From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Albanian Girls Create App to Combat Widespread Domestic Violence

A new app has been created to help victims of domestic violence in Albania. “GjejZâ” (Find Your Voice) was created by three 16-year-old Albanian girls in the hope that it will help to tackle the perpetuating issue of gender-based and domestic violence in the country.

The young women won an international technology competition in the United States and will launch the app on Friday.

Jonada Shukarasi, one of the developers said: “Violence against women is a huge issue in Albania and it also affects us as teenage girls because we see the early stages of this even in our peers, in our friends.”

The developers, known collectively as “D3c0ders” and including Arla Hoxha, Dea Rrozhana and Shukarasi, first learned how to code via a programme run by the US Embassy in Tirana. The competition that they entered required entrants to create an app that tackled social issues, leading the girls to focus on gender-based violence.

They consulted psychologists, a deputy interior minister and experts on domestic violence and women’s rights.

“Find your Voice” has become not only our motto, but the message we want to convey to all Albanian women,” said Rrozhani.

“GjejZâ helps women fight gender-based violence in three easy steps by identifying the problem, empowering the user and enabling them to take action,” she said.

The app works by asking users a number of questions which will then help them understand if they are victims of domestic violence. The app also provides testimonies of women who have escaped abuse as well as encouraging users to report violence against them.

It will then connect them with state officials in every town who can help them obtain protection orders and welfare as well as shelters and employment opportunities. In order for the app to work to its full potential, the government and state authorities, including police, really need to improve their responses.

Over the last eight years, some 106 women and girls have been killed by a family member or intimate partner and in 2018 alone, over 4000 court protection orders were handed to women due to fear of violence. The European average for incidence of domestic violence is around 33%, yet in Albania it is 53%.

Various studies have shown that over half of Albanian women will suffer physical, sexual, psychological, economic, or emotional violence during their lifetimes. Even more concerningly, 22% of women between 16 and 19 years old have already experienced intimate partner violence. Most concerningly, 97% of victims do not report it to the police.

The government offers little in the way of support services. Women find it hard to file reports with the police or to obtain justice if they do, and there are almost no free facilities offering essential treatment such as housing, counselling, and psychological assistance. The current rate of social welfare, totally around EUR 70 per month is not enough for a woman and any children to survive on, meaning they often have little choice but to remain in abusive situations.

Failure to prevent violence and situations that can endanger someone’s life is a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It states that “everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law” and that the state has the obligation to “protect the right to life” and to carry out effective investigations into alleged breaches.

The ECHR also says that “the State has an obligation to take preventative operational measures to protect one or more individuals identifiable in advance as a potential target of a lethal act in contexts such as: domestic violence.”