Social enterprise ...

Anne Shongwe

Social enterprise app takes on gender violence in Africa

Developer aims to reach 100 million vulnerable young Africans

Showcasing social enterprise's new resources in the mobile era, Anne Shongwe-a 25-year South African development veteran-has partnered with UNWomen, Nokia, and other institutions to combat gender-based violence in Africa through an awareness-spreading mobile app.

Shongwe had the idea for the app, called Moraba, when she and her team approached UNWomen in connection with the organization’s Africa UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls.

While UNWomen agreed to fund development for the free game, Shongwe has since sought business assistance from mobile institutions such as Nokia, the Innovation Hub, and most recently our own Mobile Application Laboratory (mLab) in South Africa.

The challenge now, Shongwe explains, “is to find the sponsorship to expand the game to predominant handsets in the market, develop the distribution ecosystem through third-party distribution, […] and mine the data and analytics that we have built in to the game design.”

The app, aimed at children and teenagers, blends the traditional game of Morabaraba with quiz show-style questions on gender violence, such as what constitutes unwanted advances and how to respond to inappropriate conduct by a teacher.

In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Shongwe explained that, before conducting research for Moraba, she and her team had assumed that young people understood the nature of gender-based violence and carried it out in response to “different pressures.”

“We didn’t realize that actually at the core [of much gender violence] is really just misunderstanding and misinformation,” Shongwe said. The finding informs every design aspect of the app.

For Shongwe, the app and the international attention it has drawn are just the beginning of an ambitious push to advance the rights of women across the continent.

“We believe it is possible to reach 100 million [young Africans at risk of gender-based violence] with a series of gamified experiences and lessons that can change their choices and conversations.”

At the same time, she acknowledges, “We need plenty of support to get this done.”

Shongwe and her team are currently exploring alternative sponsorship, branding, and distribution avenues with Derrick Kotze, the recently appointed CEO of mLab South Africa.

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