RMG winner Safe YOU startup marks further success as Armenia’s 1st Digital Public Good
Innovative mobile application Safe YOU, launched and led by a dedicated all-female team to combat violence against women, has been declared one of the winners of the Regional Matching Grant. The competition is implemented by the Enterprise Incubator Foundation in the scope of the “Matching Grants” Program with the assistance of the Armenian Government and the World Bank.
The Grant is aimed at helping Armenian companies to develop innovative tech products and apply them in the traditional sectors of the economy.
After many years of experience as a lawyer and after the successful completion of the SVRI and World Bank Group’s “Development Marketplace for Innovation on Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response” award and research program, Mariam founded the Impact Innovations Institute.
“We have created a virtual safe space for women that stands on 3 main pillars: prevention, protection and prosecution of gender-based violence (GBV),” said Mariam.
She was motivated to create the Institute by personal experience. “I was pregnant while doing the research program. One day, an elderly family friend learned that I was going to have a baby girl and started consoling me, as if having a daughter was bad. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where there is less violence against women,” explained Mariam. “The application, Safe YOU, is our main product in this mission.”
The funds secured through the Regional Matching Grant have enabled Mariam’s team to add new features that make the app and the platform more attractive and user-friendly. “It is also very important for us to develop as a part of Gyumri Technology Center’s vibrant community and benefit from the cultural events, art and environment of the space,” said Mariam.
According to her, having an office in Gyumri has also allowed the team to provide opportunities for more young people in the Shirak region to engage in the mission.
The app serves as an emergency service, as a consultation platform where users can get information from professionals (doctors, lawyers, psychologists) and see a map of service providers and state authorities that may be useful, and as a forum where users can have peer-to-peer discussions.
“This is how the emergency service works: when needed, the user can push the SOS button that sends an emergency message to up to 7 pre-chosen contacts with the user’s geolocation. The app also starts recording the surroundings of the user, so there is evidence of the incident,” said Mariam.
According to her, the forum and network functions of Safe YOU empower and help women in everyday life.
Mariam and her team’s work has specific challenges such as lack of data. “In most countries, the data on VAW(violence against women)is severely limited, and this leads to less effective legal structures in place to protect women. This was something that I noticed during my time working in law,” noted Mariam. That is why Safe YOU has been working with university professors and students to create the most detailed and effective data analysis system to fill statistical gaps on violence against women.
The app has some notable achievements to show. Recently, Safe YOU has been recognized as a Digital Public Good (DPG) under the UN Secretary-General’s Digital Cooperation Agenda, as the app is considered a tool aiming to achieve Sustainable Development Goal number 5 (the 2030 SDGs). Safe YOU has also received an invitation to the Google for Startups program.
“I am extremely excited about the program, which is designed for startups with a mission of tackling any of the 17 sustainable development goals. Our application is the first DPG to be recognized in Armenia, and one of the first 50 to be recognized in the world!” underlined Mariam.
In December, Safe YOU will be launched in Iraq thanks to the partnership UNFPA Armenia and Iraq offices supported by UNFPA innovation. The next goal is to bring the app to 5 more countries. “We are working on a research program with the University of Minnesota to understand the market scope and target areas for an entry into the USA,” said Mariam. There is a new project coming as well, in cooperation with UNICEF and the “Coalition to stop violence against Women” in Armenia.
Safe YOU is a perfect example of what the RMG competition aims to achieve. With the string of successes, Mariam and her team are well-posed to expand the capacities of their platform and provide much-needed advice and assistance to the women suffering from various types of gender-based violence. In addition to the vital mission, Safe YOU also elevates Armenia as the source country of relevant technological solutions for non-technological spheres.