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Harassed at the Rio Olympics or Elsewhere in Brazil? Call 180


RIO DE JANEIRO — Throughout Brazil, it’s not uncommon to come across posters, billboards and advertisements on buses and in subways showing women and men holding cellphones and this message: “Violência contra as mulheres? Eu logo 180: Violence against women? I’ll call 180.” These notices have been up since the country hosted the 2014 World Cup to catch attention and spread the word on violence against women. They are still there as the 2016 Olympic games begin.

Call 180: a helpline for women in violent situations.

As the city here gets ready to host the best sporting talent in the world, this determined, visible government campaign to publicize gender violence offers promise in achieving greater sensitivity and perhaps even positive change in this society.

The campaign emphasizes the public’s responsibility to end violence against women. It promotes a 24-hour women’s helpline where survivors of violence can access information about their rights, where and how to seek help and how to report cases. Since the hotline was set up more than a decade ago, it has received more than three million calls. The government hopes the campaign will increase reporting as more people become familiar with the service.

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Violence against women has reached alarming levels in Brazil. Around 40 percent of Brazilian women report experiencing domestic violence at some point in their lives. In 2012 alone, 50,617 rapes were reported in the country. More than 92,000 women were killed from 1980 to 2012. Creating an app to promote the hotline was a necessity for Brazil, which ranks fourth in the world in the number of smartphones users, with 70 million handsets operational in the country in 2013. Additionally, more than 100 million Brazilians — around half the total population of about 200 million — use the Internet.

The well-designed smartphone app, Clique 180 (click on 180), also provides comprehensive information on the types of violence against women and the laws for each crime. It includes a button to reach the helpline and a collaborative tool that allows users to pin on a map areas of their cities that pose safety risks. The app is supported by a website,

Developed for iOS and Android operating systems by UN Women, in partnership with the British embassy in Brazil, Clique 180 builds on a previous SmartWomen App piloted in 2013 under the Rio de Janeiro Safe and Sustainable City for All joint program with UN-Habitat and Unicef. It was tested in 10 favelas, or neighborhoods, across Rio, the second-most populous metropolitan area in the country and a center of international tourism.

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The app has been upgraded with many improvements. Besides better navigability, the app offers a geolocation feature that taps into a national network of services assisting women. These indicate, for example, which local, state or federal public service, nongovernmental or academic resources are located closest to the user, their hours of operation and how to get there.

The app is available as a free download from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

Even before its official launch, Wendely Leal, a designer and programmer who was part of the team that developed Clique 180, had to use it to help a friend report violence she had experienced.

“My friend left the bar running, scared, crying. She called me immediately to tell me what had happened. I remembered the information I had because I was programming Clique 180,” Leal said, adding: “So, I read about violence to her, explaining that she was a victim of a crime under Brazilian law. Then, using the app, I found the most appropriate kind of service on the network of specialized services to assist women and located the closest police station prepared to assist women. Finally, we went there to register a police report.”

Ideojane Melo Conceição, an educator and activist of the Women’s Collective of Feira de Santana, a rights organization in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil, is in daily contact with women who don’t realize they are experiencing violence in personal relationships, at work or on public transportation.

“It is very important that the app clarifies this, through simple words with lots of examples,” she said.

Maria do Carmo Bittencourt, the coordinator of the State Reference Center for Women in Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil, explained that many women choose not to seek services, especially in small towns, because they feel embarrassed to be entering the site. The app has a solution for these fears.

“Because the application has registered services across the country, these women can find other locations outside of their cities to ask for help or make a complaint,” Bittencourt said.

This article is part of UN Women’s Step It Up for Gender Equality campaign. It appeared originally in Women’s Feature Service, Delhi.                                                                        


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Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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