Helping women experiencing abuse find the right information and support they need to take control of their lives

CHAYN is a global volunteer network addressing gender-based violence by creating intersectional survivor-led resources online. We started in 2013, and have since reached more than 200 000 people and 700 000 views across the world.

As seen in

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Awards

Principles

Survivor-centred

‘Build with, not for’. All of our work is driven by the needs of victims and survivors from diverse backgrounds. We provide support without judgement for each stage of women’s journeys.

Open

Open by default. We cannot tackle common challenges without sharing, learning from and building on each other’s work. All our resources are under Creative Common licenses, which means anyone can remix and share them with attribution.

Intersectional

Oppression doesn’t exist in isolation. Factors like race, class, gender, religion, sexual identity and disability deeply impact our lived experiences. We are intersectional by design.

Innovative

Chayn uses appropriate and accessible technology to collaborate on resources, and launch scalable and replicable solutions. No product is final, and with feedback loops in place, our projects are always a work of progress.

Pragmatic/Enabling

We design for resilience and empowerment – encouraging women to feel independent so they can take informed actions. We want to make sure they feel heard, understood and motivated to live a happy life.

Trustworthy/Accessible

Our users may face serious repercussions by their abusers if found using our product, so we work hard to minimise these risks by designing for anonymity. Our solutions should go beyond simply ensuring compliance with data protection and privacy standards. They should be simple to use, and easy to access.

Story

According to UN, 1 in 3 women worldwide experience some form of gender-based violence. It is estimated that of all women killed in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

These numbers paint an alarming picture of the challenges women face, and the fact that their lives are at stake at their homes and workplaces where one expects to  feel safe. The damage done by patriarchy is insidious and systemic, infecting the very foundations of gender norms, institutions, and the laws that govern us.

Additionally, the charity sector, while well-meaning can often perpetuate inequality. It lacks intersectionality. Most charities employ experts, who may not have lived the experience of abuse themselves and can come from a position of privilege. Victims and survivors of abuse are only consulted as part of ‘surveys’ and ‘focus groups’. How can such a system redress the balance of power?

Chayn is changing this.

We’re disrupting the women’s rights world with award-winning collaborative design, open source and design thinking. We have reached more than 200,000 and are on track for a million page views this year. We’re global but have a focus on UK, Pakistan, India, Italy, USA, Brazil, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, China, Lebanon & Afghanistan. We’re 100% run by our 400+ volunteers spread across 15 countries. Women are often misinformed about their constitutional rights to deter them from to seeking justice. You would think making it easier for women to Google would be a no brainer but searching for information (e.g laws, benefits and resources) has been called a ‘rabbits hole’.  

Using the internet, we can reach and empower vulnerable women who may not leave the house very often, but will likely have a basic smartphone with internet access.

Chayn is structured in the following way: (a) How to guides that are crowdsourced in multiple languages, (b) country-specific information through ‘chapters’, and (c) digital services which offers interactive support to women.

Our guides are written in a way that makes them applicable internationally. Survivors and experts from different parts of the world co-write to make this possible.

Chayn was started in 2013 by Hera Hussain. Hera was born in the UK but grew up in Pakistan. She came to UK for university and tried to think about several kinds of social enterprise ideas in ethical fashion, which would support women facing abuse with employment and training. Over time, she started working in the technology startup space. Chayn happened by chance. She helped two friends escape abusive marriages and  experienced significant challenges in finding basic information like their rights and how to cope with trauma. She thought if she could just put together critical information in easy language online, it could change lives and solve real problems.

That’s how Chayn started.

Creating Chayn brought learning to our lives. In the beginning, we only concentrated on women and gender-based violence. However, as we worked with more survivors, it became clear that we could not address gender-based violence without looking at how other oppressions interact with it.

With this learning, came a relief that our hypothesis that survivors are disenfranchised in the way charities help them, and that women are turning to the web for help, is true. And that by giving them the power to create solutions for others like them, we are not only creating better resources, but also giving them respect and self-confidence.

“Tech and society are always further ahead than governments, and governments are playing catch up, but we’re slowly starting to see this change. By using tech to fill gaps in access to information and justice, we can either complement efforts that governments and NGOs are already doing, or point out where they are failing. We always come back to independence and happiness as our two biggest goals. And that’s because that tackles issues that start from not being able to choose what women want to do with their lives and takes them to a point where they’re not only choosing what they want to do with life—but being treated equally once they’ve made that choice.” – Hera Hussain, GOOD Magazine

Sustainability model

Since we’re volunteer run (even Hera, our founder, is a volunteer!), our costs are very low & we run a hybrid model. We’ve raised more than $111 000 over the last 4 years from grants to run projects with Comic Relief, Kering Foundation, UnLtd, CIVA, o2 Think Big, Garden Court Chambers, Filanthropy, Foreign Ministry of Kingdom of Netherlands, and Swedish Embassy in London. Now we’re shifting focus to creating revenue generating services such as Soul Medicine, a micro course platform. If you have any ideas on how we could generate revenues without charging our users (we would never do that), please give us a shout.

Sharing learnings

When we started, we only had MakeSense as an example of how to run a social innovation network made up of volunteers. Over the past few years, we’ve taken many leaves out of many books – most prominently from tech startups, feminist movements, open source and open data communities. From this has emerged a ‘fluid and democratic’ structure of management which we’re constantly experimenting with. This is detailed here. This model is now being adopted by many charities and social enterprises.

Workflow

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The Executive Team is chaired by the founder, Hera Hussain, and is a rotating team of people who invest considerable time into Chayn and are extremely passionate and proactive. The Executive Team is responsible for the administration of Chayn as an organization and decisions on strategy. This is not fixed and any volunteer consistently being like this will be invited to join the Executive team. Similarly, members of the Executive team can leave if they feel they cannot meet the commitment. The Core Team is composed of long term volunteers who choose to be as involved as they want, whether it’s dipping in every few weeks to offer a big burst of support in one go or actively participating in projects every day. We perform a quarterly refresh of the team to remove members who have not been active in over 3-4 months, though this does not mean you cannot join later! Volunteering with Chayn has been described as “life-changing” and 70% of volunteers felt they acquired new skills.

Hear our story

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