8 Startups Reducing Violence Against Women in Latin America
#NiUnaMenos. This hashtag galvanized a movement across Latin America to push back against gender-based violence and “machista” culture. As the US tackles the #MeToo movement, the #TimesUp protest, and the bro culture of Silicon Valley, Latin America’s tech ecosystem is fighting its own battle against female discrimination.
In Latin America, the issue goes deeper than workplace harassment and catcalling. Fourteen Latin American countries are on the list of 25 nations with the highest rates of femicide. One in three women in Latin America’s major capital cities, like São Paulo, claims to have been harassed while using public transportation. 40% of women in the region are victims of violence at some point in their lives; in the US, one-quarter of women will suffer from gender-based violence during their lifetimes.
What role does tech play in preventing gender-based violence?
As Latin America undergoes rapid development driven partially by a wave of tech innovation, the pressure to build solutions to the region’s patriarchal, “machista” culture is on.
Only 14.5% of entrepreneurs in Latin America are women, just below the world average of 17%.
This imbalance has severe consequences. We expect innovators and entrepreneurs to look to their personal problems first as the genesis for creative solutions. If most founders are men, challenges that mostly affect women will go overlooked. The burden of gender-based violence lies heavily on the shoulders of women; around 50% of women who are victims of homicide were killed by an intimate partner, while only 6% of men suffer the same fate. In Chile’s capital alone, more than 50% of adult women have experienced violence from a partner.
Across Latin America, startup founders are beginning to fight these grim statistics. Here are eight startups that are using technology to enable women to live more safely, even in Latin America’s biggest cities.
1. Safetipin (Colombia)
Safetipin helps women get where they need to go while avoiding dangerous areas of the city. Founded in 2013 in India, Safetipin creates crowdsourced maps based on suggestions from citizens to help people take the safest way home. The startup looks to mobilize the power of civil society to develop cities that are safer for women.
Safetipin currently operates in Nairobi, Bogotá, and New Delhi, cities that are famous for high levels of violence against women. The company partners with governments to fund professional research that backs the advice given by citizens who use the app. They have traveled more than 10,000 kilometers across the three cities to capture as much information as possible so that people who use the free app can transit in safety, wherever they may be.
2. LauDrive (Mexico)
LauDrive is a Mexican application that provides private taxi services for women, driven by women. A group of developers came together to build the app after the murder of 19-year-old Mara Castilla, supposedly at the hands of her Cabify driver.
Facing the rising rate of femicide in the country, the co-founders launched Laudrive to create a safe transportation solution for women in Mexico City. With over 1000 clients and 354 drivers, LauDrive is looking to expand to four more Mexican cities by the end of the year.
3. Mediconfia (Colombia)
Health professionals, especially gynecologists, play a significant role in protecting and helping women in situations of violence. However, finding a trustworthy gynecologist can be a challenge of its own. Mediconfia helps women connect with recommended gynecologists through an online platform that allows patients to rate their doctors. This service is currently available in Cali, Medellín, and Bogotá.
4. LadyDriver (Brazil)
In São Paulo, a woman becomes a victim of abuse every 15 seconds. São Paulo is one of the most dangerous cities in the world for women, demonstrating a reality that most Brazilian women live every day. LadyDriver provides female-only taxi services in Brazil’s largest city to protect women from dangerous public transport. The app has over 8000 drivers and 100,000 customers after raising US$500K in seed funding earlier this year.
5. Laboratoria (Peru)
While this startup doesn’t directly fight violence against women, it combats the core issues that exacerbate gender-based discrimination, namely poverty and lack of education. Laboratoria provides free coding classes to low-income women in Peru, Mexico, Chile, and Brazil to enable them to join the labor market. They have raised over US$750K to train 800+ students, 80% of whom have been hired as developers and tripled their earning potential.
6. Háblame de Respeto (El Salvador)
Hablame de Respeto is an initiative that maps gender-based violence in El Salvador. El Salvador is considered the “most dangerous place for women in the Western Hemisphere,” with the highest rate of femicide of all Latin American countries. Hablame de Respeto creates interactive maps that generate visibility for acts of violence against women, including sexual assault, homicide, and rape. They also provide long-term research on gender-based violence in El Salvador to track how trends evolve.
7. She Taxi (Argentina)
She Taxi works similarly to LauDrive or LadyDriver, however, it is built on top of Argentina’s existing taxi system. Instead of soliciting private drivers under the Uber model, She Taxi hails official cabs, making it more legal than Uber or Cabify. The app connects women with female taxi drivers and even allows them to chat before they start the trip. Currently, the app has over 30,000 users in Cordoba and Rosario and is trying to expand to Buenos Aires.
8. She Drives Us (Chile)
Inspired by SheTaxi and LauDrive, Chile launched its women-only taxi service in January 2018. The startup works like Uber, providing private, female drivers for female customers. Women may use the service alone, or with a partner of any sex, provided the driver allows male passengers. She Drives Us also provides users with a ShePass, a points system that women can exchange for free rides.
Gender-based violence continues to be an unfortunate reality for women across Latin America and the world. However, as more women enter the tech ecosystem, startups have begun to tackle this issue using technology to empower and protect women. Entrepreneurs tend to build solutions for problems that they see and experience themselves; the increased inclusion of women in tech will bring more innovation that combats gender-based violence and machismo in Latin America and the world.
Are there any startups we missed? Share them with us in the comments.
About the author
Sophia Wood supports startups in Latin America as a Marketing Manager at Launchway Media and working in Operations at Magma Partners.