How do you fix South Africa's sexual and reproductive health wrongs? Well, helping people access their rights is a start. (Roxy de Villiers)

This bracelet could one day help keep you safe from rape, assaults

Roxy de Villiers
How do you fix South Africa’s sexual and reproductive health wrongs? Help people access their rights.

Rape. It's anyone's worst fear, especially for vulnerable groups like sex workers. But what if a simple app could help prevent it, or at least connect you to care if it happened? Well, it might not be far off.

For many sex workers, rape and violence are still occupational hazards from clients and police. One in three sex workers surveyed report being sexually abused by police, according to recent research by the nongovernmental organisations Sonke and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce.

The national HIV plan hopes to stop new infections among the group but as the health department hands out condoms to workers in an effort to protect them, police continue to confiscate them.

To tackle problems like these, Nigeria-based health consultancy EpiAFRIC teamed up with activists, healthcare workers and coders for a hackathon to help put solutions in the palm of South Africans’ hands. 

Check out what happened next:

1. Wait, so what is a hackathon?


2. Health technology has brought everything from menstrual tracking apps to pill-popping ATMs, so why can’t it link people to the sexual and reproductive health services and information they need? Tlaleng Mofokeng of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition of South Africa thinks it can.


3. How do you find solutions? Step one: Chart the problem. For many South Africans — particularly young women most at risk of HIV infection — unplanned pregnancies, transactional sex and a lack of support are barriers to taking control of their sex lives.


4. And no one is speaking to people who don’t identify as male or female…


5. So what makes a good solution? Thinking through how real people will actually use it.


6. Next, is plotting out how much it will cost to make and use.


7. One group suggested paying people to access health screening services. Take an HIV test, earn points to get cash back. Listen, as they explain:


8. But what makes a GREAT solution? The winning team came up with a bracelet for sex workers that functions as a panic button. Linked to your phone, the button sends out SMSes to your emergency contacts if you’re in danger of being raped.

Watch as they tell you what sets their technology apart:

As part of the Hackathon, the winning team gets more than R20 000 to put their idea into practice.

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sex workersSex Workers Education and Advocacy Task ForceSA National Strategic Plan for HIV TB STIsHIVSexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR)