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[Stories of Social Change] Building an app to empower female houseworkers

Over the years, the world has seen remarkable and rapid advancements in technology which are deeply impacting society. Despite this, we continue to struggle with issues such as poverty, violence, and climate change. At Thoughtworks, we believe that technologists have a unique role to play in how we can positively impact society and push for a more equitable tech future.

In our Stories of Social Change series, we are sharing stories from Thoughtworkers around the world who have leveraged their skills and experience to build technology that truly impacts people and effects social change. These stories show that technologists are in a unique position to change the world and inspire action in others.

Eduardo Meneses Thoughtworks Ecuador

Name: Eduardo Meneses

Thoughtworks home: Ecuador 

Preferred pronouns: he/him

Joined Thoughtworks: 2016

What brought you to Thoughtworks? 

I don't come from the technology industry; I have always worked with social organizations or in the public sector. I came to Thoughtworks because I wanted to understand how we can amplify the work of social movements through technology.

How has your work made a positive impact on the world?

I have been working as a leader of social change in Thoughtworks Ecuador and also pairing as the Global Head of Social Change. I think that the biggest impact we can bring to the tech industry is helping people understand the unique role that technologists have in building an equitable tech future. Thinking about technology not only in a framework of Tech@Core in Thoughtworks or Tech@Core in business but also as Tech@Core in society has been really interesting for all of us. Technology is more and more at the core of democratic and economic issues, and the technology industry needs to build bridges with social organizations to understand how to contribute to the common good for the whole of society.  

Can you tell us about your work with the National Union of Professional Houseworkers (UNTHA) in Ecuador?

In Ecuador, 80% of female domestic workers have suffered from violence or harassment while at work. Many of these women don't have formal contracts, and many begin working as young as 12 years old. The Social Transformation Lab created by Thoughtworks Quito has built an app to inform houseworkers of their rights and provide legal advice, which we believe will help tens of thousands of women in the country, in partnership with the National Union of Professional Houseworkers and supported by CARE Ecuador and the Interinstitutional Committee for the Defense of Professional Houseworkers Rights.

The first version of the app is already available in the Google Play Store: “TRH UNIDAS." We hope that women will see their rights reinforced by the use of this app, and mainly by the contact that it provides with the UNTHA. Even once this project comes to an end, the strong community that has been formed between Thoughtworks and UNTHA will continue to thrive. 

Thoughtworks Ecuador workshop

How does it feel to create technology that makes such a positive impact on people?

It has been one of the most incredible experiences that I have had while working at Thoughtworks. Seeing how our partnership with UNTHA has been getting stronger beyond the boundaries of our project has really been incredible. Everyone involved in this project has grown and evolved a lot. The team in the Social Change Lab has been incredibly committed to this project and this has created a very strong relationship with the Union.

What sparked your curiosity while you were working on this initiative?

The way in which the women from the Union embraced and felt empowered by the app that we developed has been amazing. We had a big challenge in creating a group formed by technologists whose social background was completely different from the social issues we wanted to address, and the women of the Union who had very limited comprehension of technology. We needed to adapt our language, our methodologies and our traditional way of working to address this challenge. The commitment of every member of the team—from the Thoughtworks side to the UNTHA side—was so strong that we managed to create a diverse and deeply creative community that resulted in a technological product that goes really beyond what we initially expected. 

The members of the UNTHA have made an incredible journey into understanding how they can use technology to empower their Union. Similarly, Thoughtworkers have developed a new way of understanding the impact that technology can have on society. Today, it is too soon to evaluate the impact that the app will have on society at large, but we can already see how the relationship between the Union, the Labour Minister, and the supporting NGOs is changing due to working together. The use of a horizontal methodology allowed all of the participants to better understand the challenges that professional houseworkers face and we can already see a change in how they have started to evolve their way of working with them.

How can folks inside and outside of Thoughtworks get involved or contribute to this work?

We have an engagement model in our Social Transformation Lab that allows different levels of contribution. Whether it's being 100% or temporarily staffed on the project, coaching members of the core team, or having a short and informal collaboration, there is a possibility for almost anyone to connect to our projects.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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