Hackathon Against Violence Against Women (Interview)

On the night between the 18th and the 19th of April 2021, 14 youth movements met in a so-called hackathon in the Brain Embassy in Tel Aviv, to jointly search for solutions against violence against women.

Among those youth movements were long-standing partner organizations of the Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem, such as Hashomer Hatzair, NOAL and Ajyal. Wiebke Warkentin, project manager of the educational project of the Willy Brandt Center, talked to Ahlam Kasim Ali, who participated in the Ajyal movement team.

An Interview with Ahlam Kasim Ali:

What is a hackathon and what did you do in the night of the 18th of April?

A hackathon is a nightlong session in which people work in teams on finding a solution for a problem or creating ideas together. The teams compete in finding the best solution or design, and at the end of the session a formal winner is announced.

The word “hackathon” is a combination of “hack” and “marathon”. “Hacking” is usually used in the context of programming, but although Hackathons are familiar in relation to software projects, they are now also finding their way into the social sector.

This hackathon took place in the Brain Embassy in Tel Aviv – a young and amazing co-working space that was rented for the night of the event. Each of the 14 youth movements was allowed to bring a team of 8 members to the hackathon. Because of the Corona prevention measurements, we spread through the co-working space and worked in capsules in order to keep social distancing.

We began the night with speeches from prominent figures in the field of social change and our youth movements. The speeches were held on the main stage and live-streamed in every room of the Brain Embassy. The representatives of the youth movements held speeches to highlight the importance of the event, especially after a year of Corona in which we saw a dramatic surge in domestic violence and violence against women. Lili Ben Ami’s speech was especially important for all of us held: She talked about her sister Michal Selah, who was brutally murdered by her husband. When Lili spoke, everyone in the room held their breath. It was so moving to hear the story through her experience, even though we already knew about it from the news.

After these speeches, each of the 14 movements was assigned a mentor who helped them generate ideas, develop creative thinking and consider tools and methods to tackle violence against women in our society.

We – 8 participants from Ajyal and an accompanying mentor – had 10 hours and a lot of snacks, soft drinks and coffee in order to come up with the best idea to address the problem of violence against women. The journey could begin!

You mentioned the Michal Selah Forum. Can you tell us more about it?

The idea of this hackathon came up after an incredibly sad and tragic incident: Michal Selah, a woman in her 30s, was killed by her husband. Her sister, Lili Ben Ami, was shocked as she did not know about the ongoing violence Michal had already experienced previous the killing. In order to honor her sister, Lili Ben Ami founded the organization Forum Michal Selah, which aims to stop domestic violence and to promote tools to prevent violence.

During the Corona period, since last March, violence against women and domestic violence is on the rise. 72 women were killed between 2018 and 2020, 85% of them are members of the Arab community. In 2020, 25 women were murdered and the number of known cases of domestic violence increased dramatically. more than 60% of the murders were committed either by the partner or a family member of the victim.

We can also see these dynamics within the Arab society in Israel. Particularly during the times of lockdown due to Corona-measures, women were those who increasingly suffered from domestic violence.

What was Ajyal’s role in the hackathon?

The idea of the hackathon was to bring together youth movements from different parts of society, to create ideas and tools to tackle violence against women. Ajyal, as an Arab Movement, focused on the issue of violence against women in the Arab society.

First, we compiled the specific challenges and problems of the Arab society, and noted what structures and possibilities already exist. We talked to our mentor, an entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, about the problem of raising awareness among women, and the need not only to increase accesses and possibilities to get help, but also to raise the acceptance within the community to women’s search for help and an open discussion about the issue of violence against women and domestic violence in this society.

And what did you come up with?

Generally, in a hackathon there is a competition between teams, but of course this was not a tech hackathon but a social one. We all tried to find as many ideas, tools and concepts as possible, because as socialist youth movements, we all strive for a better world for everyone and this work is a daily work, not only during a 12-hour night shift.

However, we, as Ajyal, are very proud that we won second place!

Our concept was the following: Considering the difficulty in the Arab society to reach women who experienced violence, we decided to focus on the accessibility and the spread of information to raise awareness and tools for women to receive help. Ajyal’s idea was to create a poster that can be put up in any public place to which women usually go:  Beauty salons, gyms, swimming pools, spas for women, etc. In this poster, we see an image of a woman, and at first glance it looks like a piece of art. But hidden inside the poster is a QR code, which women can scan and upload information on their phone on how to get help if they experience violence or witness violence in their surroundings. The target group is young women, aged between 15 and 25, in the Arab cities and villages.

Mabrouk on the second place! What are the next steps?

We are now looking for partners to implement our ideas, to print the posters, to gather the information that will appear with the QR code, to find volunteers to spread the posters among public places, and of course – to improve the situation of women in society. Not only here but all over the world!


Interview by Wiebke Warkentin.