Sistahood of Security: UWC students’ app makes campus safer
The Sistahood Watch app, developed as part of UWC’s Women Matter(s) Hackathon, connects students with one another, gets them to walk in groups, and can alert campus security about any emergencies.
Meg Whitman, CEO of IBM. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Ada Lovelace, godmother of code. And Yandisa Citwa, Noluthando Ntshaba, Janine Anthony and Sibabalwe Kweza - the Sistahood, developers of a game-changing app that promotes safer campuses...UWC’s home-grown technology legends.
Young women can design tech solutions that benefit women and wider society when given the skills and a chance to do so...and become successful entrepreneurs to boot. Just ask the Sistahood, who won UWC’s Women Matters(s) Hackathon with an app that makes campuses safer for their fellow students.
Four female University of the Western Cape (UWC) students have designed a Sistahood Watch app to address safety, health and security challenges for women on campus.
The four BCom Information Systems students - Janine Anthony, Sibabalwe Kweza, Noluthando Ntshaba, and Yandisa Citwa, known as the Sistahood - believe that technology can be used to empower women and help them live better lives.
“Women have to endure unhealthy feelings of fear in our society, and that drove us to initiate this idea,” says Citwa. “Where can we go if we don’t even feel safe at home? So we put our minds together and the Sistahood Watch app was born.”
Their app makes a significant contribution to women and their everyday concerns with safety.The app has an SOS button that will be linked to campus security and connect to GPS via data, wi-fi and airtime. "We plan on giving campus security a device that alerts them to an emergency whenever female students tap on the SOS button,” says Citwa.
There are also tabs for multiple channels on the app’s homepage, such as the “Help A Sista Out” icon that leads to a donations corner.
“If any lady needs an essential item like sanitary pads or food, she can speak out to the other ladies or to an admin person anonymously,” Ntshaba notes. "Then other ladies or our funder could donate those essentials.
“There’s also a “Sistahood Rocks ICT Network” tab, where we upload the latest trends, articles, tech devices, and so on,” she adds, “where we can keep each other updated about the industry and opportunities that arise.”
Some of the other tabs installed on the app include:
- Safety Net
- Speak Out
The app is still in the developmental stages, but their hope is not just to have it available on all campuses, but eventually in all communities where women are most at risk.
“Rape is still one of most pressing problems in our country,” says Citwa, “and it can destroy a woman’s life and confidence; it can break them down completely. If we can do something to stop that...how can we not?”
Hacking The Future: Empowering Women & Changing the World
The Sistahood app was designed as part of the Women Matter(s) Hackathon competition, hosted by UWC’s Information Systems Department.
The Hackathon began with a “Bring A Girl Child to work in ICT Day", where 120 Grade 9 pupils from Crossroads, Belhar, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain spent the day at UWC, learning about programming and developing websites for their schools, and exposing pupils and students to the challenges and triumphs of a career in technology.
“Exposing young girls to coding and a career in technology gives them a chance to see what opportunities are available to them,” explains UWC Information Systems lecturer and Hackathon co-organiser, Fazlyn Petersen.
For the main event, five teams of students designed and pitched innovative tech solutions that addressed women's issues.
“We were blown away by the talent and ingenuity of not just the Sisterhood but the other designers as well,” says Dr Mmaki Jantjies who is the Information Systems Head of Department. “And there were no losers, as the other participants will be aided in developing their solutions by industry insiders, and all the designs could end up making a real difference.”