It has been three years since Kanta had seen her friend Lily. None of them could make a little time to hang out despite living in the same city. When they decided to meet, the long awkward distance – Motijheel to Uttara – made things more difficult for them. After hours of discussion, they decided to meet in a café in Gulshan.
The moment she was about to leave, her mother threw many questions about where she was going, with whom, how she would reach there or return home, the returning time, and asked her to write down her friend's phone number.
Baffled, Kanta drew a deep breath and answered all those questions one by one. She even promised to call in every hour to let her parents know that she is okay. After this interrogation, when Kanta reached the café, she called her mother twice, and rather than being excited, she was pretty exhausted to enjoy the company of her friend.
If you are thinking Kanta's parents are strict or overprotective, then perhaps you are the one who is wrong here. Most girls can relate to this incident because Kanta is not an exception in this country. Parents are worried about sexual harassment incidents that are happening around us every day and then behave like a paranoid parent.
This year, the World Health Organization report on "Violence Against Women" reveals that almost one-third of the world's women are being subjected to sexual violence. And the number is much higher here. According to a report of SAJIDA FOUNDATION, about 84% of Bangladeshi women are constantly facing sexual harassment.
A solution to the problem?
Three students of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have tried to solve this problem and build an app titled Watcher Twenty-Four Seven. Using this app, one can share their live location with friends and send messages to make them aware of the danger. This team has recently been declared the winner in a competition jointly organised by Bangladesh Open Source Network-BDOSN's ESDG Project and National Appstore of Bangladesh BD Apps.
"We created this app because my friend and I face this problem very frequently. Before any random meetup, I have to start planning a day earlier about where someone will pick me up, or I will pick up someone. If I did not find any friends, I even had to cancel plans. This entire thing is so exhausting that I could barely enjoy the excitement of hangout," shared Sanjana Binte Siraj, a second-year student of Computer Science and Engineering, BUET.
"Hence, once I learned about this competition for women only, the first thing that triggered my mind was that let's use this platform to solve a problem of women. Then, I came up with this idea," she added.
For this competition, Watcher Twenty-Four Seven submitted a concept note, and then within a week, they built an app. Sanjana shared as there was not enough time, they just made a basic structure and submitted it. Hence, its usage and features are limited. This app is more like a social media where people can be friends, share their live location with many friends or one specific friend. It can send customised messages too.
It was beyond their imagination that this idea would be so well received. Now, the team members are working on this and planning to add more features to it. The app is bringing more options like an alarm which will keep buzzing with a blazing sound when the rescuer is around. Features like making calls, taking pictures of locations and sharing those with friends will be added too. The team is hoping to share the closest police station's site and number with the victim so that s/he can quickly get in touch with them.
"When someone is in danger, we understand it is not always possible to bring the phone out. Therefore, we are keeping quick options like stabbing the power button thrice. It is like a hidden signal to the app, and automatically messages will be sent to the friends with live location," said Riya Dey, another team member.
Collaboration with 999
The Watcher Twenty-Four Seven team wants this app to be used for the well-being of everyone. They hope to collaborate with the 999 National Emergency Service Bangladesh shortly once the app is entirely ready. It will be available both in Google Play Store and App Store for users.
"If we can help one girl with this app, we will consider ourselves successful," stated Saira Yeasmin, team member of Watcher Twenty-Four Seven.
They are willing to add a monetary value to this app to sustain and execute the plans. Even though they have not planned yet, advertising on the social media platform might be an option. Moreover, they plan to introduce a wristband to the users, which will be available only in the paid version. The wristband will be directly connected to the app and able to take command of the users.
Team Watcher Twenty-Four Seven has many plans, but it is progressing slowly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they hope to build a full fledged app in the next six months for the users. "We are students and learning every day solving problems. We know that our plans might bring success or might not, but we are working hard to create a secure society for our girls. And, that is our inspiration," voiced Sanjana with hope.