Young Female Coders Invent Apps to Solve Social Issues in the Slums of India
With an estimated population of almost 1 million people, Dharavi is one of the biggest slums in India. Among some of the community’s most challenging social issues is a lack of access to clean water, widespread gender-based violence, child abuse and child labour. Fortunately, things might be starting to change thanks to a group of teenage girls who are developing apps to tackle many of Dharavi’s problems.
The Dharavi Diary project, founded by filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan in 2014, teaches young women how to code using an MIT App Inventor. Ranjan’s aim is to help the women in Indian slums understand how technology can be used to “challenge the status quo” and create positive change.
One of the apps created by the Dharavi Diary project, “Women Fight Back,” helps to prevent violence against women using a panic alarm and pre-selected emergency contact information. “Paani,” another innovative app built by the Dharavi Diary project, attempts to make life a little easier for residents when it comes to water. In India, the task of fetching water is often assigned to females and as a result, many young girls end up spending hours waiting to collect water from the community tap – often having to miss school due to long lines. “Paani” helps to avoid this issue by creating a virtual “queue” and alerting households when it is their turn to fetch water.
Since the project’s inception, it has grown to include 200 students some of whom are boys. Many of the student’s parents are illiterate. This project gives the community hope, and a way forward. It also encourages more participation and awareness surrounding the problems that the community faces. Most of all, it uses technology to address them. Following in the footsteps of Dharavi Diary, many of the slum’s girls have also joined the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) Learning Program where they are being taught computer science.
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