Every month, COSMO contributor Jos Dirkx brings us the Global Gender Report. In it, Dirkx shines a light on phenomenal women, inspiring causes and practical resources from all over the world helping to tackle issues around gender. Dirkx is a brand and marketing consultant, a TEDx speaker, founder of the award-winning NGO Girls & Football SA and the author of ‘Tackled’ – a book about how sport can be used to reduce sexual violence.
This month: Hera Hussain, the 27-year-old founder of Chayn. Chayn provides free online resources to help women tackle abuse and violence
I love visiting London. It’s always creative, exciting and inspiring. During my last visit to launch my new book ‘Tackled’, I had the opportunity to learn more about the work of one amazing young woman, Hera Hussain, 27, founder of Chayn, who single-handedly is changing how domestic abuse is handled in the UK and beyond. Much like in South Africa – which sees an estimated one in five women experience domestic abuse (Statistics SA’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey) – finding new ways to decrease domestic violence is a priority in the UK and in Hussain’s home country, Pakistan.
Hussain’s company Chayn is an open source (free to consumers) gender and tech project that builds platforms and guides to empower women facing violence, as well as to empower the a organisations supporting these women. It’s a global charity run by 300+ volunteers from 15 countries, many who are abuse survivors themselves. The platform identifies critical information gaps and creates solutions to support survivors of abuse, using everything from GIFs and podcasts to toolkits Snapchat and chat bots.
Some of Chayn’s incredible global – free! – resources include the below below (and, says Hussain, many of the visitors to these sites are from South Africa):
- Do It Yourself Online Safety – a step-by-step guide to protecting yourself from online harassment and stalking
- How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Without a Lawyer – how to collect and present evidence of abuse for criminal proceedings, divorce, child custody and asylum cases
- Manipulation is Abuse – how to spot manipulative people around you, be it friends, family or partners
- Good Friend Guide – how to support your friend or family member if they are in an abusive relationship
- Supernova Project – addressing abuse within the LGBTQIA+ communities and the organisations helping them around the world
According to Hussain, women are often misinformed about their constitutional rights, which may deter them from seeking justice, but: ‘we [through Chayn] are smashing these walls. It can be things like, “How do I protect myself online?” and “How do I build a build a legal case without a lawyer?” to “How do I identify abuse?”’ And since Chayn’s resources are free to use and share, they’re providing access to the answers to these key questions and more, with just a click.
Raised in Pakistan and now living in London, Hussain knew early on she wanted to empower women. She found herself drawn to how technology can be utilised to solve social issues. In Pakistan, Hussain was aware of the high rates of violence against women, specifically domestic abuse. ‘Up to 80% of women in Pakistan come face-to-face with abuse in their life,’ explains Hussain. ‘There are only a handful of shelters. There’s almost no financial help and charities are struggling to keep the lights on. Domestic abuse is the most common form of violence against women globally. Tragically it shows the biggest threat to women is in their own homes.’
Starting Chayn wasn’t easy. ‘At first I tried to collaborate with well-established charities, but I got a really bad response. Mostly, they said things like, “Who are you? What experience do you have?” But I didn’t have any. I just really wanted to do this so I got frustrated and did it anyway, treating it like a tech startup, a space I was already part of.’ Hussain was a digital marketing and business development consultant for tech start-ups and social enterprises, so it seemed the most natural space to launch her idea in.
Now, having lived in London for a decade, Hussain is aware there are more support structures for women in the UK than in other places in the world, such as Pakistan. But wherever you are in the world, Hussain believes there is still much more to be done. ‘Rigid gender roles shape both young girls and boys: “slut-shaming culture” and a lack of awareness of consent can create rape myths that put women at a higher risk of sexual assault,’ she explains. It’s a reality we’re faced with daily in South Africa, and one women are fighting all over the world.
At Chayn, the team remains shocked by how many women internalise misogyny and overlook early signs of abuse. ‘By myth-busting the signs of manipulation, using real-life scenarios to highlight abuse, or explicitly talking about what abuse can look like, we can start to question things like “slut shaming” and unhelpful stereotypes and gender roles.’
If you are a victim of abuse in South Africa, get the help you need:
- LifeLine (trauma counselling): 0861 322 322
- POWA (People Against Women Abuse)
- Get legal advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Get counselling: email@example.com
- Police: 10111 or visit their FCS Unit
- Rape Crisis Cape Town: rapecrisis.org.za
- 021 447 9762 (Observatory)
- 021 633 9229 (Athlone)
- 021 361 9085 (Khayalitsha)