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Cosas de Mujeres

Qualitative data and connecting women with local gender-based violence services

Interview with Dr. Julia Zulver
Cosas de Mujeres community activity. © Julia Zulver
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Ladysmith Collective leverages WhatsApp to build a platform to connect vulnerable women to the services they need while also generating actionable data about GBV at the Venezuelan Colombian border.

885

interactions/month, Cúcuta
(since Jan 2020)

506

interactions/month, Bucaramanga
(since July 2021)

280

interactions/month, Cartagena
(since Sept 2020)

Tell us a bit more about Ladysmith and how you combine your research with the project Cosas de Mujeres?

JULIA: Ladysmith is a feminist research collective. We help international organisations collect, analyse, and then take action on gender data. We're in the middle of this gender data revolution — which sort of implies that with more information, with more data, we'll be able to tackle gender equality more directly. We think at Ladysmith, that depends on the data that you have — is it quantitative or qualitative?

Much of the work that we do helps these international organisations think about the way that they're collecting data, what kinds of data, how they're ensuring they're not leaving people behind — how to ensure they're interpreting it and then analysing it in a way that speaks to women's experiences.

"We are not just receiving data for data's sake, but also knowing that in exchange, what women are getting is this directory of services that are going to support them."

Dr. Julia Zulver on combining data and research into something more action-orientated.

Julia Zulver with Ladysmith Collective founders Lorena Fuentes and Tara Cookson
Lorena Fuentes, Julia Zulver and Tara Cookson
Awareness poster on street pole -  An invitation to message the Cosas de Mujeres Helpdesk on WhatsApp.
An invitation to message the Cosas de Mujeres Helpdesk on WhatsApp.

JULIA: And so that's how the project was born. This understanding, in part, came out of the research I was doing at the time. It showed that, although everyone and everyone in terms of various stakeholders, people in the international community, at the government level, in civil society, and organisations knew, when I was asking them questions about violence in this nexus of migration from Venezuela and armed conflict, that violence against women was at the time, at an all-time high. It was extreme, and everyone would say, 'Oh, we know that's the case.'

"We have all this anecdotal evidence, or we've heard the stories, but we don't necessarily have a database..."

JULIA: We have all this anecdotal evidence, or we've heard the stories, but we don't necessarily have a database, or we don't necessarily have it recorded, documented in any systematic way.

It was this perfect fit in terms of being able to create a project that both satisfied women's needs in terms of information, getting information about where they can go in case of facing violence, and then also finding a way to document and record this gender data. And to do this in a way that comes from women themselves and that accurately reflects their experiences. Then COVID happened, and my fellowship actually got put on hold, so I could dedicate much more time to it.

Out in the community with the Cosas de Mujeres team.
Out in the community with the Cosas de Mujeres team
Julia Zulver out  in the community. © Julia Zulver
Dr. Julia Zulver taking part in community activities
Dr Julia Zulver

JULIA: It's felt personally super satisfying to have this academic research that I've also been doing now have this sort of project element to it that feels as though I can see or feel as though I'm engaged. In a way that impacts women's lives in a bit more concrete way, obviously, academia has its influences, it has its place in terms of influencing policy or creating knowledge, but being able to be involved in this project has felt super meaningful in terms of being able to translate that research into something more action-oriented.

"being able to be involved in this project has felt super meaningful in terms of being able to translate that research into something more action-oriented."

Introducing the service and in-person hours
Cosas de Mujeres Whatsapp Helpdesk screen. Introduction.
Consent to the Gender Data Kit privacy
Cosas de Mujeres Whatsapp Helpdesk screen. Consent messaging and link to privacy.

Why did you choose to collaborate specifically with Turn.io?

JULIA: We know that Turn as a company, or how you operate, is based on this question of impact - it's really based on this idea of social justice. So as non-tech experts ourselves, we've also really loved working with an organisation that has the same understandings that we do in terms of what these interactions with our users should be like, how to make them human, how to make them warm. We now obviously have a tech person on our team, and he does a lot of support with the tech portion. Being able to work with you and others who have this similar version of a more just world has been gratifying in terms of the way that we want to work.

"being able to be involved in this project has felt super meaningful in terms of being able to translate that research into something more action-oriented."

JULIA: We found that if we have a question or if we have feedback that those have been received super well and you know as well as we do, there are other services out there that allow for this chat at scale, but we really wanted to grow with an organisation that shared the vision that we had, and would also understand on the tech side, what some of our limitations or some of our criteria for how we interact with our users might be.'

"It feels very central to the way that we think great services on WhatsApp should be run – that there really is that human in the loop."

Pippa Yeats, Founder and Product manager, Turn.io

On working with Ladysmith on the Cosas de Mujeres project

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