Cape Town, 2023 – Kwanele – Bringing Women Justice, a leading non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting survivors of gender-based violence, won 2nd Prize (and $30,000 in prize money) in The Mozilla Foundation’s Ethical AI Challenge in San Francisco on Wednesday 31st May. There were over 240 entries for this challenge from 46 countries.

The prize is for the AI-powered bot to provide survivors with easy access to critical legal information about protection orders (other areas will be added). The bot is being built by ‘training’ a layer on top of ChatGPT with data and content to simplify complex legal terminology into plain English, ensuring survivors can navigate the legal process with confidence and clarity.

“We are unbelievably proud to have won this international award,” said Leonora Tima, Executive Director and founder at Kwanele. “To be recognised as one of the leaders in Ethical AI is a huge honour. I think the judges recognised our passion and the tremendous impact our solution can have on helping survivors of the Gender-Based Violence pandemic in our country. Our goal is to provide accessible, plain language legal information that helps survivors understand their rights and navigate the legal process effectively. We believe that knowledge is power, and with this bot, we are equipping survivors with the tools they need to reclaim their lives and seek justice.

And as AI systems become more sophisticated, they have the potential to either reinforce or challenge existing social biases and inequalities. Ethical AI aims to ensure that these systems are developed and used in ways that are fair, transparent, and accountable.”

Gender-based violence is a pervasive global issue that affects millions of individuals, disproportionately impacting women and marginalized communities. Obtaining a protection order can be a crucial step in breaking free from abusive relationships and ensuring personal safety. However, the legal procedures surrounding protection orders can often be intimidating and difficult to understand, particularly for survivors who may already be dealing with trauma and emotional distress.

Recognising this challenge, Kwanele has partnered with App Developer Studio, leading local AI experts, and legal professionals to develop an intelligent bot capable of providing user-friendly legal information. Kwanele has been running a series of focus groups and workshops to understand the unique challenges, language and terminology that actual South African GBV survivors experience and use. Rape Crisis, UWC Street Law, CDH, and the Great People of South Africa were a key part of this process and must be thanked for their input and support.

Powered by advanced natural language processing algorithms, the bot can decipher complex legal jargon, simplifying it into plain, easy-to-understand language. By doing so, the bot empowers survivors by equipping them with the knowledge they need to navigate the legal system effectively.

Key features of the AI-powered bot include:
1. Plain English: The bot translates complex legal terms into clear and concise language, ensuring that survivors can comprehend the legal concepts and provide context-specific information about what steps to take and where to find accessible resources. This was achieved through various focus groups with the target audience.
2. Accessibility: The bot shall be accessed through various platforms including the web, mobile devices, and messaging applications such as WhatsApp, making it readily available to survivors whenever and wherever they need it.
3. User-Friendly Interface: The bot offers an intuitive and user-friendly interface, ensuring that survivors can interact with it easily and obtain the necessary information quickly.
4. Personalization: The bot provides personalized responses based on the user’s specific situation, taking into account relevant jurisdictional variations in legal requirements.

In addition to its core functions, the bot includes links to resources such as legal aid services, counselling centres, and helplines, connecting survivors to further assistance beyond legal information.

Kwanele believes that technology, when harnessed responsibly, can play a transformative role in addressing social challenges. By leveraging AI in the development of this bot, the NGO aims to bridge the gap between survivors of gender-based violence and the legal information they need to seek protection and justice.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Leonora Tima
CEO and Founder, Kwanele
+27 72 399 6992 (whats app only)

Robert Maclean
CEO, App Developer Studio
+27 79 699 1180