Twitter recently introduced a dedicated gender-based violence search prompt for hotlines and support in local languages in Asia Pacific, which adds to its existing #ThereIsHelp search prompt on mental health and suicide prevention, vaccination, child sexual exploitation, and COVID-19.
In close partnership with UN Women Asia Pacific, as well as leading NGOs and government agencies that provide critical emergency care, support, and counselling, this service is available in Singapore and several other APAC countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, and Vietnam.
When Twitter users in the aforementioned countries search for keywords associated with gender-based violence on the platform, they will see a notification in their local language directing them to the hotlines of the local organisations – along with a list of NGOs – where they can seek help.
The social media giant is looking to expand this service to other countries across the region in the near future.
#ShadowPandemic on the rise during COVID-19
According to the latest global report by UN Women, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past 12 months.
Emerging data reveals that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls, particularly gender-based violence, has intensified across the globe.
Singapore itself has reported a 112 per cent increase in calls pertaining to domestic violence in April this year, compared to last year, according to gender-equality advocacy group AWARE.
National data from India indicated that gender-based violence has increased more than two-fold in at least four states in the north, while the reported cases from an NGO in Indonesia has recorded a tripling.
The hotlines for women and children in Malaysia have also reported a 57 per cent increase in calls while government orders aimed at controlling movement are in effect.
#United in the fight against gender-based violence
Twitter recognises that collaboration with public, private, and non-government organisations is of paramount importance in tackling the complex issue of gender-based violence.
Hence, this partnership via the #ThereIsHelp search prompt will contribute to the efforts of local organisations in ensuring that people can access and receive the support they need in trying times.
In Singapore, Twitter has partnered with a key Government agency to provide services as well as a trusted national NGO partner in this effort via the referrals of the #ThereIsHelp service.
Case in point, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (@MSFcares) launched the National Care Hotline earlier in April, which aims to provide round-the-clock psychological first aid and emotional support to those in dire need amid the crisis.
Similarly, AWARE (@awarenews) launched a new online text chat service last month as an extension to its long-running Women’s Helpline and related services. During the chat, AWARE representatives perform the same support functions as on the Helpline.
They can provide emotional support, practical information, make referrals to AWARE counsellors and legal clinic, and advise on other helpful resources from crisis shelters to Family Service Centres, Family Violence Specialist Centres, and Family Justice Court.
“With domestic violence on the rise in Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic, AWARE has been urgently searching for ways to make our services known to those outside our existing community. We know that many suffering domestic violence are isolated at home with abusers, without friends or bystanders around them who can step in to help,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director at AWARE.
“Therefore, we are very grateful to be included in this fantastic initiative by Twitter. This simple prompt could be a survivor’s first step towards escaping abuse and violence. We hope to accompany her throughout the rest of that journey,” she added.
“Twitter is pleased to launch this unique product feature dedicated to addressing gender-based violence”, noted Kathleen Reen, Senior Director of Public Policy & Philosophy for APAC at Twitter.
“We are honoured to collaborate with critical partners across the region and are deeply grateful for their collaboration and support. We look forward to supporting them in their efforts to reach and aid their communities during COVID-19 and beyond,” she further remarked.