Mainlevel mobile solutions against gender-based violence in Lesotho

Mobile solutions can go a long way to support the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) by raising awareness, by making information on services and rights easily accessible and by providing safe support networks.

To develop such mobile solutions is the purpose of Mainlevel’s new assignment for the GIZ P-VAWG (Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls) programme. Our digitalisation consultant Daniel Brumund was in Maseru, Lesotho, from 11-14 September to kick-off the project and conceptualise the first solution: A smartphone application targeted for women. This concept is informed by in-depth feedback from more than 100 women who were testing a prototype that Mainlevel had developed in a previous assignment.

In a second step, the app will be followed by an SMS-based solution to make the information accessible to women without smartphones, as well as a second Smartphone app targeted for men who want to support the prevention of GBV.

In Lesotho, as in other countries of Southern Africa, the spread, extent and acceptance of gender-based violence (GBV) – which is disproportionally directed against women and girls*– is among the most prevalent and severe in international comparison. Studies show that over 80% of women in Lesotho have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. This violence can take many forms – physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural – and it can be perpetrated by intimate partners, family members, strangers and institutions. In Lesotho, over 60% of women state that they have suffered intimate partner violence (IPV) making it the dominant form of VAWG in the country. IPV is mostly perpetrated by men against women, with those men often being known to the women (e.g. her partner or a family member).

The persistently high number of VAWG-related incidents in Lesotho show that more needs to happen to prevent it. Global studies show that less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help and those who do tend to turn towards their family and friends. In Lesotho, many women are hesitant or even fear to report cases of violence to the police or other public institutions. This indicates that women tend be more comfortable with sharing experiences, reporting on or inquiring about VAWG-related topics within safe circles, or even anonymously.

Understanding and responding to this tendency may unlock great potential for raising awareness and making important information on VAWG-related topics, resources and services easily accessible to women who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence in any of its forms. Access to such information and safe support circles could literally save lives as well as empower women to further assert themselves against traditional, rigid gender norms – thus breaking free from perpetuated cycles of violence towards them.

*With VAWG as the most common form of GBV, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Here we mainly refer to VAWG except when stated otherwise. See also: Decker MR et al. (2015): Gender-based violence against adolescent and young adult women in low- and middle-income countries. The Journal of Adolescent Health  56(2): p. 188-96.