Athena wearable empowers women to protect themselves

roar athena indiegogo campaign protect women screen shot 2015 10 18 at 12 17 32 pm

If things were as they should be, the need for a wearable that defends women against assault wouldn’t exist. Reports of campus sexual assaults wouldn’t have increased by 40 percent, and violence against women wouldn’t be a continuing problem that we attempt to address again and again. And while things are clearly not as they should be, one wearable is doing its part to move us closer to this end goal. Roar for Good, a startup whose mission is to empower women, reduce assaults, and transform society, today launched the Indiegogo campaign for Athena, the “smart, fashionable jewelry” designed to protect women against attacks. 

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Founded in 2014, Roar got its start after Yasmine Mustafa, a serial entrepreneur, spent six months on a solo trip across South America. Noting the prevalence of sexual assault amongst the female communities she visited, Mustafa began considering a solution to the widespread problem. But the real catalyst occurred when she returned home to Philadelphia, and found that a neighborhood woman had been brutally beaten and raped when she went outside to feed her parking meter. “Every two minutes, a woman is attacked in America,” Mustafa told Fast Company. “What can I do?”

What she did was launch a startup with co-founder Anthony Gold, and now, their first device is ready to hit the market. Named Athena, the pendant-like button device can be worn as a necklace or clipped anywhere to your person, and “emits a loud alarm and messages family and friends with your location” when activated. If in distress, simply hold down the button for three seconds, and both 911 and your emergency contacts will be alerted  to the situation. At just an ounce in weight and the size of a half-dollar, Athena is inconspicuous protection that you can carry anywhere.

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While Athena is a reactive solution to the problem, Mustafa and Gold are doing everything they can to be proactive in ending the root cause of violence against women. “We call them women’s issues, but they aren’t,” says Gold. “They’re societal issues, and we need to do something about them as a society.” As such, not only is Roar “investing in nonprofits that teach empathy and healthy relationships to young children,” but the company is also donating a percentage of its profits from Athena to such organizations with the hope of establishing respect from the very beginning. “The root causes of violence stem from inequities that perpetuate gender inequality and discrimination,” Mustafa told me in an email. “The imbalance of power, coupled with the traditional roles we assign to men and women, not to mention the popular vernacular we use in communication, all contribute to the issues.”

Athena’s Indiegogo campaign aims to raise $40,000 to bring the device to market, and thanks to its one-for-one model, for every Athena device purchased on Indiegogo, one will be donated to a woman in need. And in addition to protecting women, Roar hopes that their campaign will also begin to raise awareness and change how society addresses violence against women. “When bystanders, both men and women, feel empowered to speak up when potential trouble begins, a new normal develops in a community,” Mustafa said. “When those in power challenge the perpetrators of disrespect, would-have-been victims can be protected. When bystanders intervene, other secondary voices will often follow and join in, opening the eyes of a population. We cannot ignore this issue and hope that it goes away.”

“We have chosen to face it directly and to address it from both the intervention and prevention sides of the issue,” she continued. “By introducing Roar’s Athena, women can get help when they are in danger. But concurrently, as a social mission B-Corporation, our profits are cycled back into nonprofits at the front lines of impacting the larger cultural issues that cause this problem to exist in our society.”

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