Maru the Chatbot
To alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 policies, many initiatives have been developed by civil society organisations – NGOs, local governments, or citizens. A team of national researchers from the RESISTIRÉ project has collected and highlighted a set of particularly relevant initiatives in 27 European countries and in Iceland, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Turkey. These Better Stories currently cover eight specific domains: gender-based violence, the labour market, the economy, gender-pay and pension gaps, gender care gaps, decision-making and politics, environmental justice, human and fundamental rights.
Maru is a chatbot that was developed by Plan International and Feminist Internet, together with young activists from Benin, Cameroon, Germany, Ghana, Nepal, South Africa and the UK, who are passionate about promoting internet freedom and safety.
A tool to learn about online harassment
The name ‘Maru’ translates as ‘Cloud Space’ in Sesotho. You can chat with Maru to learn more about online harassment, how to protect yourself from it, report and respond to it, or support others going through it. The website itself contains several guides and references to useful information.
Feminist principles at the core of the bot’s design
Additionally, Maru’s creators were guided by feminist design principles which encouraged them to:
- Co-design Maru with young activists
- Consider barriers people may face in accessing Maru
- Ensure Maru’s language is empathetic and inclusive
- Ensure Maru’s appearance doesn’t reinforce stereotypes
- Reflect on biases that might exist in the team
- Ensure Maru represents global perspectives
Currently, Maru is only available in English, but the creators are hoping to make it available in other languages as well in the future.
Image by Feminist Internet x Plan International.