Coding against Harassment

New app provides increased data on sexual harassment in Kosovo, making it easier to identify trends in an oft-ignored daily phenomenon.

Kosova Women’s Network (KWN), Open Data Kosova (ODK) and Girls Coding Kosova (GCK) have worked together to create a new app, Ec Shlire (Walk Freely), which allows people to report sexual harassment from their smartphones.

Blerta Thaci, co-founder of GCK, explains that KWN and ODK reached out to her organization to develop the mobile application.

“They said it will be really nice if GCK would develop the app, because they will have the power to create something [to combat what] they face every day,” says Thaci, a 24-year-old app developer.

In a span of a month, the girls of GCK, with the mentorship of employees from ODK, developed Ec Shlire. Participants learned new skills while creating a final product that many people will find useful. The app allows users to anonymously report instances of sexual harassment in their everyday lives. It also records the location (with the permission of the user) on a map for others to see where harassment is common and at what times. Users can also report the perpetrator.

Sexual harassment is prevalent in Kosovo. According to KWN’s Sexual Harassment Report, released several months ago, 48.5% of Kosovars have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives.  About 64% of women report to have experienced some sort of sexual harassment in their lifetime.

Additionally, 31% of Kosovars think it is acceptable to harass someone they find attractive, according to the KWN report.

In reference to changing the perceptions of sexual harassment, Nicole Farnsworth lead researcher for KWN says, “Kosovo Women’s Network tries to change the way people think through social media and a new campaign against sexual harassment. This new app is part of that.”

A particular problem in Kosovo is responding to sexual harassment, domestic violence and rape by victim blaming. Farnsworth explains that such a response prevents justice. Another obstacle is the fact that there is a lack of understanding among public officials of what actually constitutes sexual harassment.

The report provides a few definitions of sexual harassment, including the definition from the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, “[U]nwelcome sexually determined behaviour [such] as physical contact and advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and sexual demand, whether by words or actions.”

Anonymity is a major component of Ec Shlire; users do not have to provide any personal information or their location if they do not wish to disclose the data.

Users have the possibility of adding a description of the incident, and specifying the form and circumstances of the sexual harassment. This is a huge asset for  the app’s database in order to collect as much information about harassment, which will be valuable to prevent future occurrences.

Ec Shlire has been downloaded over 600 times since its launch in February and ODK is already analyzing the data and trends collected by the app.  They have found that the most common type of harassment of women is commenting (29%) and that most men are harassed in a café or restaurant (23%).

One of the most interesting differences is that most women are harassed by a stranger, whereas most men are harassed by their boss.

Ec Shlire is not just a reporting app, but provides users with a map that shows where reports of sexual harassment have taken place and at what time. This can then show areas with high concentrations of reports and when these harassments occur.

Farnsworth explains some of the objectives of collecting and analyzing this data and that some of the information could be used to increase police presence in areas with high concentrations of reports or even to inform urban planning in municipalities.

Currently, Ec Shlire is only available for Android phones, however Endrit Bytyqi, lead instructor for Ec Shlire from ODK, said a version for iOS users is in development.

Bytyqi is hopeful that the app can be part of a societal change that will diminish harassment.
“Sexual harassment here in Kosovo isn’t a case of ignorance anymore, it is something that is happening. The community, actors and government institutions should be aware of it.”

20/04/2016 - 12:19

20 April 2016 - 12:19

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.