Gender & ICTs
The morning of 19th February was one that we had been working toward for some time. There was anticipation and yet there was fear – anticipation because it was an important initiative that we were all excited to be a part of; fear that perhaps we had taken on more than we could handle, that the relevant people would not show up, etc. etc.
But we needn’t have worried.
Since January, sectarian strife has ripped through Nigerian communities. “A mass burial took place the day before yesterday and body counts are close to three hundred with over 80% of them women and children,” APC member John Dada told APC. “It is ironic that in the month of the Celebration of Women’s Day, such atrocities are being visited on innocent women and children.” Women are culturally respected as the givers of life and John blames deepening poverty and economic alienation for the cultural reversal but he sees a potential solution.
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.
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.
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.
South Asian APC member Bytes for All will be hosting a Membership Exchange from 7 – 11 June, 2010 in Islamabad Pakistan. Representatives of organisations from APC’s varied network will meet in the Pakistani city to attend a workshop on digital story telling, “Take back the tech to end violence against women: A workshop on digital storytelling for online advocacy”.
This meeting is part of the MDG3: Strengthening women’s strategic use of ICTs to combat violence against women and girls project run by the APC women’s programme (APC WNSP).