Protection and assistance Nicaragua

Technology in the combat against Gender-based Violence

2012 - 2018
Published on Jan 01, 2012 01:00 AM  -  Updated on Jul 09, 2019 05:19 PM
In the department of Chinandega, more than half of women report having suffered physical, sexual or psychological violence. TSF supports the action of the Chinandega Women's Movement Association (MMCH) with a mobile early warning and prevention system to combat such violence.

Context: Gender-based violence (GBV)
Start date: 01/10/2012
End date: 31/12/2018
Zones of intervention: 13 municipalities in the Chinandega department

  • SMS alert system
  • Data collection

1,261 beneficiaries between December 2012 and May 2013
472 women identified and assisted through the system (08/2014 - 04/2018)
650 actors against gender-based violence supported
13 cities helped


Chinandega is a department located in northwestern Nicaragua, on the border with Honduras, and whose capital - of the same name - is one of Nicaragua's main commercial centres. While 50% of the population is women, the department faces many problems of gender-based violence.

53.8% of Chinandega women report having been physically, psychologically or sexually abused by their partner or ex-companion at least once in their lifetime. Beyond domestic violence, prostitution and the sexual exploitation of women and girls have developed.

In order to ensure an effective response and better information management, the organisations concerned suggested setting up an early warning system among networks and institutions, as well as strengthening information systems through better analysis and response.


The Chinandega Women's Movement (Movimiento de las Mujeres de Chinandega - MMCH) is a secular and apolitical NGO created in 1992 to promote and defend the rights of women through various activities: self-help groups, information, psychological and legal support.

During 2011, the MMCH supported 760 women who had fallen victim to domestic violence and 40 victims of sexual violence a project named "Information Campaign for the Prevention and Denunciation of Violence Against Women".

In 2012, TSF decided to support MMCH's efforts by developing an early warning system via mobile phone to enable victims in emergency situations to find support from MMCH social workers. In addition, an SMS information collection system was created to improve information processes and the response capacity of the network of social support workers.

Alert and prevention system

The objective of this programme is to allow each woman who is a victim or witness of violence to send a SMS with a predefined keyword to send the alert to MMCH. Once this SMS has been received, the team can intervene quickly and call upon immediate assistance or in some cases, the police. MMCH then offers beneficiaries legal and psychological support to help guide them through their ordeal.

For this early warning system, TSF installed and configured a computer server with FrontlineSMS software (SMS gateway) and a GSM card at the MMCH headquarters. The server has a phone number that corresponds to the alert number. The system of predefined keywords was created so that victims or witnesses can send an SMS to a redistribution centre that transfers the alert to a network of 17 social workers equipped with TSF mobile phones. They can act quickly and take the necessary steps to intervene with each victim.

TSF organised training workshops for administrators on system updates, keyword programming and computer equipment maintenance. An awareness workshop was also conducted with the various local entities working on the issue of GBV (police, municipal councils, health centers, etc.) in order to create a dynamic network of actors available to intervene in the event of violence.

TSF took care of the distribution of the alert number in each municipality. Following the training, MMCH women's rights advocates were responsible for the regular long-term communication on this solution to the general public.

Mobile phones provided also allow the MMCH to send key information via SMS to women in difficult circumstances, as well as to 650 women's rights advocates at the local and departmental level.

Data collection system

Mobile telephones are also used to send reports to the headquarters of MMCH, in the form of forms concerning violence recorded at the local level (sexual and domestic violence, illegal abortions ...), and the activities carried out in favour of women. The social worker fills out a follow-up form for each victim, which does not include nominative information but which makes it possible to follow the situation of the violence at the municipal and departmental level.

A Java-based FrontlineSMS system was initially used. To respond to the lack of presence of the mobile network in several areas of Chinandega, and to keep the cost for the beneficiary as low as possible, TSF used ODK2SMS to allow workers to send ODK forms using the GSM network in the absence of the data network. ODK enables more efficient form design and offers users a simple interface for effective data collection.

Thanks to the system set up by TSF, the headquarters of the association is able to collect structured statistical data on the various subjects monitored.

The server is connected to the Internet which allows sending the information received via SMS to a report mapping page. The information is also forwarded to TSF via email for project monitoring and follow-up. The Crowdmap-based online map locates each case and generates reports, enabling better tracking and more efficient services. One of the major benefits of this system is to make it possible to identify warning signs and thus to have an anticipatory approach to GBV prevention. The map can also be used as an awareness and advocacy tool by MMCH social support workers.

Since 2014, the server is permanently connected to electricity thanks to the installation of an independent electrical system. Previously, MMCH headquarters electricity was shut off every night and on weekends. The alert system is now available 24/7.

In 2016, following an overall evaluation of the programme, the project was reinforced with the incorporation of iNGO Trócaire and local association APADEIM. This extension has helped shape new strategic directions to serve vulnerable women in Nicaragua.

The beneficiaries of the project are the employees of MMCH and APADEIM: 17 promoters, two administrators and one project coordinator. This project directly benefits women through a rapid and effective response made possible through the creation of a dynamic network of local actors who are immediately informed of cases and constantly available to respond to emergencies.

In total, from 2014 to May 2018, 472 cases of physical, psychological, sexual harassment, human trafficking and kidnappings were recorded through TSF’s system.

I am originally from El Naranjo in Chinandega. One day, I got on a bus. Everyone was looking at me; I was beaten. My right eye was swollen. I had bruises on my arms, my neck and back. A lady came to sit next to me. She explained that there was a centre where I could get help. She was one of the social workers from the MMCH Centre. She took me to the office and explained that I could get help via a mobile alert system. When I got home, I sent an alert message and got called back immediately by a social worker. They are currently dealing with my case both legally and psychologically. I have shared information about the system to my friends who are also victims of domestic violence.”

With the support of