FINALIST: Inua Mama Fua

Ask questions for the Inua Mama Fua project here!

Inua Mama Fua
Dhobi Women Network, Kenya

ABOUT: The project seeks to enhance and promote Access to Justice for casual women domestic workers (Dhobi women). These women reside in informal settlements and walk for long distances in search of potential employers in rich neighborhoods who pick them by the roadside and lead them to their homes where they perform domestic work such as cleaning, cooking, babysitting, and other household chores which in most cases are not guaranteed.

They experience a series of harassment ranging from underpayment, delayed payments or no payment at all by their employers, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention by police under the guise of loitering, sexual harassment at work, and even in some circumstances, the women are coerced to perform inhumane acts such as washing dead bodies. Regrettably, without any appropriate mechanism for reporting these heinous acts and the lack of adequate knowledge on their rights, they have found themselves at crossroads not knowing how to access justice in the event of violations.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, these women were accused of violating containment measures and other government directives geared towards curbing further spread of the virus. They were roughed up and taken to forced quarantine leaving their children unattended. Also, their potential employers were hesitant to let them into their homes in fear of contracting the virus. This resulted in massive job losses which meant they could not meet the basic needs of their families.

In order to address their plight, Dhobi Women Network developed a USSD code to enable casual women domestic workers to access available domestic work at the comfort of their homes using their mobile phones. The code is user-friendly as it offers explicit navigation instructions available in languages that they can understand, that is, English and Swahili, thus guaranteeing them jobs that are safe, decent, and reliable.

The USSD code has an additional component of reporting mechanism in case of any human rights violations and with contacts of our partner CSOs, government institutions, police, and the Director of Public Prosecution thus expediting access to justice. Additionally, the availability of data for both Dhobi women and their employers makes the follow-up procedure effective in case of any violation between either party.

We anticipate that in the event of a scale-up, Dhobi Women Network will roll out this feature in other Counties in the country to offer the requisite support to Women Domestic Workers who have for the longest time been denied access to justice due to lack of a convenient mechanism for seeking domestic work.

Learn more about this project on the World Justice Challenge website.

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Hello! Your presentation at the showcase today was very thought-provoking. I’d love to know more about how your USDD app helps women work virtually when many of their jobs often rely on in-person activities and responsibilities.

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Hello Jayak! Thank you for taking the time to listen in and get captivated by our project. Foremost, the USSD code can be accessed by any phone; either feature phones or smartphones. Given that the USSD code has a dial-in component, it does not need any internet connectivity hence more accessible to all phone users . This makes it affordable as minimal phone credit charges are incurred. The platform has explicit navigation features defined in either English or Swahili, which can be accessed by women domestic workers at the comfort of their homes. Among its key features is the ‘search for domestic work component’ where potential employers and employees can dial in and acquire the services they need.

Besides, the USSD platform offers explicit navigation components of reporting mechanisms in case of any human rights violations, and with contacts of our partner CSOs, government institutions, police, and the Director of Public Prosecution thus expediting access to justice consequently upholding the rule of law. Additionally, the availability of data for both Dhobi women and their employers makes the follow-up procedure effective in case of any violation between either party.

Due to violations that the domestic workers face in the line of duty, the use of such technology will protect them from abuse and harassment by police. In case of any abuse such as the washing of dead bodies, lack of pay, arbitrary arrests, sexual harassment, illegal detention by police, and Gender-Based Violence, they will be able to contact hotline numbers for action and be rescued through GPS which will track the employers details retained in the office for reference. We are aware that most cases have been thrown out in court due to lack of evidence or witnesses. The wide usage of this platform therefore will ensure that employer/ employee data is captured and those who are found culpable of any human rights violations face the full force of the law.

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Wow, that’s amazing! So, just clarifying, has the USSD been developed or is this something you would potentially develop with the prize money?

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The USSD has been developed awaiting launch and roll out with the prize money. It will be an honor to invite the World Justice Project Team for the launch.

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Iam also very impressed with your organization and its mandates . I want to wish you the very best in your present and future endeavors,
Good luck

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Thank you so much Atinu.