Crowdsourcing tools to combat violence against women - II

A look at crowdsourcing initiatives that map violence against women in its many forms in different demographies across the world -- war zones, streets and public places, and big cities.

The previous part of the series shed light on crowdsourced maps that depict the severity, localisations and forms of violence against women in Egypt, India and in the online world. This part elucidates on the use of crowdsourcing technology to mobilise communities and identify and highlight violence against women in different demographies across the world – war zones, streets and public places and big cities.

 Crowdsourcing tools to combat violence against women - II

Hollaback Delhi: A blog submission (left); the crowdsourced map with a report (right)




Hollaback is an international movement present in 50 cities and 20 countries across the world, which aims to end street sexual harassment by crowdsourcing reports. Women, LGBTQ individuals and even bystanders can use the Hollaback website or app to report street harassment and also post a photo of the harasser. The stories logged are posted on the website along with the location and timestamp of their occurrence. The reports, which are logged anonymously, are also displayed on a publicly viewable map. Hollaback works with research teams to analyse the data collected on the site data and publishes the research reports. It also conducts research independent of the crowdsourced stories and publishes the fact sheets and key findings of the report on the website. Hollaback communities work towards documenting street harassment, creating testimonies and giving a visual presence to a form of violence that is least punished legally and widely accepted culturally.


In India, Hollaback groups exist in Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi, Chandigarh and Pathankot. Anyone can start a Hollaback community in cities and campuses where there isn’t one already.

SafeCity Netherlands

Representation of the Safe City model Credit:



SafeCity (Netherlands)

SafeCity is a unique crowdsourcing initiative in the Netherlands that documents civic issues and crime in public places and streets apart from violence against women. Using the Bambuser live video app, anyone can capture and upload videos of anything he or she finds unsafe, suspicious or inappropriate. SafeCity can be used to make live recordings of everything from street violence to broken pavements to vandalism in public places. The recording, which contains audio, video, photos, a timestamp and the geo-location coordinates, is made available to organisations on a secure website. The crowdsourced recordings are not anonymous. The Bambuser app is  available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Symbian platforms.


An application of such a crowdsourcing system could be for law enforcement agencies to monitor the ‘wires’ received from the system in real time. However, the success of such an initiative would be spotty in India, for live streaming of an event from the site of an incidence requires 3G or higher connectivity.  

Safecity India

SafeCity India Map crowdmap depicting localisation of reports 



SafeCity (India)

SafeCity is a crowdsourced map inspired by the SafeCity initiative in the Netherlands. The interactive Google map set up last month logs reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault in India using the Ushahidi engine. Like with other Ushahidi deployments, SafeCity enables anonymous reporting via a web form, email (, using the Ushahidi apps for iPhone and Android, by using the hashtags #pinthecreep and #safecity or by addressing a tweet to @pinthecreep. Unlike violent crimes, acts such as groping in public places are difficult to report to authorities. A map exclusively depicting sexual harassment in public places makes the form of violence more tangible and offers a view of hotspots.


Other crowdsourcing deployments that map and provide aid for violence against women in India are run by maps4aid. The team that started SafeCity also intends to start a project by the name BlueSky to document the challenges faced by women in workplaces.


Fightback (India)

Fightback is an emergency alert app for Android, BlackBerry and Symbain phones that doubles up as a crowdsourcing deployment. It anonymously logs the location of the distress alerts sent out using the app. It started off as a project for the employees of Tech Mahindra. In collaboration with the app developer CanvasM, NGO Whypoll now offers the Fightback app for free. Though the emergency alert system works well, the crowdsourced map has usability issues. It depicts the location and timestamp of the alert logged on a map of India, but does not indicate the nature of distress. The alerts on the map are viewable, but the corresponding data is not freely downloadable. Read our full review of the app here.

Women under seige syria

Women Under Seige Syria crowdmap



Women Under Siege (Syria)

The deployment is a part of the international Women Under Siege project that documents sexualised violence as a tool of war. Using the Ushahidi engine, the crowdsourced map collates reports from news sources, victims and witnesses, as the civil war in Syria rages on. It is one of the few crowdsourcing deployments mapping violence against women as a result of war and in a conflict zone. War crimes and crimes against refugees are much more opaque than crimes in civil society and the map is a telling testimony of the magnitude and urgency of addressing rape and sexualised violence. It is a gruesome document that displays patterns of violence and heightens public consciousness about rape being used as a weapon of war.


The crowdmap accepts reports via the web form, email and the hashtag #RapeInSyria. In July 2012, the project has published its findings based on the data collected.


Bijoya (Bangladesh)

The map displays crowdsourced reports of different forms of violence against women on an interactive Google map. Though no findings have emerged from this year-old crowdsourcing deployment in Bangladesh, the deployment presents the opportunity to study crimes against women in the country, which has the lowest literacy rates in South Asia and about 1 percent Internet penetration. However, mobile penetration in Bangladesh is over 50 percent and it remains to be seen if it is possible to document violence against women largely on the basis of SMS reports. Built using the Ushahidi platform, the crowdmap accepts reports via a web form, email, Twitter hashtag #bijoya, the Ushahidi apps and SMS.   


This article is a part of our series of features on crowdsourcing and citizen data initiatives. View the series.


Cover image: Getty Images

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.