On the Women’s Habitat website, a header bar sits at the top of the page – it’s yellow and covers the entire width of the browser window. On it, in bold red, the text “Leave this site now” is explicitly positioned on a white button. To its left, there are hyperlinked instructions to remove any evidence of your visit to the site. For many of us, the reasons for this may not be immediately clear, but for a woman who is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing violence and abuse, the reasons are obvious.

Each week, we’ll be introducing you to another participating charity and we’ll share the challenges that they’re facing and the problems they’re hoping to solve at the hackathon.

Please click here to find resources related to the tech challenges faced by Women’s Habitat.

The behaviour of people at risk of experiencing violence and abuse is conditioned by the simple possibility of being watched. The “Leave this site now” button allows visitors to leave the site at a moment’s notice in case someone enters the room unannounced. The instructions for removing evidence of site visits are a safeguard against the controlling that can take place for people who are forced to behave in certain ways or to comply with certain restrictions by a threatening force.

The Women’s Habitat provides confidential support and safety for women and their children who are survivors of violence and abuse. As they state on their site, “[often]the most dangerous time for a woman and her children is when she makes the brave decision to leave her abuser.” The Women’s Habitat “offers a safe, confidential location with everything a woman needs to rebuild her life, including housing and legal support.”

In Canada, according to police-reported data from 2011, 173,600 women aged 15 and older were victims of violent crime. This statistic doesn’t include the women who live in fear of potential violence, or the women who are too scared to report their partners or spouses to the police. A report available on Statistics Canada about shelters for abused women, reported that 3,500 women and 2,700 children sleep in shelters on any given night because it isn’t safe at home.

Every night, women and children are turned away because shelters are full. Women’s Habitat has a newly renovated 25-bed, 10-bedroom shelter in Etobicoke and an Outreach Centre where women can access various free programs that will provide them with resources and support.

According to an older, one-time only Stats Canada survey from 1993, half of all women in Canada experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence after the age of 16. Another survey from Stats Canada reported that rates of violent victimization against women 15 years and over remained relatively stable between 1999 and 2009. Given the persistent prevalence of abuse, it’s essential for organizations like Women’s Habitat to adapt to current and future tech trends by developing new tools to provide their services.

For Silvia Samsa, Executive Director of Women’s Habitat, Gift the Code is an opportunity “to engage different stakeholders in the creation of systemic change for the women and children who are survivors of violence and abuse. The results from this hackathon event will have a direct impact on the service delivery of our programs.”

  1. Create a solution that improves and enhances the functionality and visual appeal of our online donation system.
  2. Create a solution that updates our current systems to enable easier reporting and exports.
  3. Create a solution that improves our ability to find and leverage donors.
  4. Create a solution that allows us to easily communicate and promote our services.

Don’t forget to check back next Monday for a new post about one of the charities participating at Gift the Code. It will include a brief description of the charity and information about the challenges they’ll be bringing forward at Gift the Code!