In Nigeria, the Rippling Impact of One Mobile Text Message Can Save a Woman’s Life

When it comes to gender-based violence in Nigeria, mid-wives have become the first line of defense, fighting back one mobile text message at time. It’s part of an innovative strategy pioneered by the Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF), that combines education and community service with mobile communication.

“We realized we needed to go through trusted members of the community to reach women impacted by violence, but understandably reluctant to share this sensitive information about what’s happened to them,” said WARIF Founder Dr. Kemi DaSilva. “After training these mid-wives about available services, we’ve given them mobile SMS capabilities, so they can get help faster.”

WARIF has incorporated the SAP People Connect 365 mobile service into its Gatekeepers project. Sponsored by the ACT Foundation, this initiative has trained 500 mid-wives from 15 local government areas across Lagos State in Nigeria to use the software. Already mid-wives have shared over hundreds of texts and weekly reports, including active cases of violence against women.

Two-Way Communication Closes Care Gap

WARIF’s mission is to address the high incidence of rape, sexual violence and trafficking of young girls and women in Nigeria and other African countries. One in four girls in Nigeria experience at least one violent sexual encounter before reaching the age of 18 – that’s 10,000 children attacked every day. Eighty-four percent don’t know where to seek help. SMS communication in the hands of mid-wives has helped WARIF bridge the considerable challenge of providing timely treatment and other services to these people. It’s no easy task in a country where over 50 percent of the population lives in remote communities, often without internet.

“Previously, the WARIF team made monthly visits, reaching mid-wives and women patients through long arduous journeys on hazardous roads. There could be a two to three-week time lag between when mid-wives discovered a case and we received the data, delaying vital medical examinations or treatments, such as post-exposure prophylaxis treatment of HIV with the appropriate drugs,” said DaSilva. “Now mid-wives are extremely excited because they have immediate and direct communication with our services, including our Rape Crisis Centre.”

When cases arise, mid-wives alert WARIF immediately by texting designated words such as abuse and rape. This triggers outreach with interventions that include free medical examinations, counseling and social welfare services. WARIF’s approach takes advantage of important community dynamics.

“Mid-wives often become the custodians of women’s secrets, including sensitive, often stigmatized issues like gender-based violence,” said DaSilva. “Before this, mid-wives didn’t have the ability to address these cases. We’re empowering them with the education, training and technology to also become effective first responders. We know who needs help, where they are, and we can very quickly mobilize our outreach services to reach them.”

Transforming and Saving Lives

WARIF’s experience is emblematic of mobile technology’s next phase, where high tech smoothly merges with high touch. The small non-profit group was able to easily use the same SAP mobile services that serve customers in other industries including transportation and government. DaSilva appreciated how SAP adapted its mobile service to accommodate people not familiar with technology. At the same time, SAP gained valuable feedback to rethink assumptions and continue evolving the solution.

“Mobile technology is nearly ubiquitous, and it’s the foundation of digitalization,” said Rohit Tripathi, head of Products for SAP Digital Interconnect. “By intelligently connecting abuse victims with mid-wives and assistance services, we’re helping WARIF create something with valuable impact. We’re united in wanting to transform people’s lives.”

DaSilva said WARIF is saving the lives of women, many of whom have no other communication options. “In one recent case, we took a survivor out of her abusive environment, and got law enforcement involved to put the perpetrator behind bars. The impact of that one SMS had powerful ripple effects,” she said. “This is a global issue, and we could use this service to collaborate with other organizations that are equally committed to addressing gender-based violence, expanding WARIF’s reach across Nigeria, other countries in Africa, and the world.”

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This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.