on reference materials of different shapes and sizes including a number of graphics. Several of the graphics appear below; these are drafts and will be revised with Elsie, translated, distributed to the team, and revised again. These graphics represent the way we would like the system to work and are intended to be living documents."

In this graphic I included all the critical actors and their key responsibilities:

In this flow chart, I illustrated the way that messages should be processed:

In this graphic, I illustrated the way that reports should be created:

Finally, this flow chart will support report approval and verification:

Many thanks to Paul Goodman for allowing us to share his post here. Thanks also to Plan's Linda Raftree, whose personal blog 'Wait... What' is where the below was first published.

To read more posts by Paul Goodman you can visit his blog: www.pdgoodman.com

To read more from Linda Raftree visit her blog: http://lindaraftree.wordpress.com

Related posts from Linda Raftree's blog:

Update from Benin: charting a course forward (also by Paul)

Revisiting the SMS violence reporting project in Benin

Tracking violence against children in Benin video

Community-based child protection

Tweaking: SMS violence reporting system in Benin

Finding some ICT answers in Benin

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs

Fostering a New Political Consciousness on Violence against Children

Related links:

Text messages to help protect children against violence

Plan International case study: Helping children report abuse in Benin

Safe Motherhood: Mobile healthcare in the Philippines

This post is the latest in the FrontlineSMS Mobile Message series with National Geographic. To read a summary of the Mobile Message series click here.

In this installment of our special “Mobile Message” series, Irma F. Saligumba – Health Research and Projects Coordinator at Molave Development Foundation – talks about a project in the Philippines which aims to reduce mother and infant mortality rates, and provide education and support to expectant mothers, all through their mobile phones.

“Ma’am, I already gave birth. Thank you for the messages you sent”. This was the SMS message I received from Meriam. She is one of the 100 pregnant women who registered in November 2010 for the pilot implementation of the Mobile e-health System for Safe Motherhood Program, run by Molave Development Foundation Inc.

This program aims to support the Philippine Government in reaching towards the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals to reduce maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015.

As the Health Research and Projects Coordinator of Molave Development Foundation, Inc., I spearheaded a study on the effectiveness of using mobile phones to reach out to pregnant women to improve their maternal health.

We chose the town of Roxas, located on Mindoro Island about 400 kilometers south of Manila, for the research. Its population is about 50,000 spread across 20 villages; its Health Center has 2 physicians, 1 nurse and 8 midwives. To supplement the lack of health staff, there are 140 village health volunteers (VHV) who are trained to do most of the legwork for the midwives, and disseminate information on primary health care, maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition.

I was introduced to Meriam during a visit to her upland village. Like most of the mothers in our program, Meriam is in her mid-20′s, has some years of high school education, is unemployed, and her husband doesn’t have a regular job. Subsistence farming provides additional income, and their average monthly salary is about $150. The only means of telecommunication in their area is through mobile phones. She shares one with her husband.

In the Philippines, where nearly 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, the equity gap is stark and wide. However, the ownership of a mobile phone is one of the few things that has crossed the income divide, making telecommunication relatively affordable and more accessible in this country of 7,100 islands. There are 70 million Filipinos who have mobile phones, compared to only 7 million installed fixed phone lines.

This is the basis for developing a program that uses text messaging to inform and educate pregnant mothers on safe motherhood. Aside from its mass appeal, mobile phones provide the advantage of two-way communication. Mothers are not just passive participants receiving information, but can also ask questions or communicate their concerns if they need to.

We are using FrontlineSMS as our communications platform because it is easy to use for health workers’ with low technical know-how, it works without an Internet connection and provides a way to send SMS through pre-paid SIM cards, thus making it a low cost option. It is also vitally important that the software allows for data storage, and we have created a database of the mothers and the health workers on our on-site computer.

Prior to implementing our pilot project, we conducted various training sessions for the Health Center staff. First we provided a Basic PC Literacy Course which covered use of mouse and keyboard, familiarization with computer symbols and commands, basic computing using word processing and spreadsheets, and how to use the Internet. When they gained sufficient confidence, we then moved on to training basic FrontlineSMS skills (for the PC and mobile phone) to show staff how to use key functionality. Five health personnel were also trained on advanced FrontlineSMS, including administration, management and troubleshooting.

Meanwhile, village health volunteers were trained on how to use the mobile phone for data entry of pre- and post-natal registration, in order to register pregnant women and new mothers in the program.

With the system in place, we started sending out the messages to participants who had already registered during pre-natal checkups at the Health Center. We also worked to reach out to new pregnant women. Posters and brochures were distributed giving instructions on how to register, by sending in an SMS.

Every day for three months, these women received messages on introduction to safe pregnancy and delivery, baby’s phases of development, tips on preparing for labor, common pregnancy problems, benefits of facility-based childbirth, breastfeeding, neonatal care, and child immunization. Through this program we sent a total number of 11,100 text messages or 111 for each of the 100 women registered.

As we hoped, we received messages back from the mothers. Some expressed appreciation for the messages. Others raised serious questions regarding their pregnancy. An expectant mother named Jane inquired if using the computer is bad for the baby. Jocelyn asked what she should be feeling if the baby is due for birth. At 7-months pregnant, Rebecca wanted to know if it is normal to have swollen and painful vagina.

These questions were forwarded to their respective midwives for advice because they were better aware of their patients’ pregnancy status. The midwife’s response was sent by the system to the mother. In the case of Rebecca, she was advised to go to the hospital for evaluation. She even went as far as Manila to have better care, and she ended up staying there until she gave birth because her condition was too serious for traveling.

We are now looking into expanding the Safe Motherhood Program in other parts of the country. Our initial assessment shows that the program has influenced the parent’s decision to use a health facility instead of their home for childbirth. The system also facilitated the prompt recording of new pregnant women and post-natal reporting. This data helps midwives prepare and plan for the pre- and post-natal care activities in the village. This more efficient and interactive information management system can ultimately contribute to improved maternal care, and thus decreased mortality levels.

Mothers involved say they will recommend the Safe Motherhood Program to others. They feel assured that someone is concerned about their welfare and that there is someone they can go to if they have questions. This gives them a feeling that they are important because someone cares, and that feeling of being important strengthens their desire to take care of not only their health, but also their babies.

Irma F. Saligumba has been the Health Research and Projects Coordinator of Molave Development Foundation, Inc. since 2007, and is Lead Researcher of Pan-Asian Collaboration for evidence-based e-Health Adoption and Application (PANACeA) Network with member countries in Central, South and Southeast Asia.

Prior to her involvement at MDFI, she spent 4 years in Attapeu, Laos as provincial health trainer of Health Unlimited. She also served as Training Specialist for 4 years at Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement focusing on leadership-building, gender and development, and advocacy. She is a registered nurse and earned her masters in Public Health at the University of the Philippines.

Mobile phones give harassment victims a voice in Egypt

An interview with Rebecca Chiao, co-founder of HarassMapBy Florence Scialom, FrontlineSMS Community Support Coordinator

Harassment is disempowering. Victims of harassment often feel they have had their voice taken away from them. One of the main aims of HarassMap - a recently founded organisation which uses FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to map harassment on the streets of Egypt - is to provide victims with a way to be heard. “Sometimes you can shout and scream at someone for harassing you in the street, and it just makes their behaviour worse,” Rebecca Chiao, founder of HarassMap, tells me. I recently met with Rebecca at FrontlineSMS’s London office, where we discussed the formation of HarassMap and the involvement of FrontlineSMS in their work.

Having lived in Egypt for 7 years, working specifically on issues of gender discrimination, Rebecca is able to speak from experience about the frequency of harassment in Egypt, and attitudes towards it. “There is a social acceptability surrounding harassment on the streets; people will often stand by and let it happen” she says. Feeling the need to challenge this kind of tolerance for intimidation on the streets of Egypt motivated Rebecca and a like-minded group of 3 Egyptian friends to start HarassMap, with the help and support of tech partner, NiJeL.

Since launching in late 2010, HarassMap have used FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to map the trouble spots on Egypt’s streets. Victims of harassment can send an SMS, showing their location, which is captured in FrontlineSMS and fed in to an online map via Ushahidi. HarassMap then organises groups of volunteers to go to the areas in which the most incidences have been reported and raise awareness about the problem on the streets. Volunteers hand out flyers with HarassMap’s SMS number, so people know they can contact someone if they feel threatened. In addition, HarassMap volunteers have one to one conversations with people in the neighbourhood, and run community based events, with the purpose of openly discussing the issue of intimidating behaviour in the area. The HarassMap team thus directly question the acceptance of harassment, and encourage neighborhoods to take more responsibility for activity on their own streets.

Click here to listen to a short audio interview with Rebecca

Why mobile?

The group behind HarassMap identified the need for people in Egypt to have a way to not just speak up, but feel heard when they get victimised on the streets. A mobile phone provides a very personal, accessible form of communication. “Everyone in Egypt has access to a mobile,” Rebecca explains, “even in poorer areas of the country most people have access to a mobile phone via street kiosks and by sharing phones.” Furthermore, Rebecca does not accept that most women do not have access to a handset, stating that “yes, some statistics show most mobile contracts are registered in a man’s name. However, that is often just for convenience because men are more likely to have paperwork needed to get a mobile contract; my phone for example, is registered in the name of a male friend” she tells me.

The fact is using text messaging as a form of communication makes reporting an incident to HarassMap an instantaneous option for a wide audience. Having the immediacy of being able to report an incident helps prevent a feeling of powerlessness. “The law can often seem a distant and inaccessible form of support when you get harassed; having a reporting system in place provides people with the agency to respond to the way they’ve been treated” Rebecca explains. In addition to mapping and recording reports the HarassMap team send back an automated SMS response through FrontlineSMS, with information on accessing support; ranging from accessible free legal advice to psychological help services.

What effect have recent political events had on HarassMap?

The political situation in the region of the Middle East and North Africa remains extremely tense, and the recent revolution in Egypt inevitably had an effect on HarassMap’s work. “At first, with the internet, phone lines, and power down, the revolution was a massive hindrance to our operations” Rebecca explains. “But the enthusiasm the revolution produced motivated more people to engage in taking care and ownership over their streets, and treating each other with respect, so once Egypt was back online interest in HarassMap surged.”

Women played a prominent role in the political events, and there was reportedly a sense of openness and respect on Egypt’s streets during the celebrations around the departure of Hosni Mubarak. Yet the streets of Egypt got in to the press for all the wrong reasons when American CBS journalist Lara Logan got assaulted in Cairo. In some ways this incident could be seen to underline the need for a service such as HarassMap all the more. “What happened to Lara Logan really did feel like the first slap in the face of a new Egypt; the people who contacted us were really shocked and saddened by the fact that this could happen,” Rebecca states, “and it has certainly motivated more people to become involved in helping HarassMap strengthen our service.” Extreme incidences of assault on Egypt’s street, such as what happened to Lara Logan, are relatively rare compared to verbal harassment and are thus a shocking occurrence; it is services such as HarassMap which can help to keep it that way.

What’s does the future hold for HarassMap?

It isn’t just Egypt that is in need of a service such as HarassMap; Rebecca and the team have received requests for the service to be replicated in over 15 countries, including Lebanon, Yemen, Pakistan, South Africa and many more. At present HarassMap is fully run by dedicated volunteers, so the next step is to fundraise in order to then get a full time member of staff in post to manage the massive demand they are receiving for their service.

HarassMap is using technology to both challenge the idea that harassment is acceptable, and to provide information on for victims of harassment to reach the services they need. Tools such as FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi are enabling the HarassMap team to tackle both casual attitudes towards the acceptability of harassment, and the detrimental impact harassment has on victims. This is an example using appropriate technology in a way that strengthens other local structures and civil society organisations. In this way HarassMap really is an amazing organisation, which has potential to be replicated in many other contexts.

Mapping Harassment on the Streets of Cairo

With many thanks to Tactical Technology Collective for letting us re-post this blog from their site. One of the major challenges with sexual harassment and tracking is the difficulty of collecting accurate data. A lack of reporting can provide limited numbers and make the problem seem smaller than it is. A group in Egypt called Harassmap is creating a movement using a mashup, Ushahidi, to provide a place for women and other victims of sexual harassment to report instances of harassment on the streets of Cairo. Using a number of methods to gather the information, people can submit reports via SMS [using FrontlineSMS], email and a web form.

Harassmap says: “This tool will give women a way to anonymously report incidences of sexual harassment as soon as they happen, using a simple text message from their mobile phone. By mapping these reports online, the entire system will act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool, highlighting the severity and pervasiveness of the problem. The project will utilise FrontlineSMS and the Ushahidi Engine.”

This project combines several digital tools into a mashup in order to an advocate against harassment on the streets of Cairo. Cairo is notorious for the amount of sexual harassment that occurs.

The Harassmap team recently held a volunteer community outreach day, where volunteers came together to learn about harassment issues, how to respond to harassment, and what steps to take. In addition, Harassmap has provided a space to discuss these issues and how to respond to them.

In an interview co-founder Rebecca Chiao said that managing the project on a volunteer basis is a very difficult task. Rebecca says, “we don't have any money, so we have to be creative. We love working on a volunteer basis, but it also means we all have other commitments like jobs and families, so it takes a lot of effort from us all to coordinate our little bits of free time to work together and make things happen.”

“I'm actually surprisingly happy with the outcome so far,” Rebecca said. “I think I would have changed the amount of time I spent on trying to figure out how to legally register HarassMap in the beginning. It took maybe 3 or 4 months and the requirements were prohibitive. So we ended up deciding to run with volunteers and not have any funding.”

Recently, they released data from the website where they analyse some of the information they’ve collected and some interesting trends appeared. Victims are not limited to Egyptian females, but included males, foreign women, and children. Harassment locations varied from the neighbourhoods of Cairo, to private cars while driving and including educational institutions such as schools and universities. Reports were collected from these neighbourhoods, in order of submissions: Downtown, Dokki, Al-mohandseen, Nasr City, Zamalek, Giza and Maadi.

For the Harassmap team, it isn’t just about mapping harassment on the streets of Cairo, but also about engaging the community. In addition to the volunteer day, they have hosted a workshop where young people were invited to come share stories of harassment and violence. The workshop discussed the relationship of gender and storytelling. They have also hosted outreach days where volunteers descend on the streets and encourage people submit reports.

And Harassmap isn’t stopping to celebrate their initial successes. They have weathered the Egyptian Revolution in style, and are capitalising on the positive energy in the streets. “I'm excited about the discussions we're planning now with the public to decide how we can carry Harassmap forward after the revolution,” Rebecca said. “There's an exciting spirit now and people have seen what it's like to not have harassment as a problem. So we're excited to see how we can build on that.”

In addition to growing in Egypt, their future plans see Harassmap going worldwide. Rebecca says, “We're also going to globalize this year, to about 10 countries hopefully! Wish us luck!”

TOOLS USED: Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, Facebook and Twitter

REACH: International. The story was picked up by bloggers and websites before being picked up by the international press.

COST: Most of the work was done pro-bono by tech partners, NiJel.

TIME: 100’s of hours

RESOURCES: We have 4 founding partners and our tech team - we're all volunteers. We also have about 100 other volunteers doing various things together.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: 4 out of 5. Using Ushahidi as a platform and building around it a community can be very difficult. Utilising Facebook and Twitter to build support around the initiative are basic tools, but require time and effort.

Pictures courtesy of the Harassmap website.

For more information on the Tactical Technology Collective, who originally posted this piece on their blog, visit their website: http://www.informationactivism.org

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood: Mum's Tattoo Parlour at Glastonbury Festival

Our twenty-sixth guest post comes from the lovely James at the White Ribbon Alliance, who piloted FrontlineSMS in campaigning in a particularly innovative and fun bit of awareness-raising - offering free transfer tattoos at Glastonbury Festival... The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood is a coalition of individuals and organisations that campaign to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for all women and newborns. With members in 148 countries, I had thought for a while that FrontlineSMS could be a very useful tool for many of our members, so was keen to "road-test" the software when the opportunity presented itself.

Glastonbury Festival seemed like a great opportunity to do so. For the second year running, we were running a campaign to raise awareness of Maternal Health - by offering people the ultimate way to show how much they love their mum - by coming to our "tattoo parlour" and having a classic "mum" heart tattoo.

In the first year, we were taken aback by the amazing response and the vast number of people that got a tattoo and signed up to be part of our movement. However, this left us with thousands of people's handwritten contact details to type up onto the computer for our mailing lists, which made it really difficult for us to get back to them quickly and simply.

So, this year, I downloaded FrontlineSMS, bought an old electric pink Sony Ericsson phone and USB cable from the Queensway Computer Market (for any London dwellers, this is a veritable Aladdin's cave of old phones, computers and parts), and a SIM card, so that people could text us their email addresses instead.

I had a couple of hiccups setting up FrontlineSMS with the phone - firstly, drivers weren't available for, or didn't work with, Windows 7 - which meant that computer that I'd been putting off upgrading from Windows XP was suddenly my least favourite machine in the office no more - and then the first set of drivers that I downloaded for the phone didn't allow FrontlineSMS to see the handset.

However, a quick search for the phone's model number on FrontlineSMS's forums turned up a link for alternative drivers, which linked the phone up and meant it could send and receive texts perfectly.

Not wanting to risk taking a laptop to the muddy fields of Somerset, I anxiously left the computer in the office running FrontlineSMS with my fingers crossed that it wouldn't crash and that no-one turned it off whilst I was at the festival.

Happily though, when I returned, everything was still running - and a couple of minutes later, I had exported all the email addresses into a nice .csv file ready to be imported into our mailing list server! Unfortunately, we still had thousands of handwritten signups to transcribe. Whilst I don't think we'll ever eliminate this, FrontlineSMS seems like a really effective way to reduce the use of paper, offer easier ways for people to ask for more information about our campaigns, and for us to get back in contact with them.

Perhaps more importantly, it proved itself a reliable tool that I think has the potential to be really useful to our members around the world - and we look forward to introducing them to it and hearing their thoughts and ideas of how they might use it for their own work in support of Maternal Health.

Jaalaka: Connecting the HIV/AIDS Community through Technology

In the twenty-fourth in our series of guest blog posts, we'll hear about how FrontlineSMS is helping Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, and a team of students from the University of Southern California, to build a network of people living with HIV/AIDS in India.

“Jaalaka” means “network” in Sanskrit. In Hubli-Dharwad, FrontlineSMS technology is being used to connect members of the HIV/AIDS population in a widespread rural network to improve service delivery and social support.

Hubli-Dharwad, a peri-urban district in Karnataka, India, has experienced a significant HIV/AIDS endemic. Most of the infections occur amongst the rural female sex-worker population. There is a significant lack of knowledge about STI prevention and treatment amongst these sex workers, which has contributed to the growth in the rate of infections. The Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), a government organization that funds and administers public health programs in Hubli-Dharwad, spearheads several programs to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs. In order to target the high risk population of female sex workers, KHPT formed a partnership with the Bhoruka Charitable Trust (BCT), a local NGO aimed at promoting health and livelihoods among female sex workers. Since the Hubli-Dharwad region includes over 372 rural villages, BCT employs both professional Outreach Workers as well as volunteer Peer Educators (whom are also female sex workers) to travel to distant villages to educate female sex workers about the risk of HIV/AIDS and to promote safer sex practices.

In summer of 2009, a group of University of Southern California (USC) students, along with financial and logistical support from the Deshpande Foundation, helped launch a pilot program with FrontlineSMS software to improve BCT’s data collection and service delivery. Currently, BCT employs two uses of the Frontline Forms program. Peer Educators make contact with rural female sex workers in the field and complete a Referral Slips via Frontline Forms and the information is immediately sent to the BCT headquarters. The Outreach Workers in the field also completes Daily Reports through Frontline Forms and sends it to the headquarters. By using FrontlineSMS technology as opposed to paper forms, BCT is able to expedite the exchange of information with its staff members in various remote rural areas throughout the district.

As of today, BCT has implemented the program with 37 Peer Educators and 10 Outreach Workers. Both BCT and KHPT have been extremely pleased with the results and are eager to expand the program. Currently, a new team of USC students will be working during the summer of 2010 to troubleshoot technical issues and develop new uses of FrontlineSMS for BCT and other HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations in Hubli-Dharwad.

For more information, check out the USC team's page about the project.

SMS joins battle against human trafficking

January 2010 is National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In this, the nineteenth in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts, Aashika Damodar – Founder of Survivors Connect – gives some background and context on the challenges of fighting human trafficking, and talks about the impact FrontlineSMS has had on their anti-trafficking efforts"The telephone is used to connect between the commune, district, or the province and throughout the country. When we didn’t have the telephone, it was very difficult to communicate. I had to send men by boats or bicycles. It would take at least one to five days" Mr. Khao Phorn, 62, Commune Chief

"There is no electricity in this commune. People use oil lamps, batteries, and dynamos. I recharge my telephone at my mother’s house with a fueled dynamo. Using the telephone is very important to communicate with family or relatives, and is quite cheap. Without the telephone, if we want to visit them, we would spend 40,000-50,000 for transportation each time" Mrs. Phally, 30

"The Telephone is very important for our society. If there was no telephone, everything would be slow" Mr. Seng Sareth, 53

"These are just some of the thoughts of people throughout SE Asia on the introduction of mobile phones in their daily life. With mobile phone usage on the rise, our team at Survivors Connect has been brainstorming: "How can such a small but powerful globalized tool of communication be used to address human rights concerns?". We found it thanks to FrontlineSMS.

RaFH was established in 1993 as a non-profit organization, focusing on the fields of social health science, gender equality, women’s and child rights, reproductive health and family planning and the Northern and Southern most provinces of Vietnam, especially in rural, mountainous and remote areas where ethnic minorities and disadvantaged groups reside. Their mission is to contribute to national poverty reduction programs, deliver primary healthcare in target areas and improve human rights conditions.

Most recently RaFH, along with many non-profits in the region, have seen an increase in the trafficking of young women and children up to China for the purpose of domestic servitude, forced marriage and often times commercial sex and other forms of labor. This has been particularly problematic in the North where the Vietnamese-Chinese border is porous for locals, resulting in regular migration upward.

When the international community on anti-trafficking, as well as several NGOs like RaFH first took notice of this phenomenon, groups flooded into the region to start raising awareness in "vulnerable communities" along the border. Often this entailed skits, presentations, and material handouts that discuss what human trafficking looks like, who is a trafficker, what are popular job scams a trafficker may tell you and how to stop it. Many NGOs were satisfied with this work and were able to tabulate that they reached several hundreds of villagers.

However, this did not reduce incidents of people going missing, or trafficking. What we learned over time was that many of the activities of these NGOs were anti-migratory in nature and in their messaging. Without working with communities and building better education infrastructure, access to proper health care, and skills training, rarely would we be able to stop an individual from leaving their community or village for another job opportunity. Our question then became, how could we make migration safer and stop human trafficking from happening to others? This involves understanding the broader system of human trafficking, and an understanding of everything that happens between points of origin to points of destination.

This brought us to Lao Cai, a border province with Guangxi, China, with two international border gates and several paths by which local people travel regularly, and even daily for work. It is a busy commercial center, also popular for tourism. Lao Cai has 25 ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, Thai, Dao, Tai, Muong to name a few, accounting for 75% of the whole population there. These ethnic minorities have little access to education and major resources. With its geographical features, such as high mountains and remote and widely spaced communities, trafficking in women and children has been increasing. Lao Cai also borders with Ha Khau district in China where there are several brothels receiving victims of trafficking from Vietnam. Up to 2008, it is estimated that 341 women were trafficked up to China for commercial sex, and many more for marriage.

Earlier last year, RaFH held several training courses for 136 representatives of local authorities in the region such as police, health workers, women’s unions, from provincial and grassroots level, owners of hotels, restaurants and more. They were brought together to create what is popularly called (in anti-trafficking circles) "community intervention teams" (CITs), equivalent to US-based human trafficking task forces. They were taught all about human trafficking, major issues unique to Lao Cai and how each of them could respond from their vantage point if a case were to arise. From there, 8 CITs formed, each including about 7 members from the police, justice, health centers, women’s unions and others. Their main tasks are to identify trafficking cases and intervene, rescue and support victims. They also disseminate information in the community to raise awareness about the issue and teach others how to protect themselves from trafficking.

RaFH has created a formal center at the Provincial Lao Cai Womens Union, equipped with computers, books, as well as trained staff to counsel and support victims of trafficking. These types of centers can be found all around the world and prove to be most effective when they use the energy, talent and skills of all types of members in the community, from teachers to social service workers. It is in this space that Survivors Connect found an opportunity to support their CIT through the use of FrontlineSMS.

Why are we calling it Helpline SMS Networks? We’re using FrontlineSMS to coordinate CITs better and equip them with an easy and cost effective tool to respond to the needs of victims and survivors faster than they currently do. Their primary goal is to help victims, survivors and support the healthy functioning of a referral system/alert-response network. To have a well-concerted and coherent strategy to deal with human trafficking, which is mired in complexity, it is essential that all relevant agencies (both state and non-state) act as partners in effort, and are able to use their capacity to respond appropriately to all situations, like gears in proper alignment.

The referral system we’re building (with FrontlineSMS as the core platform) is essentially a network of agencies and individuals that provide support and services for a victim or survivor in a trafficking or unsafe migration situation. By using FrontlineSMS, they go beyond being a normal network - they are becoming a fast and efficient system for communication and information sharing.

So, how does the Helpline SMS Network work?

RaFH Counseling centers operate FrontlineSMS from their in-office laptop. All CIT members are equipped with a mobile phone that is strictly used for the Helpline SMS Network. From their computer, they have contacts organized based on location in Lao Cai, whether they are members of the CIT, or constituents/villages they have done awareness presentations to, health care workers, police, border patrol etc. They regularly send messages to their constituents about human trafficking, alerts on latest activity and cases. Villagers can text back, ask questions, be a part of the dialogue, and report to the CIT if there is an incident of violence, a sudden disappearance of a child, arrival of outsiders into a village, or simply if someone is planning to leave Vietnam.

This information is kept on the CIT’s radar and regular checks are made to see if he/she has made to their destination, or if there may be trafficking involved. If any of the members of the CIT find something in the field, they report their findings back to RaFH. They also use FrontlineSMS to stay in touch with their clients receiving services at the Counseling Center, in order to monitor the progress of every survivor and to ensure their safety in the rehabilitation process. It is these very survivors that also inform the messages, tactics and strategies used by the CITs because they know first hand what trafficking is and what the experience is like.

Below is a summary of the networks core functions:

Helpline SMS: "Ending Slavery one SMS at a Time"

Victim Identification: This aspect of RaFH’s work focuses on victim identification through a combination of community education and awareness-raising activities as well as implementing direct outreach strategies. RaFH collects the mobile numbers of people in their target areas so that they are first point of contact for a potential victim or for an individual wanting to migrate.

Distribute Information: The Helpline SMS network regularly sends mass texts to their target communities about latest trafficking cases, popular scams, offers a trafficker may make, and information about events and resources in their area.

Victim Services & Protection: Once victims are identified and out of his/her situation, they immediately present a wide variety of service needs. An adequate response to these needs requires a comprehensive service program including the power and skills of law enforcement, social service providers, health care workers and human rights advocates. These very people make up the CIT/SMS Network. When an individual or client is in some emergency situation or needs assistance either going to the hospital, police, or even a courtroom, he/she can contact the SMS Network or CIT to get that support.

Referrals: Lets the CIT/network know that a client is on his/her way for help and communicates the nature of the problem. Referrals can be for medical care, a legal advocate, police or anyone with the relevant skill set in the network.

Status Update: Allows CITs to stay in touch with individual clients/survivors and support them through the rehabilitation process.

Support Groups: The network connects survivors and clients receiving care at the counseling center with others and provides information on location for meetings and resources.

Campaigns: RaFH soon plans to use FrontlineSMS to run formal campaigns and surveys to determine how effective their services/quality of care is.

We have learned a lot about both human trafficking and the power of community-based approaches in combating modern-day slavery. By establishing a set of links between existing available resources and services, the system is regularly highlighting new gaps in services and allowing the network to improve. Overtime, its built-in "self improvement" character will help us understand why unsafe migration and trafficking occurs.

Thanks to the power of FrontlineSMS, we can build more effective human rights networks that cost little, deliver results, and combat trafficking better than we have ever seen. This software provides timely access to services, channels of information to those that need it, migrants, potential victims as well as agencies trying to serve them. We hope to replicate this model in other countries where rural trafficking is a great problem and hopefully make a serious stab at slavery in our lifetime".

Aashika Damodar Founder Survivors Connect www.survivorsconnect.org Follow us on Twitter: @sconnect

Update: Domestic violence - An SMS SOS

This update is the twelfth in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts. Here, Anthony Papillion - Founder of OpenEMR HQ - shares the latest news on its use in his Oklahoma home town, where the software is helping provide relief to women suffering domestic violence Anthony Papillion"In late May of this year, I assisted a local crisis center in deploying a solution we've now dubbed "FamilyFIRST". FamilyFIRST is an SMS based system that allows victims of domestic violence to reach out to police, crisis counselors, and to document abuse incidents all via simple SMS messaging.

When the project first began, neither I nor the agency involved were sure how it would be received or if it would even be used. Educating victims to think pro-actively in crisis situation is a difficult thing. Their first reaction is to simply hide or get out of the situation if possible. This often means running without a purse or mobile phone.

So the agency decided to tackle the deployment in two phases: Technical and marketing. Technical, thanks to FrontlineSMS, was incredibly easy. By integrating the software along with a bit of custom software written by me, I was able to get a working system up and running bug free in less than a week. It includes message routing and archival, and is structured in such a way that the evidence stored inside of it has been deemed acceptable by the court.

Then, came the marketing side. Obviously, the agency didn't have a lot of money so doing a huge PR blitz was out of the question. So they went about spreading word about the system in local PSA's, victims groups, in seminars, and through area counselors working with the abused population. Because this was all very grassroots, they were able to accomplish this with a near zero budget and we were all totally shocked by the response it received.

Domestic violence (http://www.helenjaques.co.uk)

In the last two and a half months, FamilyFiRST has processed over 4,000 messages from victims of violence, not only in our local area, but around the state of Oklahoma. Evidence stored in the system has been used to help successfully prosecute 9 offenders and has resulted in combined sentences of over 110 years being handed down in those cases.

All in all, the system is a success and it couldn't have happened without FrontlineSMS. Even though I'm a software engineer by trade, I wouldn't have had the time or knowledge to build such a robust system from scratch and FrontlineSMS reduced 'building the system' to writing a few pieces of tie-in software and setting up a database.

Our future goal for the system is to work with other agencies in deploying in in health care (our core competency), domestic violence, and education. Thanks to this experience with FrontlineSMS, I'm confident that a robust system can be built quickly, easily, and very affordably (under $700 USD).

Thank you Ken and all the developers of FrontlineSMS. You're helping to change the world, one download at a time".

Anthony Papillion Founder OpenEMR HQ www.openemrhq.com

(This post is also available on the FrontlineSMS community pages. Anthony's original FrontlineSMS guest post, which describes the thinking behind the project, is available here. Congratulations to everyone at "FamilyFIRST" for such a great, inspiring and hugely valuable initiative)

Tackling domestic violence: An SMS SOS

This is the seventh in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts. Here, Anthony Papillion - Founder of OpenEMR HQ - discusses his initial thoughts on being introduced to the software, and outlines his plans for its use in his Oklahoma home town to help women suffering domestic violence

"I only recently became involved with the FrontlineSMS project as an addition to a national project my company, OpenEMR HQ, is doing with a small African country. But, since discovering the software, I've been busily thinking of good ways it could be put to use by organizations in my own community and I've come up with a few I believe are viable. Today, I want to share one of those ideas and how we're going to use FrontlineSMS as a tool to help combat violence against women in the United States, specifically, in the small community of Miami, Oklahoma.

Cause for concern

Every year, millions of American women face domestic violence at the hands of those that are supposed to love and protect them. These women often feel powerless and suffer continued abuse without ever reaching out because they either don't know the resources are out there or because they're scared nothing will be done to their abusers if they do come forward thereby encouraging even more abuse. Community crisis centers serve as a front line of defense in these situations often shuttling abused women out of dangerous situations and into safe houses, interfacing with police to make sure victims get the services and protection they need, and providing the much needed emotional support those who've escaped violent situations are so desperately in need of.

Domestic violence (http://www.helenjaques.co.uk)

Unfortunately, none of those things can be offered until the victim reaches out and getting abused women to take the first step can be a large part of the battle. Many women don't think or have a safe way to catalog the abuse, don't know how to report it, and don't want calls to crisis numbers showing up on the mobile phone bill. The end result is the complete isolation of these women from any help at all.

Seeking solutions

As I've been playing around with FrontlineSMS, I've been thinking about ways it could be used to address these situations and I'm slowly starting to piece together a system called CPR that I hope to soon have deployed locally as a test bed for a larger, maybe statewide system.

The basic idea is to give women a quick, easy, and safe way to report and catalog abuse, and reach out for either police or crisis worker help, all without ever making a traceable phone call. Piecing together a system that consists of a laptop running FrontlineSMS, a mobile phone, and a few PHP scripts sitting on an Internet connection, I'm creating a system where women can send messages to various help authorities or just record instances of abuse for later use in court. For example:

C <A message that she wants to send to a crisis counselor> P <A message she wants to send to a police officer> R <A message she wants to be recorded for later use in court detailing an abusive incident>

FrontlineSMS keywordsUsing the CPR system, women in dangerous situations can quietly and safely reach out for help when a phone call simply isn't possible. Using FrontlineSMS will allow both police and crisis agencies to have two way communication with the victim thereby ensuring the communication loop is never broken.

Building the vision

Since I'm still developing the system, I've not deployed an installation of it yet but I've been getting great feedback from various agencies I've spoken to. Eventually, I'd like to implement a way for victims to send pictures, video, and audio, and have it automatically attached to their case file within the CPR system for later use in court. That will come later and probably with some community help.

None of this would be possible without FrontlineSMS. While I am a professional software developer, I probably would never have developed a system like FrontlineSMS and the fact that it's available as open source makes it incredibly accessible.

I'll be sure to keep everyone up to date on how this project is coming along as it progresses. I'll also be sure to blog about how we're using FrontlineSMS in our Vision Africa project being launched very soon. Until then, feel free to send your feedback or make comments to this post. Thank you".

Anthony Papillion Founder OpenEMR HQ www.openemrhq.com

(This post originally appeared on Anthony's "CajonTechie's Mindstream" blog, and is republished with permission)