Photo by: Civil Rights Defenders

It may look like a fashion accessory, but this new bracelet from Swedish nonprofit organization Civil Rights Defenders is meant to do more: save the lives of aid workers.

The bracelet is named after Natalia Estemirova, a human rights advocate murdered in 2009 in Chechnya. It is being promoted by Civil Rights Defenders to assist colleagues who are often subject to threats of violence and kidnapping.

The Natalia Project, as the bracelet is known, comes in orange and black, and acts as a personal security alarm. Those who carry it designate three to five people as “shields,” people set to receive the first danger warning, which comes in the form of a simple text message.

Natasha Jevtic Esbjörnson, Civil Rights Defenders’ head of communications, said anyone can be a shield but “it makes more sense if they live close to the person with the alarm because their task is to proceed immediately to the place of the attack when an alarm has been triggered.”

Shields only need a smartphone and access to Twitter and Facebook to receive the signal.

A second alarm, sent a minute or two after the first one, contains information about the person’s exact location obtained via GPS and delivered for free, Esbjörnson said.

Victims can send the alerts, but the bracelet is also automatically triggered when tampered with. Civil Rights Defenders will verify the cause of the alarm by calling the user, and send out information on the situation via Facebook and Twitter to get more people to act.

So far, five bracelets have been distributed, one of them to a human rights lawyer in the Russian Republic of Dagestan. The NGO hopes to provide 55 human rights advocates with the technology by the end of 2014.

The item is not for sale, but interested aid groups may ask the bracelet’s manufacturer for a customized version tailored to their specific needs, Esbjörnson suggested.

At the moment, Civil Rights Defenders relies on private donations for the project. The group plans to approach institutional donors and foundations to secure funding in the days ahead, and is open to partnerships with aid organizations although, according to Esbjörnson, these may have to wait until the project gets off the ground.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.