Anu Jain shares the latest on the Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE Competition

Anu Jain & the Women’s Safety XPrize Finalists

Author: Anu Jain (Member, Women Moving Millions & Founder & President, Naveen & Anu Jain Family Foundation)

My dream of achieving girls and women’s safety worldwide is finally one step closer to becoming a reality. Two years after the launch of the Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s XPRIZE competition, the top five finalist teams are going to be unveiled and the winning team presented with a million-dollar check at the United Nations in New York in June 2018.

As I arrived in Mumbai, India, for the final team testing of the Anu & Naveen Jain Women Safety XPRIZE competition, my heart raced with excitement. I was finally going to meet the semifinalist teams from around the world and see their technology solutions in action!  They had been working on finding a solution since the launch of the competition in October 2016 and I would get to see their technology solutions for the first time.

Teams ranged from University students, to scientists, to entrepreneurs, engineers, parents, and victims of abuse. All from different walks of life and all with the same goal of finding a solution to provide immediate help to girls and women in times of assault.

The members of the 20 teams were so passionate and dedicated to finding a solution and were here, not for the one-million-dollar prize purse, but to really focus on and solve the problem of women’s safety, which has been overlooked for generations. The prize had incentivized them to enter the competition, but now, as competitive as they all were, the teams were working together to find the best solution to the problem.

The winning devices ranged from smart jewelry that can trigger emergency alerts to other wearables that detect physical gestures and speech recognition for emergency triggers. All solutions were tested live in front of the judging panel and in simulated testing environments in April 2018 including public transportation in Mumbai, India taking routes unknown to the teams to test the mobility and advanced functionality of their devices.

The Judging Panel was composed of high caliber individuals from all over the world; from a distinguished former FBI agent, to a retired US Army veteran and awarded entrepreneurs and engineers.

As I got to observe everyone in action, I was awestruck by how everyone was so focused, crossing all borders, and were passionately discussing ways to work together to solve this global problem.

It is amazing to see how incentivized competitions can draw attention from around the world to solve the largest problems that face humanity.  We need to look beyond the traditional methods of philanthropy and use innovation and technology to find solutions while also working to change the mindset of people.

As I sat on my flight back home, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement. The Anu & Naveen Women’s Safety XPRIZE had brought together people from different backgrounds across the world to work together to help us get one step closer to my dream: To live in a world where safety would no longer be considered a luxury for girls and women but recognized and accepted as a fundamental human right.

Mariska Hargitay is Helping Survivors Tell Their Stories

Author: Mariska Hargitay (Member, Women Moving Millions & Founder, Joyful Heart Foundation)

Today, hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sit in law enforcement facilities across the United States. Hundreds of thousands of kits. Untested for years, many for more than a decade. And behind each of those kits is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice, waiting for closure, or not waiting anymore, because it’s been too long. If that leaves you slack-jawed with outrage, I couldn’t agree more.

I started the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives. Since then, we have grown into a national organization dedicated to changing the way our society responds to these issues and ending this violence once and for all.

In 2009, thanks to a report by Human Rights Watch, I learned there were more than 12,000 untested rape kits in my hometown of Los Angeles, and I thought my head was going to explode. At Joyful Heart, we immediately made eliminating the backlog our top priority and set out to shine as bright a light as we could on this travesty. That involved studying the best way to re-engage survivors whose kits were part of a backlog, partnering with cities to finally test their kits, working with survivors and advocates to advance legislative change, as well as many other routes of engagement.

I also wanted as many people as possible to know about the backlog, and to hear the stories of the women whose kits have sat on shelves for far too long. A team of dedicated, compassionate filmmakers and I worked with a group of survivors—who truly taught us what courage is—to make I AM EVIDENCE. Our film, which premiered earlier this month, is currently airing on HBO and HBO Latino and can be found on HBO NOW and HBO GO.

I AM EVIDENCE not only tells survivors’ stories, it also showcases the remarkable efforts in communities across America to bring an end to this injustice. I am deeply inspired by the advocates and survivors who have engaged in this work for decades, but they need the help of citizens in every state in this nation to tell their elected officials this matters. With this film—as we elevate the voices of those most impacted— we aim to provoke outrage, mobilize the public, underline the urgency of this effort, and ultimately, engage people across the country to demand change.

We don’t know the full extent of the rape kit backlog because federal agencies and most state governments don’t require police departments to count or track the kits in their possession. Most of the time, the number of untested kits in a particular place is unknown until advocates, survivors, journalists, non-profit organizations, or concerned citizens initiate and lead an inquiry. This has to end.

That is why Joyful Heart is engaged in a national campaign to pass laws in all 50 states that mandate kits be tested, tracked, and acted upon. We have six pillars of reform we are working to pass in every state, as these are the only way to ensure that discretion or resources can no longer be used as excuses to deny sexual assault survivors the justice they deserve.

At its core, this issue is about survivors. What mattered most to me in making I AM EVIDENCE was bringing their stories into the light and giving them the space to tell their truths. And not just of their assaults, but of the effect of a flawed criminal justice system that left their rape kit untested and their cases unresolved.

As the landscape around these issues continues to change dramatically in this extraordinary cultural moment, where women’s individual acts of courage have brought an unprecedented wave of change, I have reflected on what has driven me to work in this field. My most immediate answer is outrage. Put most simply, what I learned made me mad, and I wanted to do something about it. But I have also been driven by hope. And fueled by possibility. And sustained by the joy of community.

My fervent hope for this film is that it will be a catalyst for action, that it will move you to learn about the backlog in your community and in your state, and that it will motivate you to join this movement to end this injustice once and for all. We cannot do it alone.

Follow on social media to stay updated on these amazing efforts:

Joyful Heart Foundation: Twitter; Facebook
I AM EVIDENCE: Twitter; Facebook

End the Backlog: Twitter