United for Iran, a Californian NGO working to promote civil liberties and civil society in Iran, is announcing the release of Michka: a new Android app that serves as an e-book designed to help adults teach their children how to identify and report sexual abuse.
Michka is the story of a gender-neutral insect whose wings are a private part that should not be touched by others. When one day Mr. Koopoom, an adult insect, touches Michka’s wings, Michka becomes confused about what it should do. The story tells a tale of how children can talk to their parents about things that are confusing.
Sahar Shams, the project leader, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She created the app, with the approval of child psychologists, as a resource for Iranian parents to talk about the topic in a language that is appropriate, understandable and non-threatening for children.
Although there is no data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Iran, in 2016 the issue became part of the national conversation when a number of complainants came forward to accuse a prominent qari (a reciter the Quran) of sexual misconduct.
“Iran is not immune to the use of sexual abuse as a weapon of control waged by the powerful over the powerless,”said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director of United for Iran. “Michka empowers vulnerable children with the tools to recognize inappropriate touch and provides an invaluable resource for parents to talk to their children about this sensitive issue.
“Today, there are more than 40 million smartphones in Iran and a million more are added every month. But the number of human rights apps remains close to zero. We’ve seen technological advances transform the global human rights movement and mobile-phone apps have the capacity to enable Iranian citizens to more easily and securely organize, assemble, and express themselves.’
“Michka is a story I wish I was told when I was a child,” said Sahar Shams. “Unfortunately, the issue of childhood sexual abuse is not an openly and intelligently discussed issue in Iran– nor in many places worldwide,“ explained Sahar Shams. “I hope this book encourages an open, productive discussion about childhood sexual abuse so we can address the issue, preventing future incidents and providing support to the silent victims.”
Michka is the sixth app to come out of United for Iran’s app incubation project, the IranCubator.