The Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s philanthropic arm, has announced the international expansion of Bright Sky, a free app which connects victims of domestic violence and abuse to advice and support services.
Bright Sky, created in partnership with the UK-based crisis support charity Hestia, enables users to locate their nearest support centre by searching their area, postcode or current location. A short questionnaire also helps users assess the safety of a relationship and provides information about different forms of abuse, the types of support available, steps to consider if leaving an abusive relationship and how to help a friend affected by domestic abuse.
The app is also designed to log incidents of domestic abuse without any content being saved on the device itself. It enables users to record incidents in a secure digital journal, using a text, audio, video or photo function. Evidence collated through this function will enable police to intervene and can help secure prosecutions.
The first markets to launch the app will be the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Romania. The Vodafone Foundation will work with local partners to adapt the content and technology and to integrate it with domestic violence and abuse support infrastructure. Bright Sky has been available in the UK since September 2016 where it has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
The global roll-out of Bright Sky builds on more than a decade of work by the Vodafone Foundation to develop mobile services to support victims of domestic violence and abuse, including the TecSOS technology which has helped more 100,000 high-risk victims of domestic violence in five countries; Easy Rescue which has supported over 300,000 women in Turkey and gender-based violence hotlines in South Africa and Kenya which have connected over 300,000 women to help during crisis. Most recently Vodafone UK has partnered with domestic abuse charity SafeLives on project LifeLine which offers those at risk vital access to mobile phones.
Patrick Ryan, CEO of Hestia, said: “For too long domestic abuse has happened in the shadows, leaving families deeply traumatised and isolated. Our experience of providing domestic abuse refuges led to the development of Bright Sky as a powerful tool to connect victims to the information and support they need. Already it has helped thousands of people in the UK and we are delighted to see its potential to help so many others being harnessed by Vodafone.
“Our experience has also shown us that many suffer in silence, working alongside us as colleagues and enduring huge trauma when they return home each evening. That’s why we’re proud to have developed Everyone’s Business that puts employers at the heart of tackling domestic abuse. We would urge any business seeking to take a lead from Vodafone to access the free support that is available.”
Vodafone is a supporter of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA), a network of more than 170 companies and public sector organisations that have come together to share best practice to help staff who are experiencing domestic abuse.
Building on the Vodafone Foundation’s work with EIDA in the UK, the Foundation commissioned a study by Opinium, a market research consultancy, to assess the impact of domestic violence and abuse on people’s work-life and career. The study surveyed 510 working women and men in the UK.
The research found:
- 30% of respondents had experienced domestic violence and abuse in some form, with men (31%) marginally more affected than women (29%)
- 13% of respondents globally who had experienced domestic violence and abuse had to quit their job as a result
- 41% of employees said that the abuse affected their career progression.
- 49% felt too ashamed to discuss their abuse at work.
- When employees do discuss their abuse at work, 58% said that positive things happened as a consequence.
- 23% said that an app that people can download to access help and support would help reduce the impact of domestic violence on the work lives of workers.
Supporting Vodafone Employees
Inspired by the work of Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone Group is announcing today its intention to implement a new HR policy specifically for victims of domestic violence and abuse in 23 of its operating countries. Employees globally will now have access to support and specialist counselling, as well as up to 10 days additional, paid leave in all countries.
The extra ‘safe leave’ gives employees who have faced abuse time to manage their situation – such as seeking professional help and counselling, attending police or court appointments, making arrangements to move house, supporting their children.
Specialist training will be provided for HR managers to help them support employees experiencing domestic violence or abuse and how they can help those affected seek help.
The introduction of the policy is part of Vodafone’s ongoing commitment to become the world’s best employer for women and to fight gender inequality.
Alongside the research, the Vodafone Foundation has worked with domestic violence and abuse expert Dr Jane Pillinger to develop a toolkit for HR managers in all Vodafone markets.
Andrew Dunnett, Director, Vodafone Foundation, said:
“The result of our research shows the significant impact on people at work, affecting confidence, self-esteem and career progression. It also reveals how employers can help – something that Vodafone Group Plc chose to act upon with the global policy they announced today.
With more than ten years’ working in this space, we know that connectivity saves lives. By developing apps like Bright Sky with our partners, across our footprint, we want to offer an easy and direct route to connect people affected by multiple forms of abuse to essential services and information that they need.”
Dr Jane Pillinger said:
“More and more companies today are taking the initiative to provide support and paid leave for employees affected by domestic violence and abuse – this helps victims to safely stay in their jobs and to progress in their careers. Vodafone has become one of the world’s leading companies in its work to prevent domestic violence. Vodafone’s commitment to recognize the impact domestic violence has at work, to respond with support and up to 10 days domestic violence paid leave for affected employees, and to refer to specialist support, along with training for managers, is a major step forward and sends a strong signal to employees that the company takes the issue seriously.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, said:
“The research commissioned by the Vodafone Foundation, that underlies this ground-breaking new policy for Vodafone’s employees reinforces yet again that so much of the violence against women has been invisible, yet powerfully damaging with career-long effects. I commend Vodafone, a HeForShe Champion, on confronting this issue of our time, locating hidden barriers to reporting and creating innovative tools that answer women’s needs. When the workplace can become a safe and supportive environment for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, that is a major step forward. We hope to see other leaders adopt similar measures.”