OpenUp’s contributions to improving women’s lives.
Civic-tech tools aim to empower citizens to promote social change in different areas, and gender inequality is one of them. Over the past years, OpenUp has led multiple gender-focused initiatives, which I briefly present in this article. OpenUp’s work has taught me that civic-tech could have an important role in the fight against gender disparities. I walk through these impressive projects in this essay.
Data literacy workshop for girls
In 2017, OpenUp partnered with Code for Cape Town (Code 4CT) to facilitate data workshops for high-school girls who were learning coding. The Code 4CT programme aims to equip high-potential female learners with the coding, problem solving, and life skills that will allow them to leverage technology to contribute meaningfully to South Africa’s innovation system. Beyond teaching girls, the workshop trained the staff to continuously conduct the same activities with future learners.
Supporting Code 4CT meant fostering a movement that provides girls with information and qualification to pursue higher-paying careers and contribute to innovation in South Africa. The training sessions not only empowered the Code 4CT staff to provide women with better economic opportunities, but also contributed to the engagement of a future generation of innovators.
The Living Wage Calculator
OpenUp’s Living Wage Calculator helps employers assess if they are paying fair wages to domestic workers. With more than 9500 visitors in the past 12 months, the calculator is expected to support mostly women, given that they account for the majority of South African domestic workers.
With data on the cost of food, housing, transportation, and education, as well as household size, the tool calculates the wage needed to cover the worker’s basic needs - which tends to be higher than the minimum wage. The calculator also collects data on domestic workers’ wages, which can be used to inform public policy and social organisations that support these workers. It drives change by informing employers, who are giving more thought to their payment decisions, but also other stakeholders such as the media, who are actively engaging in initiatives to raise awareness of underpaid domestic workers.
Making data available - Wazimap and the Women Shelters Dataset
In the past, we have worked to make data available and comprehensible to South African citizens. Two of our projects that deal with women’s needs are the Sexual and Reproductive Health Activities Map (SRH) and some documentation we created on Resources for South African Women, available in our open data portal.
The SRH Activities Map was built for GIZ and is part of the Wazimap, an open source platform we created to make census data easier to understand. It presents geographical information on public health facilities, SHR services, private pharmacies, and Marie Stopes centres. The map also shows data on social indicators related to population, education, health, and wellness at the provincial and municipality levels.
The Resources for South African Women is a database we created to compile information on a set of services offered to women, such as counselling support, soup kitchens, shelters, support for drug and alcohol addiction, support for mothers, police services, LGBT community support and crisis lines.
Both the SHR Activities Map and the Resources for South African Women were created to make relevant information available to women who need access to specific services, but also to inform policymakers, the media, social organisations and other stakeholders that work to protect women’s rights.
We have also produced a series of data analyses and visualisations on gender inequalities, such as articles on the gender roles in different fields of medicine and women’s participation in the Local Government Elections of 2016. Visualizations are available in our GitHub repository, and those focused on gender issues include:
- Graduates equality in med school in SA
- Number of of female and male Registered Surgeons in SA (age/gender)
- Cardio-vascular surgery is a field dominated by men
- Female candidates' position in PR lists (SA’s elections of 2016)
- Elections 2016 - age and gender balance in parties
- Ages of women candidates by party
We produce this kind of content to inspire reflections on circumstances that reflect social injustice but go unnoticed. We hope it can spark citizens’ and organisations’ engagement on changing these scenarios.
A case management system for community-based organisations tackling gender-based violence
In the beginning of 2020, we partnered with the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT) to develop a case management system for community-based organisations that deal with gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. Referred to as local development agencies (LDAs), these organisations receive support from SCAT in the form of grants, mentoring, and capacity building. After noticing that LDAs could benefit from systems to help them keep track of their cases, SCAT invited us to help develop tech tools to support LDAs that deal with GBV.
In the past months, we have conducted a series of interviews with LDA paralegals and GBV clients (survivors) to understand the challenges they face when dealing with GBV cases. In case we find that tech tools could help an LDAs’ work with GBV survivors, we will likely contribute to developing such tools soon.