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WATCH: An app allows abused women in Gaza - 41% of the country's females - to anonymously report domestic violence

GBV is a worldwide phenomena. Gaza stats show 41% of women have been abused, while in South Africa that figure, according to StatsSA, stands at 51%. Here Cape Town protesters in 2020 take part in the GBV march outside parliament. The march came after a number of women were killed in South Africa during Women's month. Picture:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

GBV is a worldwide phenomena. Gaza stats show 41% of women have been abused, while in South Africa that figure, according to StatsSA, stands at 51%. Here Cape Town protesters in 2020 take part in the GBV march outside parliament. The march came after a number of women were killed in South Africa during Women's month. Picture:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 4, 2022

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Women in Gaza can now get confidential advice about domestic violence at their fingertips, with help from a phone app.

In a country where domestic abuse is hidden behind closed doors as part of societal norms, the app has already helped many.

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Like in South Africa, where domestic violence - already high at an estimated 51% according to StatsSA - escalated during hard lockdown, so did it in Gaza.

Salma Al-Swerki works at a local women’s centre - the place where the app secretly connects to.

“‘Masahatuna’ or 'Our Spaces' has given space for women to secretly connect with us or send a quick message after which we can deal with the issues.”

Women can register without leaving their names and if they reach out, no trace is left on their phone.

The app’s developer says privacy is crucial in a society where family pressures often keep domestic violence hidden.

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Hundreds of women have downloaded the app so far, with 160 getting psychological or legal help, said Kholoud Al-Sawalma of the Gaza Community Media Centre.

One woman who suffered abuse and asked not to be named said she knows that pressure all too well.

“What prevented me from using the application at first is our social norms and being afraid of speaking out on the secrets of what happens inside our homes which is viewed as wrong, because violence that we are exposed to is considered a secret and should be kept as such.

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“But I got the courage to download the application and connect with one of the organizations who connected me with a specialist via a direct number and I was able to get help because I wasn’t able to go to them in person.

“I explained my problem and the violence against me and it was solved, not entirely, but a big part of it was solved.”

Women’s groups say more needs to be done to stop domestic violence in Gaza, where women who report it sometimes get directed to clan leaders.

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In 2019, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics said 41% of women in Gaza had faced domestic violence.

A problem that advocacy groups say worsened during coronavirus lockdowns.

(additional reporting iol)

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