By Nomali Cele
Given the renewed conversation around femicide, gender-based violence and cases of girls and women going missing, another word has come back into the public conversation. That word is Namola. Most people are in agreement regarding the fact that the responsibility of ensuring that women don’t get abducted, raped or murdered shouldn’t lie with the victims. Potential victims of violence are not served by the expectation that they perform extra labour to ensure that the would-be perpetrators don’t have access to them.
Placing the onus to not get taken or raped or murdered on the potential victim plays a sinister role in victim-blaming. Women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are not women are overwhelmingly at the receiving end of violence, which often costs us our lives. When that has happened, abuse apologists and victim blamers will interrogate the victim; probing and looking for a weak spot in their story through which to smuggle the blame and lay it at the victim’s feet. What were you wearing? Did you constantly keep an eye on your drink? Why did you neglect your safety numbers? Did you try this or that?
But continually, Namola has kept coming up in conversations online as a tool to look into. Even those of us who understand that there isn’t anything potential victims of violence can do to prevent it, it doesn’t stop us creating chains in group chats with our loved ones to track each other’s’ movements and using apps to see where everyone we love is at any given time. It’s a coping mechanism, it feels like at least we are doing something. Even various taxi apps have a feature that allows riders to share the details of their trip with those who matter. Just to be safe.
What is Namola?
Namola is an app that allows users to access emergency assistance, all at the push of a button. It is operational across the country where there is network coverage. Users request help by pressing the button on the app, Namola operators then call back to verify the details of the request then dispatch the emergency service providers required. The innovation works to complement the 10111 police service. Other than the data cost levied by network providers, Namola is free to use. The data issue is a concern that the developers have been working to mitigate because it’s currently a barrier to accessing the help the app offers.
Promising a 24-hour, seven days a week call centre of responders, the app is free on both Android and IOS. In 2019, Namola launched a family safety feature, which allows people to perpetually share their location and movements with the people they choose. This also comes with real-time notifications when they leave or arrive at a location. The service is encrypted and only those you’ve given access to your movements will have access to your information and, in the case of an emergency, your information is shared with emergency services.
Whether or not the resource will give peace of mind or will be another avenue that amplifies anxiety where the safety of our loved ones is concerned, is not yet clear.