Written by Hera Hussain.
2014 was a year in which we grew and learned. It began with trying to identify the needs of women in abusive relationships, find ways to increase our impact, and create ongoing momentum by bringing our volunteers together to found a sustainable future. It ended with six new tools in our Chayn toolkit, including three o2-funded guides on mental health, building your own domestic violence case without a lawyer and protecting your privacy online; £1300 raised through our Empowerment Fund, which we used to help vulnerable women; tens of volunteers, old and new, meeting online and in person for Chayn Day every first Sunday of the month; and the appointment of an Executive Team, which rotates every three months, to give our work more focus and impetus. We also organised our first hackathon – EndSVCHack, which brought 100 people together to address violence against women and was supported by the UK Foreign Office, Embassy of the Netherlands, Embassy of Sweden, and MakeSense. We entered 2015 with three big projects in mind: a guide on How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without a Lawyer, our “Soul Medicine” project, and an Escape Guide.
Building on our experiences from 2014, in 2015 we continued to work on our organisational structure, to make Chayn’s impact even greater and more sustainable. As we’ve grown our projects, we’ve been experiencing a huge influx of interest from volunteers. With more resources at our disposal, we have focused on increasing our productivity in 2015.
We learned to prioritise: out of the three projects we “entered” 2015 with, we dropped one and decided to focus on two – a set of anti-stalking guides, and the legal toolkit on How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without a Lawyer, which has been a great landmark of this year. We also, painfully, decided to stop our direct assistance program for women in Pakistan, because our limited resources made it difficult to ensure the high level of security and management that such an undertaking requires.
We kept working on our organisational structure and ways of running a complex volunteer-based organisation. We adopted a mini-task and sprints-driven approach to workflow to fit around the schedules of a diverse and global team, and started a rotation of one-month project leads. In fact, we had such a good year in terms of creating process and work streams, that due to popular demand, we wrote a widely shared blog post detailing it for others!
We also embarked on several new projects: PeaceHackBEY, a hackathon for women, youth and refugees in Lebanon; the EmpowerHack in London, addressing the needs of refugee women and girls; and Chayn Italia, another web platform for women suffering abuse in Italy. This expands our reach to yet another country. We received funding from UnLtd to start Ammal (a pay-it-forward learning network for women), which we are launching in 2016. More on this in next year’s report! These projects have increased our reach and range of expertise. We’re looking at accessibility and inclusivity, especially in the context of non-hetero relationships, and considering how we use technology for project management, particularly as the majority of our Italian volunteers organise their activism through methods that don’t include social media or Slack.
Learnt how to leverage networks of professionals who want to give back – be it as user experience designers, illustrators, developers or policy experts! This year, more than ever, we’ve enlisted the help of external groups to help us build stronger and more user-friendly resources rather than just doing it all in-house.
This year, we have been shaping our vision and direction: we began to learn what we are really good at and how to capitalise on it. Some of the things that particularly stood out were:
Following the success of the EndSVHack, one of the winning teams – PromiseApps – approached us to organise a hackathon addressing the problems faced by women refugees in Lebanon. Over the course of preparations, we have partnered with International Alert, as well as several other organisations in UK and Beirut, and – responding to the voices of the Lebanese society – expanded our focus to the needs of women, youth and refugees in Lebanon.
That is how PeaceHackBEY came about. It attracted nearly 50 participants, who generated 167 ideas and formed nine teams, which developed nine digital tools. Despite initial challenges (such as no volunteers or contacts in Lebanon, and little knowledge about the region), Chayn volunteers rose to the challenge, produced detailed research to understand issues faced by women, youth and refugees in Lebanon and used social media and word of mouth to expand our network and spread the word about the hack. The teams from the hackathon have been busy since then! Congrats to Reable for being the winner for the Idea Stage Startup Competition at the BDL Accelerate hackathon. Also, we are so proud of Step Forward for their participating on entrepreneurship summit. Natkalam for partnership with SAWA and for being on NBC news!
Overall, PeaceHackBEY was a great success, featured prominently in the social media, as well as in local TV, through two TV interviews. It has also been a great learning experience for Chayn, and it allowed us to expand, and refine, our knowledge on how to make impactful hackathons. Out of the seven hackathons International Alert was running around the world – PeaceHackBEY was considered one of the best in terms of the quality of results!
PeaceHackBEY also helped establish Chayn’s stronghold in the Middle East. Views to our resources from Lebanon and Jordan have increased dramatically and more people from these countries are requesting to volunteer! While the response from PeaceHackBEY was encouraging beyond our expectations, and the quality of teams blew us away, engaging with the teams online to support their progress has been problematic. Since we did not have a big volunteer team in Lebanon, we had to communicate almost exclusively online. This posed a cultural challenge, since online and remote work did not match well with the local working culture in Lebanon, where face-to-face interaction is preferred.
In October, we were approached by Han and Kimi who, hot off the heels of a Techfugees hack, wanted to take their prototype and idea further by focusing on solutions for challenges faced by women and girl refugees. After a brainstorming session we came up with EmpowerHack – an open tech-based initiative to tackle specific challenges faced by female refugees in conflict zones, refugee camps, and settled areas and empower them by placing technology into their hands.
A hackathon was held on 28-29 November 2015 where teams of designers, coders, and humanitarian workers worked together to create tools that addressed urgent and specific problems and limitations faced by women in and out of refugee camps.
Our objectives were divided into three broad challenges: Health, gender-based violence prevention, and employment and education. The hackathon saw more than 100 applicants, whittled down to 50 attendees, which turned into nine hack teams creating solutions within the three categories. Partners included: Techfugees, Newspeak House, StartUp Boat, Open Lab at Newcastle University, Woo Commerce, Cybersalon, Ada’s List, Bristlr, Toptal
EmpowerHack didn’t stop after the teams had presented their minimum viable products or when the hackathon ended. We created an internal volunteer-run initiative, which took the two teams that showed the greatest promise and clearest route to market (through partnership with a field NGO) and have made them happen. You can see the progress of HaBaby here, and HerStory here.
What started as a partnership between Techfugees and Chayn, has now spun off as a community of its own with 169 contributors. It’s a community we’re committed to supporting and our volunteers are heavily involved in establishing EmpowerHack as an ongoing event, bringing technology, design, and NGOs together to address challenges that affect women and girls around the world. We’re organising EmpowerHackHEALTH, a global refugee health hackathon to take place on 8 April 2016.
Overall, 2015 was the year when we have started to become really good at organising hackathons, and making them impactful. This is definitely a skill we will be bringing into 2016, to capitalise on our experiences and lessons learned.
One of our big successes this year was the launch of “How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer”. The guide was inspired by experiences of survivors, who struggled to navigate the legal maze and claim their rights, because they could not afford a lawyer, or had poor legal representation.
We built the guide through a collaborative process, with domestic violence survivors, lawyers, psychologists and social workers, and we also consulted domestic violence online support groups and multiple NGOs and charities to gather feedback on the guide. This led to a creation of a legal toolkit providing easy-to-follow, step-by-step advice on how to collect and present evidence on domestic violence – whether it is for a civil or criminal court case, or to support an asylum claim. We published the guide online, available in several formats, as well as in an audio form to facilitate access to it.
The guide hit the bullseye with domestic violence victims and we received a lot of positive feedback. One of the survivors said: “I wish I had read it 10 years ago. It has better advice in it than I have been ever given by any solicitor or the police about collecting evidence. I could have had TONS of evidence.” In the context of the UK, the guide came at a time when it was much needed, given the legal aid cuts, which restricted access to legal representation. As a result, our London launch, organised in November 2015 together with the Garden Court Chambers, attracted over 30 participants from law-firms and NGOs working with domestic violence survivors.
We replicated the participatory, survivor-led guide development process in other projects. This year saw ongoing work on the “How Someone can Stalk You & What You Can Do About It” guide. We decided to split the guide into two parts – one focusing on online and the other on offline stalking – to make sure we provide easy-to-follow but detailed information on ways to assess the risk of stalking in online and physical spaces, and how to protect yourself against them. The guides will be launched in early 2016.
Our work in 2015 has allowed us to developed a “recipe” to make online guides in a way that makes them into an open, collaborative, empowering enterprise. Not only the final product, but also the process is 100% geared towards survivors. Solutions are created for survivors, by survivors. By developing a strong network of committed volunteers that drop in and out for cycles, most of whom have had some experience of abuse in their life, – we’ve created a community that learns from each other and builds upen existing knowledge. Also one that has do much love and fun – that many volunteers have become close friends. We’re very proud of our internal culture and hope to make it even stronger in the new communities we touch!
2015 is the year we started, proactively getting involved with the wider NGO, activist and tech community by going to events, hosting workshops and engaging with the media. We felt we had worked very hard up till 2014 in doing our first projects that now we could engage with the wider community. Here are just a few:
Hera got the chance to meet the most awesome online feminist activists from around the world working on online harassment at Harvard’s Berkman Centre! She also gave a talk at Emerge (run by Said Business School at University of Oxford) and Durham University amongst many other small events.
Our website Chayn.co had a 100% increase in views since 2014. Using website analytics, we realised that there were regions where Chayn was having influence – unplanned influence. Hence, we started translated our guides and toolkits, and made our projects more oriented towards the international community.
Across all Chayn platforms, we reached
in over a dozen countries.
This brings our total reach from the moment we were a baby to now,
Of course these are just the numbers we can track online - we know many of our partners on the ground are using our resources to support thousands of women.
Top interaction for Chayn.co – the house for our guides, came from UK, USA (with increasing traffics from Lebanon, Italy, China and Brazil) and the top 3 pages were How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer guide, About Chayn, and Projects. For Chaynpakistan.org the majority views coming from Pakistan, and with USA coming in second with 22.7% of the total views. The 3 most popular pages – Housing, Law – Divorce, and Am I Being Forced To Marry – give us an insight into what resources are sorely needed (and are sorely lacking) for Pakistani women. This discovery further sets our resolve to seek solutions within Pakistan for safe housing for women, as well as legal aid and keeping young girls safe from forced marriage.
Having only launched in March 2015, Chaynindia.com surpassed expectations with 67,977 total page views. Unsurprisingly, most views did come from Indian visitors, but yet again visitors from the United States made the second highest number of views, giving us reason to believe that a Chayn web platform would be an incredibly useful and vital resource for American-based survivors of domestic violence. The 3 most popular pages: Law & Divorce, Chayn India Home Page, Am I Being Forced To Marry. Indian women are most concerned about getting out of an abusive marriage, and youths are concerned about being forced into marriage by their parents – demonstrating the stark similarity between social problems faced by both Pakistani and Indian women in 2015.
One promising insight showed that our Mental Health Toolkit had over 500 views last year, after having only launched in June and hardly marketed, meaning that more and more NGOs and professionals are actively seeking information on mental health to support their communities and clients. We want to focus on outreach for this project in 2016 as it got neglected towards the end of last year!
Our How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer guide had a whopping 7,856 views last year, after its official launch in November. This does not include all the offline use by NGOs and lawyers that are printing and distributing the guide. The guide is a much needed resource for survivors of domestic violence who cannot afford legal counsel, so this reassuring number shows that this guide and similar toolkits are the kinds of tools survivors need and actively seek out online. Chayn made waves in the media in 2015 as several of our projects featured in print and multimedia, and in several different languages!
All of our toolkits, guides, websites, content, and events (hackathons, etc) are created with a global, diverse, and intersectional audience in mind. We translate all our guides and several blogs and articles into different languages and enthusiastically engage with the global community. This approach paid off in 2015 as Chayn garnered worldwide media attention for our achievements.
Chayn’s universal approach combined with the world’s current fascination with all things tech led to coverage of our How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer Guide in GOOD Magazine titled How One Website Is Changing the Way Women Fight Domestic Violence.
We believe in staying up-to-date and involved in current affairs and discourses centered around women’s rights, violence against women, activism, and feminism. Chayn’s volunteers are encouraged to blog about topical news events and post opinion-led pieces as well as informative articles on the Chayn blog, Medium (India & Pakistan), other websites and blogs, and on their personal websites. We also participated in ever popular social media discussions and events on Twitter and Facebook, connecting and sparking dialogue with similar organisations.
4 Ways Technology Is Boosting the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence – The Huffington Post
Volunteering For an NGO against Domestic Violence Made me a Better Indian – Brown Girl Magazine
Now there is a way to build your own domestic violence case without a lawyer – Young Feminist Wire
Ten ways to legally protect yourself when leaving an abusive relationship – The Ladies Finger
As we organised, hosted, and partnered on two hackathons (PeaceHackBEY and EmpowerHack) in 2015 that focused on the Syrian refugee crisis (which has since become an international crisis and holds the attention of the entire world), it was these projects that garnered the most attention from the press.
PeacehackBEY in the press: Chayn’s Maryam Amjad on FutureTV
EmpowerHack in the press: When technology challenges the narrative of the European refugee crisis – The A Factor
The year 2015 has brought us a lot of exciting opportunities, and allowed Chayn to grow and further expand its reach. This growth has posed some new challenges, and provided us with valuable lessons for future development.
One challenge has been to ensure team cohesion and good communication in the face of growth. Our volunteers are more and more scattered around the world, and we now have three country-focused web platforms – Chayn India, Chayn Pakistan and Chayn Italia (to be launched in 2016). Ensuring that all members feel connected to Chayn Labs, and that all project teams communicate their progress clearly to everyone has been a challenge. It has been further compounded by language barriers and variable use of social media among volunteers. We have been using our online communication tools, such as Slack and Facebook, as well as more personal outreach to all projects, and creating links between them to overcome this challenge.
Lack of volunteers with some specific backgrounds, such as writers, web developers and designers has been our other challenge. Expanding often requires all of these skills, and we have found them to be scarce among Chayn volunteers. To address this challenge, we have launched a call for volunteers, specifically advertising with people with those skills.
At the same time, having a diverse set of volunteers, who vary in their interests, schedules, use of social media and attitudes, we have faced a challenge in developing work processes that engage all volunteers, ensure efficiency of work, and do not overburden anyone. In order to overcome this challenge, we have implemented new community management measures, such as use of project leaders (rotating every three months) and online sprints. These run for a few hours at a time where volunteers get together on Slack to work on a specific project and are assigned simple, bite-size tasks by the project leader. To avoid burnout of long-term volunteers, who have been intensely involved with Chayn, we introduced Chayncation – a “vacation” from Chayn, whereby the volunteer can “disappear” for a certain period of time with the possibility to come back when they have the capacity again.
Pakistan Chaynville Case – Helping Fatima Get Out & Get On Her Feet
Since November 2014, we have been helping a victim of domestic violence in Pakistan, supporting her emotionally and financially. She, along with her small children, were at the mercy of a violent father who threatened to kill her, in a region of Pakistan where such threats must be taken seriously. With the help of only one volunteer based in Pakistan, we helped her and her children escape to a shelter, and then moved them into a modest “Chaynville” apartment.
This case taught us several valuable lessons about providing on the ground help to victims of domestic violence in a country like Pakistan.
We didn’t have a team on the ground in Pakistan with experience in rescues and victim support. We had to rely on one individual who agreed to take the risks involved to help a woman who would possibly and realistically have been killed.
It is extremely difficult to find safe and affordable accommodation for a single woman with children in Pakistan’s cities. This is why we needed a male volunteer who would be able to sign the tenancy agreement and deal with paying for utilities, hospital bills, etc.
As we only had one volunteer helping, we had to trust this individual with keeping Fatima and her kids safe, and with handling the financial assistance we were sending them. This brought its own set of problems, as we found it difficult to keep track of expenditure (lack of receipts), and we had difficulty knowing if Fatima was overspending or had enough money for day-to-day living.
We had nothing to fall back on in emergencies. For example, Fatima’s child and Fatima herself needed to be admitted to hospital (at separate instances) and we had to rely on volunteer contributions to pay for the hospital bills.
Lack of communication: We often had to deal with broken communication or spells of no communication at all with Fatima and our on-the-ground volunteer. While some of this was intentionally done, we realised we had no other ways of getting in touch with them.
This experience showed us how truly challenging it is to help women experiencing domestic violence in Pakistan, and highlighted issues that we now are committed to tackling in the region. The last year was difficult but opened our eyes to real problems and obstacles that NGOs and charities face when trying to operate in Pakistan.
We will be publishing our report on the case shortly which will detail our conclusions from the case. We are desperate and determined to think about solutions to the lack of housing and finance resources in a resource constraint, highly volatile environment like Pakistan. If you’ve got any ideas or feedback – send us your thoughts on [email protected]
We took more time than expected to finish our Privacy Guide, because of the challenge to make it easily understandable and user-friendly. We have done several rounds of feedback-gathering, and have re-worked the structure of the guide. We hope that the result – to be released in 2016 – will be as user-friendly, and responsive to survivors’ specific needs as our other products.
While we made headway in defining what Chayn is, we still sometimes feel that describing what we do in a simple and clear way is a challenge. We have felt this particularly when applying for grants and awards – it was sometimes difficult to comprehensively, yet concisely, define our mission and activities. We are developing a Theory of Change, which will likely help with this challenge, but we realise that much more brainstorming, analysing, and (sometimes) painful decisions await us on the way to clearly defining Chayn’s identity.
Creating our first non-English site, Chayn Italia, made us realise that not all volunteers in the world are comfortable using social media for online activism or a common language, which proved to be a big challenge. On all of Chayn’s projects so far, we’ve used a “deploy first, test later” startup motto. For this project, the Chayn italia team wanted to adopt a more hybrid approach whereby they wanted to use some of Chayn’s user-centered and collaborative tech approach while still working on everything with experts.
Previously, we did everything in house. With the Chayn India and Pakistan sites, Maryam and Hera learned all they could about UX to develop the platforms. For Chayn Italia, the team actually went out and commissioned pro bono professionals bringing up the quality of work and this has been super exciting for the rest of Chayn. By comparing our usual approach to a more traditional style, we’ve been able to adapt the organisation’s overall working style. After Chayn Italia’s success,we went out and started looking for UX designers as volunteers – from having none a couple of months ago, we now have four! Similarly, Chayn Italia have developed all of their content in close collaboration with a women’s abuse shelter in Rome which is a hyper-local approach we haven’t tried yet. We’re looking forward to seeing how this develops and the synergies it brings!
2015 was our best year yet.
A year of learning how to prioritise and manage our community better to impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable women in the world so they can become the masters of their own fate. While some lessons were harder than others, every single project, event, and opportunity in the last year taught us something invaluable. As a still relatively small organisation, Chayn saw incredible growth in 2015 which was largely due to the passion and drive of our volunteers. As a volunteer-run organisation we are only as good as our volunteers, and our volunteers are unparalleled in their commitment to empowering women — most of whom are survivors of abuse. We saw a surge in volunteer applications, which perfectly matched the surge in incredible events and opportunities for us to get stuck into. Yes, we may have been overwhelmed at times, understaffed, and under resourced, but in all the craziness of last year we may not have noticed! At Chayn, a busy year is a great year, and 2015 was very, very busy. 2015 went by in a blur of excitement, energy, and success. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun! We hope that 2016 brings us as many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, wonderful volunteers, and picture perfect moments as 2015 did.
Judging by how awesome 2015 was – all we can say is, watch what we do in 2016!