While growing up in Mombasa County in Kenya, Abubakar Mbarak witnessed domestic violence just next door. Their female neighbor was a victim of verbal and physical abuse by her husband. Although Mbarak’s family was willing to help, they could only do as much.
“Although I was a young person the situation really disturbed me and I honestly wanted to help,” says Mbarak. Since the legal process requires one to report such incidences to a nearby police station, Mbarak was ready to do so. “But I was to have my name and perhaps my contacts on the Occurrence Book at the police station. This way, the violent neighbor would have thought that I was meddling into his family affairs,” recalls Mbarak.
Twenty-four year-old Mbarak grew up in a home where everyone recognised the freedom of expression, respected one another and embraced dialogue in order to solve conflicts. But this was not the case with his neighbours.
When Mbarak asked their neighbour why she did not report her abusive husband to the authorities, she said she did not know how to. “I wanted to get solutions to such women. I vowed that one day I would help women all over the world facing similar problems just like my neighbour have access to justice,” he says.
With more than 80 percent mobile phone penetration in Kenya, Mbarak knew he would invent a solution to domestic violence reporting using technology. He wanted to have an anonymous platform to report domestic and other forms of violence. But the Marine Engineering graduate says he didn’t have experience in software development. He, therefore, partnered with his colleagues who are programmers. That is how Okoa Jamii was born. This is an online platform that seeks to enable survivors of domestic and gender based violence to anonymously report cases of violence at the comfort of their mobile phones.
Mbarak hopes that once rolled out, the platform will give women a voice and get help when they need. I believe everyone should feel empowered to speak up and get their rights when they are being mistreated. I hope Okoa Jamii gives them that voice,” he says.
The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Marine Engineering graduate hopes that this platform will serve as a warning to men who abuse women and go unreported. “This platform reminds men that they can no longer do crimes and not get reported. They should know that anyone anywhere can report them so they would be careful next time not to raise their hands to hit a woman.”
So far, Mbarak and his colleagues have approached the county government, Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI) for possible partnership in piloting the technology. The platform, he believes, will enable them streamline receipt of reports, backing up database for all reports, make report storage and retrieval convenient, analyse the data to determine hot spots for certain social crimes as well as enable top management to track progress and efficiency.
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