FTX – A new way to bring together feminist techies and the women’s movement

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By APC WNSP for APCNews

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 10 March 2009

FTX trainers and participants. Photo: APC WNSPFTX trainers and participants. Photo: APC WNSP APC women’s Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) is training a key group of women’s rights advocates particularly those living in the developing world in essential internet, audio and other technical skills to enable them to use technology to most effectively document abuses, build knowledge, disseminate information, mobilise support and amplify pressures for change.

Through hands-on learning, sharing of experiences and strategies, organised discussion sessions and spaces for face-to-face and online reflections and conversations, FTX creates a vibrant space to explore and deepen feminist practices and politics of technology.

The first FTX was held in South Africa in November 2008 with one hundred participants from most regions of the world including Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the USA.

All sixteen trainers were women, the majority from Africa (DRC, South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe) and the rest from the UK, Fiji, Bulgaria, Malaysia and the Philippines. They were selected based on their skills and experience in conducting medium-to-large scale training and importantly on their understanding of feminism and its interconnection with technology.

The three-day South African FTX deliberately coincided with a large gathering of more than 2000 people from the women’s movement at the AWID Forum. And now plans for smaller-scale, more localised FTX, with the first in Mexico at the Latin American feminist gathering Encuentro Feminsta is the next step.

Building technology capacity within the feminist and women’s rights movements

The ideal FTX participant is an advocate of women’s rights, working on critical and diverse issues such as ICT and development issues, women and disability rights, sexuality rights, research and development, communication rights, health, women’s rights movement building, violence against women and women and peace-building. And she’s eager to use the internet and other technology to make a difference in her effectiveness. She is also interested to see how communication rights connect with her advocacy work.

Creating partnerships between the women’s rights movement and ICT specialists

“The FTX was a really important first step in increasing the capacity of women’s rights advocates, their organisations and movements to use ICTs strategically in their work to advance women’s rights,” noted Anna Turley of AWID. “The FTX highlighted the intersections between communication rights, women’s rights and movement building. And it has begun to ‘make the case’ for why these issues matter to women’s rights work to over 2000 women who, as a movement, have tended to be slow to take up ICTs or understand communication and technology as feminist political issues of relevance to the advancement of women’s rights.”

As well as the sixteen multi-skilled and multilingual FTX trainers, other organisations which work on ICT including feminist technology organisations had an avenue to share their work with the larger women’s movement. These included Women’sNet for the digital storytelling track, Radio FIRE who transmitted all of the FTX plenary sessions live as well as organised “FIRE Place” and AMARC Women’s International Network for their expertise in community radio.

Kubatana set up a Freedom Fone booth at the FTX Hub throughout the Forum and used it as a space to test the relevance of their technology to support women’s rights advocacy. Tactical Tech Collective shared their toolkits on mobile advocacy and citizen journalism.

Trainers agreed that it is rare for them to meet other “feminist techies” who are also advocates for both feminism and women’s rights and technology.

Open discussions on technology issues and women’s rights agendasFIREPlace: Recording discussions during the eventFIREPlace: Recording discussions during the event

Each day of the FTX event began with interactive thematic dialogues, where speakers were invited to provide “food for thought” and catalyse discussions amongst participants about issues related to women’s rights and ICT.

Ample time and activities that encouraged conversations were programmed into these dialogue sessions to ensure that participants had sufficient time to explore their own articulation of feminist practices and politics of technologies based on their experience and advocacy areas.

“It was very strategic to devise a space centred on the issues regarding women and the feminist practice of technology. Often, when there are capacity building workshops the training on tools takes up all the space available and there is no opportunity for people to actually discuss the underlying policy issues or the impact on context,” commented Costa Rican Margarita Salas, thematic dialogue coordinator for the FTX.

In the case of FTX, the dialogue sessions were placed at equal importance to capacity building, to ensure that the learnings are grounded in the politics and impact of technology on women’s lives, development and rights. The training tracks also incorporated discussion sessions into their daily programme.

All presentations at the thematic dialogue sessions were recorded by FIRE.

Dialogue 1: Technology and the F-word

Dialogue 2: Day 2: Hardwiring communication rights and women’s rights

Day 3: Women disrupting the system with technology
Joanna Kerr AWID
• Speaker from MEEM

Learn more about FTX

Photo: FTX participants during the event in November 2008

(END/2009)

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