WARIF Makes Strides Tackling Gender-Based Violence with Mobile SMS Platform

One year after launching a pioneering SMS service used by traditional birth attendants to fight gender-based violence, Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF) founder, Dr. Kemi DaSilva, is doubling down on her passion to help vulnerable populations in rural Nigeria.

DaSilva was justifiably proud of the impressive results of the program, which she and Rohit Tripathi, head of Products and Go-to-Market for SAP Digital Interconnect, detailed in a video interview.

Connecting the Disconnected  Using SMS to Reduce  Sexual Violence Against  Nigerian Women and Girls

DaSilva credited the program’s success to its unique combination of education, community services, and mobile technology.

“Having a platform to identify, report, and address the pressing issues of rape, human trafficking, and other violence against females, many of whom are children, we’re raising awareness that there are organizations like ours with the services we provide,” DaSilva said.

Mobile Speeds Up Healthcare Intervention

Since incorporating the SAP People Connect 365 mobile service into its Gatekeepers project, WARIF has trained more than 500 traditional birth attendants from 15 local government areas across Lagos State to use the software. Many report cases in real time, speeding up healthcare team responses.

“We’re getting active cases faster, allowing us to intervene more quickly and in real time, which we couldn’t do before,”  DaSilva shared. “We constantly hear positive testimonials from traditional birth attendants, as well as the women and girls they’ve helped.”

WARIF participated in design thinking workshops with SAP, where they collaborated to make sure the mobile platform met the unique needs of healthcare providers working in the remote communities.

“Working together, we made certain that birth attendants – regardless of where they were – would be able to easily consume this service without having to compromise on any of the functionalities,” Tripathi said. “This also helped us in enhancing the service.”

Replacing Silence with Community of Support

On top of the stigmatization of gender-based violence, healthcare providers in Nigeria also grapple with cultural norms.

“The perpetrator is usually well-known and might even be a family member,” said DaSilva. “We don’t talk about these issues in families and most communities across Nigeria because the concern is more about protecting the dignity of that family name as opposed to making sure this young survivor gets adequate care.”

DaSilva credited SAP People Connect 365  with helping to upend traditions of silence around sexual abuse. The text messaging platform fosters ongoing conversations among healthcare providers and others across WARIF’s education and community service programs. For example, traditional birth attendants now engage more with each other at monthly meetings and through social media chat groups, incorporating information about identified cases in the field.

“Traditional birth attendants are sharing problems they ordinarily wouldn’t have had an opportunity to share, much less address, in a timely manner as they work in geographically remote areas,”  DaSilva said. “The fact that we train them encourages these supportive relationships and helps all of us put a spotlight on addressing problems.”

Traditional Birth Attendants are Linchpin of Program Success

DaSilva stands behind WARIF’s original strategy to train local, traditional birth attendants in using the mobile software. That is because these healthcare providers are trusted by everyone, including the designated local leaders who adjudicate instances of abuse in many rural Nigerian communities.

“When cases have been identified, we’re always very well-received when we present ourselves to the community gatekeepers in the various geographical areas we visit,”  DaSilva said. “They are happy for us to intervene because they have no knowledge or training on how to help. It’s usually a question of lacking a means of communication to obtain assistance, which we can now deliver.”

Future Growth Plans

Undaunted by challenges such as power outages and community resource constraints, DaSilva said that WARIF is exploring plans to expand its reach with more community agencies.

“It’s been a totally rewarding experience, and not just because of the impact we’ve been able to have due to the SAP Digital Interconnect technology we’ve received,” DaSilva said. “We’re working with people who actually care and are willing to work with us so we can scale up and impact a wider group of women we ordinarily wouldn’t have access to.”


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This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice Forbes.