In the week women across the globe were being celebrated, Sa’adat Aliyu, a 27-year-old Kano indigene became a sensation on the social media when news of her innovation spread. Ms. Aliyu, the creator of HELPIO, an android application “that provides a safe space for victims of sexual abuse”, better known as ‘Kano Lady’ sat with Daily Trust and gave an insight to how the innovation came about as well as a peep into her personal life.
When she learnt that a young boy close to her was raped by some men in her area and the case was not going towards the path of justice as is the case most times, Miss Sa’adat Aliyu felt she had to do something to change the situation.
Therefore, she came up with an android application she called HELPIO to bring victims of sexual assault closer to justice.
Ms Aliyu is the founder of Shamrock Innovations, a women and youth-centric tech innovation hub in Kano. She is also a tech community leader in the commercial centre of Nigeria and an advocate of women in tech.
She told source that, “What really made me quickly to do this was because, personally, I have some people close to me that are rape victims that have not got the justice they deserve. A boy was raped and he did not get justice. It hurt me because it happened around my vicinity.
“It is something that has been paining me a lot; seeing that most people don’t get the justice they deserve after reporting cases of sexual assault, and I feel bad about this. I thought of how I could be of help. I know that there are some organisations that do a lot to help these victims, and that’s why I came up with this application so that we can have these kinds of organisations on board in just one platform, so that people can be able to report to them directly without the usual barriers.
“It took me about two months to come up with the first version of the application. It was around May/June, 2020, during the lockdown and I was done around early August.”
Ms Aliyu’s focus when she started with the conceptualisation of the project was to get organisations that are into bringing succour to victims of sexual assault to be on the application.
This, according to her, will help the victims to have easy and direct access to the organisations, which in turn will do all it takes to get them the deserved justice.
She explained that, “I have been reaching out to these organisations and we are currently working with two: Initiative for Support of Victims of Sexual Abuse, Orphans and Less Privileged (ISSOL) and Equity Destitute, Child Rights and Welfare Initiative (EDCRAWI) in Kano and Kebbi states respectively. They are the ones currently giving us 100 per cent support with their therapists and lawyers.
“We are currently getting lots of reports and we want to create a way to be updating the app for real-time updates.”
On how the application can be accessed, Ms Aliyu said it is available on Google Playstore.
She explained that, “I localised the application, and there is a Hausa version of it and we hope to have Yoruba and Igbo versions very soon. The interface is simple to understand because after signing up, you can see a list of all the help centres available in your locality and you can choose the organisation to report to. You can also talk to experts like a therapist via the app. You can also share your experience so that others can learn from it.”
She said the application was secure and that the identity of users was well protected as the correspondence was solely between the user and the organisation and the user was allowed to create a username and only phone number would be requested so as to get across to the user in real-time where there was need for it.
On whether she is hoping for government to get involved with her innovation, she said her focus had been on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to come on board, “but it will be a good thing if the government can come in because the government is powerful and perhaps their coming in will help to secure justice much swiftly. In particular, the government coming in is just to support with their security services so as to be able to report directly to them.”
She said making money was never in her thought while making the app, as “I want to make it independent for the organisations to come on board with me just doing the technical part.”
However, her progress has not been without challenges, as she said her major challenge had been to get people on board.
She said, “At the first stage, I was doing it all alone until I got help from other people, trying to redesign the application. The current design actually came about through someone else. After the first design, the person made an offer to help redesign the User Interface and I implemented it and I am grateful for that.
“With just two organisations from Kano and Kebbi states currently on board, it is a limitation to people from other states.”
‘My family is my strength’
Speaking about her sojourn into the information technology world, Ms Aliyu said her brother played a key role as he was the one that introduced her to the intricacies of application development and other technical aspects of her life.
She said, “Actually, I did not go to a university. I went to the Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology, Kano, where I studied Computer Science and obtained my HND about three years ago.”
Her mother, she added, had also been very supportive and had been playing the father-figure role for her and her siblings since their father died. She remembered how when she got invitation in 2018 to attend Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference at the Silicon Valley in the United States of America and everyone was skeptical that she might not be allowed to attend the event.
She explained that, “Everyone was like ‘will you allow your daughter to go’ because you know this Arewa kind of thing, but she (my mum) was like ‘I know my daughter, she is just going there for work. She gave me 100 per cent support since day one on whatever career choice I made.”
She said her next target was to get into fintech and develop an application, and that empowering more women through her innovation and tech hub was what she hoped to continue to do.
She added that, “For education, I hope to continue soon and with time it will happen and maybe marriage will come in. But to be honest, I don’t want anything to come inbetween me and my career, especially my advocacy; trying to see we have more women in technology, especially in the North, where we have fewer women in technology.
“I also hope to be a role model to young women that will see what I have done and aspire to also launch a career in information technology.”