Michka: protecting children from abuse
Michka is a new smartphone and computer application that aids adults who want to teach their children how to identify and report sexual abuse.
Michka, which is an e-book and computer game, 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 lead behind Michka, 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 difficult topic of sexual abuse in a language that is appropriate, understandable and non-threatening for children.
Unfortunately, there is no data on the prevalence of sexual abuse of children in Iran. But, in 2016, the issue of child sexual abuse became part of the national conversation when a number of complainants came forward in Persian media outlets accusing Saeed Toosi, a prominent qari (someone who recites the Quran), of sexual misconduct, including rape of children.
“Iran is not immune to the use of sexual abuse as a weapon of control waged by the powerful over the powerless,” explained 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.”
“Michka is a story I wish I was told when I was a child. 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, Michka Project Lead. “People believe it’s an issue bigger than what they are capable of dealing with, so they prefer to pretend it doesn’t happen. 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.