South Africa-based humanitarian foundation Transform Education about Rape and Sexual Abuse (TEARS) has launched a USSD-based platform dubbed Help at Your Fingertips to curtail rape, abuse, and domestic violence in the country.
This platform is a nationally-accessible assistance and support network for those who have experienced rape, abuse, and domestic violence. It gives access to 3,000 service providers who respond directly to rape and abuse across the nine provinces.
To use the platform, victims have to dial the TEARS helpline number *120*7355#, input their location and search for the nearest care centres to them.
“We are leveraging the rapid growth of mobile phone networks in the country to roll out this service. As mobile phones are becoming more available in even the most remote locations, they can offer support, information, and even protection to survivors of sexual violence,” said Mara Glennie, founder and director of TEARS.
“Help at Your Fingertips’ platform means that anyone in the country who has experienced such violence can immediately access information on expert, safe, and genuine assistance nearby to their location.”
Netsai Mushonga, senior manager at the Centre for Conflict Resolution, adds: “Stigma and fear of reprisal often constrains survivors of sexual and gender-based violence from reporting it.
“Therefore, emerging ICTs are paving the way for innovative approaches to addressing violence against women. Platforms such as ‘Help at Your Fingertips’ addresses this issue through allowing those who experience such violence to report it in anonymity and safety; and to receive assistance they need.”
The Tears Foundation has access to sensitive information, that is gathered through the USSD number, and although the USSD interaction does not provide personal information, the information is handled sensitively and confidentiality.
Microsoft partner Dirk Meerkotter says, “Using the cloud, we are now able to assist victims of GBV to access and use a cloud facility to store information using a free email address provided by TEARS that only they can access, unless they choose to provide TEARS with access to this information.”