Guest post by Zhanargul Izimova, Irina Mun, Arailym Nurpeissova, Nargiza Siyabekova and Valeriya Tyo, 2018 fellows of Kazakhstan
Editor’s note: The 2018 fellows of Kazakhstan were one of five country cohorts to receive a $3,000 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2018 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches.
“If he beats you, it means he loves you.” These are the words that keep thousands of women silent in our society, making domestic violence an acceptable cultural norm. The stigma of divorce and the fear of rejection from relatives make many women tolerate disrespect, anger and violence from their husbands. As a result, thousands of women suffer: 70% of women in Kazakhstan have been subjected to violence, and 400 women die each year as a result of domestic violence.
We created our initiative, Uki.kz, to support women experiencing domestic violence and create awareness about this issue in the greater community. In the Kazakh language, the word “uki” means “owl,” a sacred bird that protects women from evil forces. Through Uki.kz, we will provide real‐time support, connecting women with professionals in the fields of psychology, law, medicine and education.
How are we doing it?
We are partnering with the Almaty Crisis Centre (ACC), leveraging their resources to provide educational materials, statistics and facts about domestic violence in Kazakhstan on our website. We are also closely collaborating with the advertising consulting agency Hive Studio of Innovations to ensure our site is seen as a safe, trustworthy platform, as abused women often feel a tremendous fear to speak up and seek support.
The website includes an introduction to domestic violence issues, instructions on how to behave in such situations and a hotline for victims to call for resources and support. We break down violence into categories – physical violence, sexual abuse, economic violence and psychological abuse – and provide information and resources on each issue. We also feature an online quiz, where women can honestly assess the behavior of their partner and receive introductory feedback on next steps they can take. We also feature several video interviews with ACC workers and women who received help, and provide contact information for domestic violence shelters in the area. Victims will also have an opportunity to connect with lawyers and psychologists for their expertise.
What is next?
We tested interface interaction and usability of our web prototype on a group of women, and received very positive feedback. We plan to seek feedback from women in villages outside Almaty as well. We also received support from consultants in various countries and industries — film directors, journalists and supporters who helped our team move forward, even at times when our mission and vision seemed impossible to execute.
Last month, we officially launched Uki.kz on web and mobile, and we are now planning to spread information about the initiative through a volunteering team and social media. We hope that our website will become a platform where women can communicate their concerns, seek support and work to create change within their families, communities and greater society.