Studies show that 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime. A devastating fact in a sad reality: one where women have learned to expect the worst. From the discomfort of catcalling, to the darker realities of assault, for centuries, so many have needed to protect themselves from the dangers of simply being a woman in today’s world.
But it shouldn’t have to be this way. And thanks to a new Israeli born phone application called SafeUP, things may begin changing very soon.
SafeUP, a global network of solidarity between women, was founded by Neta Schreiber Gamlieli and Tal Zohar just about a year and a half ago, contributing to Israel’s growth as one of the world’s greatest startup nations. The app creates a community platform of trustworthy vetted women from all over the world, giving and receiving support in real time, and bringing safety and security in times of unease. A woman can turn on SafeUP at a moment’s notice, and notify 3 of the nearest “guardians” in her area. A guardian is a woman over the age of 18 who has undergone the SafeUP training process, with the ability to help a user in times of need, both over the phone, or in rare cases, in person, when necessary. With the touch of a button, a user can open her app to see the countless number of guardians in her area, and know that she is safe. Each neighborhood is appointed a community manager to oversee the guardians and the activity of its users, in addition to expanding the SafeUP community of women in her area with the app.
How did SafeUP begin?
For Neta, the seeds of women empowerment were planted years ago, at your average teenage house party with friends. After miraculously saving a weak and struggling friend of hers alone with two boys, Neta came face to face with the dangerous realities of being a woman. For years, she took this with her, until she one day realized the potential in bringing this issue to the Israeli tech world. As Israel has begun its exponential growth as the startup nation, opportunities for meaningful and creative initiatives are ever increasing in Israel. That is when she found Tal Zohar, co-founder of SafeUP, who came to the cause with a very different story. A father of 2 girls, Tal was shocked by the “Me Too” movement, realizing that the question was not if something would happen to his daughters, rather when. Together, they joined forces to create an empowered global community of women, protecting and supporting one another, all through the simplicity and ease of an Israeli phone app.
As Neta explains, “times are changing, and women have lived for so long being scared walking the streets. But this will not be our future. Women are beginning to stand up for their safety all over the world. We are ready to be active in creating that change.”
And when women come together with a shared mission, they are quite unstoppable.
Today, SafeUP has 70,000 users worldwide, 30,000 of them being in Israel, the Israeli app’s original stomping ground. An impressive 65% of users coming back a second+ time, proving just how crucial SafeUP truly is. Many of the users are under the age of 15, and use the app as a security blanket when walking alone along a dark city street. Even just opening the app and seeing the countless guardians sprinkled throughout the neighborhood can bring a sense of ease and safety. For most woman, seeing that reminds her that she is not alone, and never will be.
“This doesn’t have to be a sad reality,” says a hopeful Neta. “We can turn it into an empowering one. As we continued to create the app, we saw that it was about more than just the physical safety of women. We were creating a platform for women who want to create change and be a part of it, in the next steps towards gender equality. SafeUP is not only an app of protection, but one of empowerment.”
The innate camaraderie of women is nothing new. It has been the foundation of civilizations for millennium, as women have always supported and encouraged one another in different ways. SafeUP is now one of those ways, a tool that women can use globally to help advance the safety, protection, and strength of women- not only physically in the streets, but in they way they shine in this world. The women who volunteer at guardians at SafeUP experience this empowerment firsthand. Each woman is using her own choice and her own strength to protect the honor of women, and are helping to create a world where women can begin to trust again.
Yet, this is not just a mission for women. SafeUP believes that this is a vision that both men and women can work towards. And it has been through the help of many men, including its own co-founder, that SafeUP has grown into what it is today. Although men cannot act as guardians on the app, they can act as emergency contacts for users that can be reached by any guardian if need be. But most importantly, men can be a part of the dialogue. Men can spread awareness and start the conversation too.
How has Israel helped?
With one of the largest hi-tech ecosystems globally, there was no better place for SafeUP to begin its journey. Israel is not only the home of innovation and creativity, especially in the startup world, but a country which supports and encourages women to be involved as well.
With a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority, Neta and Tal were able to begin SafeUP through a program dedicated to supporting pioneering women in the Israeli startup world.
The Israeli government was their first true investor, and part of the reason SafeUP has become the successful Israeli startup that it is today.
But it was not only the Israeli government that allowed SafeUP to truly flourish. It was the people.
“The Israeli people are a forgiving one. As a young nation, we know the trial-and-error process well, and we respect the journey of creation. That made our own process go more smoothly. We were able to perfect our product with the support, feedback, and advice from the Israeli people who first used our app, before we sent it all over the world. And today, SafeUP is thriving!”
How can you get involved?
Download the app, and spread the word. Bring SafeUP to your community, and create a network of trust for women. The guardians are ready, waiting for your calls. Become a guardian yourself, and step into the power of creating a safer world for women.
A woman is never alone, and it is time we step into that reality.
With SafeUP, your call will always be answered.