When Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as their “Person of the Year,” women’s safety was solidified as the biggest movement of 2017.
But harassment and violence against women isn’t just a U.S.-based problem. The World Health Organization estimates that “about 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.”
Women are often unable to call 911 in the midst of violence—and that’s when emergency services are even available, since many developing countries don’t have a universal emergency number. Even when women have resources available, only about 28 percent of victims in the U.S. report the assault to police, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study done in 2000. And nearly 71 percent of workplace sexual harassment cases are never reported for a multitude of reasons, according to a Cosmopolitan study done in 2015.
In response to the mounting frequency of harassment and assault women face across developed and emerging countries alike, the $1 million Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE was launched in October 2016.
The competition challenges a diverse range of global teams, including several cross-country collaborations, to develop an affordable, pragmatic device that provides women with the ability to rapidly respond to threats. The solution should autonomously and inconspicuously trigger an emergency alert and transmit information to a network of community responders, all within 90 seconds. In order to help give the product maximum adoption potential, the winning technology should cost no more than $40 (USD).
Twenty-one semi-finalist teams were selected in November 2017, and they will be given an additional six months to create a deployment-ready prototype. Each of the solutions will then be tested live in front of the judging panel in a simulated testing environment in Mumbai, India, in April 2018, with the winner announced shortly thereafter.
“We sparked this initiative to curb the harassment epidemic against women,” said Anu Jain, philanthropist and champion for the Women’s Safety XPRIZE, “and empower them to pursue their dreams.”