When 29 year-old Huda Sarfraz and her team started to teach Punjabi girls how to create websites and use online chat she feared they might be run out of town. To her surprise however the girls clamoured to learn as much as the boys did and —overturning societal taboos— over-subscribed for the extra-curricular classes – ending up producing prize-winning websites. As a result of guidance provided by IDRC staff and exposure to APC’s Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM), Sarfraz’s team focused specifically on getting girls and women teachers involved. “Initially, we only saw two groups to work with — students and teachers. However because of GEM, we looked at them as four—girl students, boy students, women teachers and men teachers,” says Huda Sarfraz, team leader for the Dareecha project.
While members of the Pakistani parliament were on a diplomatic trip in the United States to talk about the impact of the ar on terror on northern rural tribes in the country, they were asked by airport security in Washington to be body-scanned. The right not to undergo a body scan is a privilege given to parliamentarians the world over. APC member Bytes for All in Pakistan applauds the Pakistani parliamentarians’ firm stance and refusal to be scanned.
A small team of the APC women’s programme is in New York from 1-12, blogging and twitting from the UN headquarters. While governments are busy reviewing the Beijing Platform of Action, civil society organisations are struggling to participate in the process, and are being kept at bay. Yet they are still managing to keep busy by organising side events, networking, and advocating for the inclusion of a women’s rights perspective in all the discussions. APC is closely following the discussions about communications rights and the role ICTs play within this. Read GenderIT’s coverage.
“As feminists, we are creating our own media and disrupting and challenging mainstream notions of identity and what women are or should be. We are self-representing, to recast ourselves and challenge stale notions of what women are or should be. We are demonstrating the multiplicity and diversity of who we are”, writes APC women’s programme as a prologue to the Beijing+15 review process that is starting on March 1st in New York.
More than 20% of human genes are patented in the US which, among other things, is preventing people from accessing affordable and appropriate testing and diagnoses of genetic diseases. This is only one example of how restrictive intellectual property legislation is impacting human rights. At the Yale Information Society Project’s conference, of which APC was an organising partner, these issues, which also include the impact on innovation, scientific research, freedom of expression online and education were discussed by civil society and adademia. Watch some video interviews.
“Opening up access to knowledge is a demand of global justice; it is both a human rights issue and a crucial factor in spurring economic development and technological innovation,” said Yale Law School Professor Jack Balkin, who together with the APC and other institutions are currently discussing these issues at Yale University over 11 and 12 of February.
In India’s rural e-governance initiative, 33% of local government seats are reserved for women. Rural village heads of Chhattisgarh State – one of India’s poorest— can now participate in the public process and in theory remotely communicate the needs of their villages through the use of a low-cost computer that does not require computer literacy. But women are not taking the active roles that were expected. Using GEM, APC’s gender evaluation methodology, Dr. Anupama Saxena and her team are finding out why winning an electoral seat does not necessarily guarantee that your voice is heard within the governance system if you are a woman.
In Nigeria, a small radio association is using theatre to teach rural populations practical skills like how to how to obtain small loans, and also discusses issues related to gender inequality. Thanks to a small grant by the Gender and Agriculture in the Information Society (GenARDIS) initiative, the project called Majalisar Mata Manoma has come a long way from being a simple radio programme. It is about meeting spaces for women farmers, connecting radio and mobile phones too.
From 25 November to 10 December, the message came across loud and clear – whether it was via audiocast in Malaysia, chat relay in Brazil, protest march in Second Life, song-writing in Pakistan, calendars in Argentina, tweets in Mexico, posters in cybercafes in the Congo, or a mural on the streets of Soweto in South Africa. In over a dozen languages and through all platforms and medium both online and off, people took control of technology to end violence against women during the Take Back the Tech! campaign.
A video showing President Asif Ali Zardari losing his temper in a public speech was recently censored in Pakistan. Bytes for All and its members vehemently condemn the Government’s block on YouTube and considers it yet another attack on civil liberties and free speech in the country.
With the goal to create awareness about Information and Communication Technologies and Violence Against Women in cyber space, and the implications of various government policies on women, a seminar titled “ICTs and Violence Against Women – Policy Implications” was jointly organized by Bytes for All (B4A) and the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA) on 30 January 2010 in Lahore. The event attracted about 85 representatives from legal community belonging to different law chambers, some human rights activists, media, academia and concerned citizens.
South Korean communication media training and education centre MediAct is in danger of being shut down by the conservative government in Korea. This democratic centre has played a key role in democratising Korea’s media since the end of the dictatorship and has trained thousands of people on media production as well as developing many policy proposals that have changed Korea’s mediascape. Immediate international support is vital to keeping MediAct open. Please sign the petition or read on to find out more about MediAct and other ways to show your support.
In rural Uganda, telecentres that have been established to promote rural access to information and foster development are not getting the results they had hoped for. Using the APC WNSP’s Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) to understand why this is so, UgaBYTES, a Uganda-based NGO that works to promote access to ICTs in rural East Africa, has found that beyond the common obstacles to access like technical infrastructure, connection costs and computer literacy, women face numerous additional barriers if they want to use ICTs to improve their lives.
2010 promises to be a significant year for the future of the internet with a number of potential changes on the horizon. It could be the last year of existence for the Internet Governance Forum and ICANN is confronting big changes as it moves out from under the control of the US government. In this time of flux, policy windows can open and close quickly. APC is building a worldwide network of civil society policy advocates from different spheres of policy work and with diverse campaigning experiences who all have a vested interest in ensuring that the internet is free and open.
Following the impact of Global Information Society Watch 2009 which put the spotlight on “access to knowledge for advancing democracy and human rights”, the University of Yale has invited GISWatch co-publisher APC to co-convene their fourth Access to Knowledge Conference. The conference organised by Yale’s information society project will unite scholars and human rights activists to look at designing laws, policies and technical architectures to promote “social progress across the globe”. Find out more about the conference.
In Cameroon, internet and telephone services are unaffordable – to the extent that at least half of the population has to resort to illegal operators, which are the only ones to make services like the internet affordable to the average Cameroonian.
Digital Empowerment Foundation of New Delhi has a wealth of experience in digital empowerment for women, children, and rural communities in India. The non-profit founded in 2003 by a former software company owner was created to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban India. Partnering with other organisations and government agencies, APC’s newest member has made a name for itself by making a big difference in small rural communities.
Dominican Republic guarantees women's equality in technology initiatives and policies across the country
The Dominican Republic is the first Latin American country to act on their commitments to involve women in the information society nationwide. This Caribbean island nation of ten million has promised to include a “gender perspective” in every information and communications technology initiative and policy developed by the government from now on. “This is great news for women’s equality in the Dominican Republic,” said APC’s Dafne Plou who trained government officials in November. “And it’s potentially a breakthrough for millions of other women in Latin America because the Dominican Republic is leading Latin American governments’ thinking around gender and technology as part of the regional eLAC2010 plan”. The tool the Dominicans have chosen to design and evaluate all the public policies is the APC gender evaluation methodology (GEM).
Studies reveal that the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) makes up 2% of all global emissions – the same amount as the airline industry. By 2012, 4.5 billion people will have access to a mobile phone – the majority will be those live on less than USD 2 a day and be the most likely to be affected by climate change. “Planting the Knowledge Seed – Adapting to climate change using ICTs”, a publication from the Building Communication Opportunities alliance, explores the practical linkages between climate change, access to and sharing of information and knowledge and communication for development.
Today hundreds of people will march through Montreal in support of APC member Alternatives – a non-profit organisation which has helped thousands of people living in some of the most difficult situations in the world. Alternatives has come under attack from the right-wing Conservative government in Canada and it is rumoured faces savage funding cuts which could threaten its existence. Join the Facebook campaign to Save Alternatives and send your letters of support.