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Women Programmers Fight Sexual Harassment at India’s First All-Female Hackathon

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, December 13 2012

Bangalore has proven itself to be India’s Silicon Valley over the past several years, but tech accessibility remains sharply divided in a country of deep social contrasts, and women are often disenfranchised in digital life (as reports of a recent ban on mobile phone use by rural women corroborate). The first all-female hackathon was hosted in the tech capital this week, bringing developers together to collaborate on humanitarian projects that could improve the lives of women across the country.

Hackathon teams worked together to write code on open-source software. Many were focused on everyday issues faced by women in India, like one app that aids in signaling authorities and collecting evidence during street harassment.

Called Bachao, the cellphone app, when it is done, would allow users to press a single button to send distress signals if they are attacked by somebody and would also automatically switch on the phone's audio and video recording functions so that it could later be used as evidence.

Sexual harassment remains a critical issue for women in India, but the increased use of mobile technology is raising awareness; a video capturing the molestation of a woman by a group of men in the northeastern city of Guwahatiwent viral in July, raising an outcry among women’s rights activists. Recent reports show that 17 percent of Indian women face harassment in the workplace. One app currently available on the Indian market reports harassment on GPS, SMS and victims’ Facebook pages.


Aljazeer International report on sexual harassment of women in India

The event took place as part of the third Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Bangalore, and was sponsored by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Other Hackathon projects included apps for natural disaster response, environmental initiatives, and girls’ education in Africa.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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