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In 2021, we contributed to ensuring that women and people of diverse sexualities and genders participate in, shape and co-create the internet and digital technologies that reflect and respond to their lived realities.
Take Back the Tech! commemorated its 15th anniversary putting joy at the centre of actions towards a feminist internet
The Take Back the Tech! (TBTT) campaign celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2021. Like every year, the campaign took place from 25 November to 10 December, this time around the theme #TechJoy.
This campaign theme was an invitation to centre the importance of joy in the pursuit of a feminist internet, fashioning resistance into joy that feeds our activism and lived realities.
The campaign called activists to bring to the front ways in which we get joy through our use of technologies, not just as users but as creators. For this, campaigners engaged in live tweet chats on disability, sexuality and technology and played with question cards, while various artists brought in tech joy through anti-corporatism, security practices, accessibility, tech subversion and more.
As every year, the campaigners put special emphasis on important days such as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November), World AIDS Day (1 December), World Disability Day (3 December) and World Human Rights Day (10 December) to highlight various subjects, and bring out their intersection with #TechJoy wherever possible.
The 2021 TBTT campaign also engaged its community in newer areas of interest at the intersection of gender and technology like gendered disinformation, digital extractivism, the environment and the internet, which created high levels of interest, showing that the TBTT community and allies are eager to deepen their knowledge on these new areas.
Strengthened feminist digital safety and care in Brazil through collaboration with the Transfeminist Network of Digital Care
In 2021 the Transfeminist Network of Digital Care from Brazil created Gincana Monstra (Freak Gymkhana), a synchronous and asynchronous all-online process that promoted learning in digital care aimed at feminist activists.
During the eight weeks that the process lasted, there was exchange and learning about digital and ancestral technologies, strategies and security, territoriality, transcentrality and intergenerational knowledge, always based on the participants’ own experiences, cosmoperceptions and feelings.
Aimed at people who wanted to be mutipliers of digital care, the Transfeminist Network selected 27 mostly Black cis and trans women and non-binary people between the ages of 18 and 57 from the north and northeast regions of Brazil.
APC supported the Gincana Monstra by hosting global convenings for the Transfeminist Network to exchange ideas with the global Feminist Tech eXchange (FTX) network of trainers. These convenings enabled a deeper exploration of feminist digital safety methodologies and infrastructures of care, and a stronger network of support for and by feminist facilitators and trainers of digital safety.
The 2021 collaboration with APC enabled the Transfeminist Network to develop context-specific responses in local languages to communities in Brazil who are traditionally excluded from opportunities, to connect them to global feminist trainers, and to develop and document creative, local methodologies. APC also funded the translation of the FTX: Safety Reboot into Portuguese, enabling its use in local Portuguese-speaking contexts.
Additionally, APC functioned as a link between the global donor and the Transfeminist Network to promote their work and to leverage extra funds for infrastructure which would stay in Brazil and directly benefit communities.
The Feminist Internet Research Network consolidated knowledge building on four pillars: Access, economy and labour, datafication and online gender-based violence
After the research reports launched in 2020 and with financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN) partners launched the remaining reports, reaching a total of eight research projects that addressed online gender-based violence, access, economy and labour, and datafication in countries like Brazil, Bulgaria, India, Malaysia, Rwanda and five sub-Saharan African countries, namely Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal and South Africa.
All these research outputs were accompanied by an executive summary that can be used for policy strategising in the sector of feminist interest research from a global South perspective.
Since August 2021, all outputs are available on a website that allows visitors not only to download the research reports but also to navigate through the findings, the research questions, the rationale and objectives, the policy advocacy recommendations, the ethical framework, the feminist methods of data collection and analysis used, as well as design collaterals and dissemination products.
In 2021, APC also launched the meta-research of FIRN with findings on feminist research methodology and ethics across all research projects, providing a base of learnings for further iterations of feminist networks of researchers. To contribute to and complement these knowledge-building efforts, GenderIT.org published 24 articles in English and Spanish with a special focus on FIRN’s thematic domain areas.
From a tool to a space to rightfully occupy: Shifted perceptions of technology in structurally silenced and marginalised communities in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Sudan and Uganda
Our Voices, Our Futures (OVOF), a global South-led consortium comprising CREA, APC, UHAI -The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative and WO=MEN, complemented by strategic partner IM-Defensoras, made firm steps in its goal of amplifying the voices of structurally silenced women in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Sudan and Uganda so they can participate across three key spaces: online space, physical public space and legal and policy space.
One of OVOF’s strategies to bring about change relates to the strategic use of technology to support open, safe online spaces, bringing feminist-tech expertise to all its work as well as to its local partners spread across six countries. A second strategy relates to movement building to support collective agenda setting and collaborative efforts. As an outcome in the intersection of both strategies, in 2021 OVOF provided to some of its partners the first opportunity to organise hybrid events, with participants and speakers joining in person or online. With APC’s support in brainstorming how a hybrid space would work, the partners felt confident in their capacity to conduct larger national level events in the hybrid model.
Another concrete impact outcome of this initiative in 2021 relates to an increased awareness and a tangible shift in how the communities view technology, not just as a tool but also as a space to rightfully occupy, which came as a result of the very act of funding, supporting and conducting research.
Another essential step given in 2021 in working with people from structurally silenced and marginalised communities related to funding opportunities: partners who are unregistered collectives or are unable to register due to security reasons and/or their political values and stances – as some of them are criminalised in their respective countries – found through the consortium the possibility to get funding with more leeway in how money is dispersed, in a way that allowed them to work meaningfully on freedom of expression online and movement building.
Pollicy's Digital Safe-Tea Game created opportunities to learn how to face online threats
After numerous digital security training sessions, Pollicy in partnership with the Paradigm Initiative (with funding support from the Hivos Digital Defenders Partnership) created an interactive fiction game that allows African women to explore and learn about existing digital security threats.
Digital Safe-Tea, whose name is a portmanteau of “digital safety” and “tea”, is based on the storyline of three characters: Aisha, Goitse and Dami, who are based on different archetypes of African women. As players step into the world of these three characters, they are faced with digital threats like a hijacked teleconferencing session, impersonation, and even non-consensual sharing of intimate images (NCII), which is often referred to as “revenge porn”. Once presented with a scenario, players are nudged to pick their response to the threat from available choices, as a way for them to get to the next stage of the game. As players weave through the maze of threats, they are presented with lessons on how to navigate such threats in real life. Players are also directed to sites and toolkits where they can get further learning on their desired topic. To play this game, visit digitalsafetea.com
VOICE advocated for protection of women's rights in Bangladesh generating research-based evidence on violence against women during COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially after the lockdown, gender-based violence and domestic violence rose sharply in Bangladesh. Among the victims, a large number were domestic workers or "house-helpers".
With support from an APC research and campaign subgrant, Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE) conducted a survey on two categories of domestic workers, namely resident and non-resident domestic helpers, focusing on exploring the gender-based violence they experienced. It also explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their health, including access to vaccination. The data generated from the survey was used to craft reports and infographics that were used in advocacy during the 16-day campaign against gender-based violence, online and offline.
BlueLink worked to restore policy dialogue and supportive discourse against gender-based violence online in Bulgaria
In 2021 BlueLink officially presented the report “After the Storm: How to restore policy dialogue and supportive discourse against gender based violence online in Bulgaria”. The study was conducted by BlueLink in cooperation with the Media Democracy Foundation, Gender Alternatives Foundation and independent researchers, within a project supported by APC, the Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN).
At an online discussion on 21 July 2021, representatives of Bulgarian and international institutions, civil society organisations, academics and activists on women’s rights came together to discuss the research findings and recommendations and welcomed them as an effective opportunity to counter gender-based violence on the internet. They all agreed that there are no coherent policies in this area at the European level. As stated by Sami Nevala, policy coordinator at the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights: "The problems we are discussing today do not only affect Bulgaria. The challenges outlined in the report and the countermeasures taken can be applied more widely in the European Union.”
AZUR Développement localised the Take Back the Tech! campaign in Congo to denounce and raise awareness on gender-based violence online
With support from an APC research and campaign subgrant, AZUR Développement carried out a Take Back the Tech! campaign in the Republic of Congo to denounce gender-based violence, amplify the voices of survivors of violence, and raise public awareness on gender-based violence using traditional and digital media.
The campaign mobilised young girls and boys and survivors of violence to denounce online violence by participating in photo challenges and the development and distribution of messages calling to fight against gender-based violence. It also referred women and girls who have been targets of violence online and offline to four one-stop centres for assistance to women and girls survivors of violence.
Body and Data brought together different communities in Nepal to broaden the conversation around digital security through Feminist Tech Exchanges
The Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) Digital Security Workshop is one of Body and Data’s key activities to broaden conversation around digital rights and offer hands-on trainings around digital security tools. Participants in FTX workshops discuss the various intersections of the internet, sexuality and feminism.
In the year 2021, Body and Data organised three FTX workshops with different communities: women, queer people, and young people from Madhesh. (Madhesh refers to the southern Terai belt of Nepal, and Madheshi people are those residing in these areas). FTX Madhesh was the first exchange held that was decentralised from Kathmandu, and it was a rich learning experience where participants got to understand more about issues such as access, censorship, surveillance and online violence from the perspective of the Madheshi community.
CITAD built the capacities of women journalists on safety and privacy online in Nigeria
With the increasing use of online tools as key instruments for the practice of journalism, the online vulnerability of practitioners has also risen. This is even more real for a number of female journalists who have become subject to invasion of privacy, often facing blackmail to silence their voices as journalists.
With support from an APC research and campaign subgrant, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) carried out trainings in Nigeria to enhance the capacity of women journalists to safely use the internet, contributing as well to bridge the gender digital divide. The project also contributed to promote the political inclusion of women, as it enabled them to make more effective use of online tools for campaigning.
Building the capacity of female journalists to safely use the internet helped preserve the voice of women in the journalistic realm.
PROTEGE QV promoted freedom of expression and gender equality in Cameroon by training women media workers on online safety
With support from an APC research and campaign subgrant, PROTEGE QV carried out two days of training in a hybrid format that built the capacities of 20 female media workers, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe in online environments.
The training equipped learners with a set of security techniques for the protection of their personal data and as part of their profession as journalists, and covered the following key topics: safeguarding personal information and privacy online; the practice of safe browsing; securing internet connections and devices; being careful with downloads; choosing and managing strong passwords; understanding the most common attacks and how to deal with them; and what to do in case of the loss of a device or data.
For PROTEGE QV, this training was also a contribution to reducing the digital divide among women journalists in Cameroon.
Bytesforall Bangladesh addressed the rising trend of gender-based online violence during the pandemic
Bangladesh has more than 120 million internet subscribers, which represent around 71% of the total population. The growth of internet penetration and bandwidth redundancy have expanded social media access and usage locally, but as the internet users base grows, issues of online security and violence emerge in similar proportion.
Online violence operates as a bigger term that may include cyber stalking, cyber harassment, cyber defamation, cyber bullying, cyber blackmailing, email/profile hacking, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, internet voyeurism, and intimate partner violence through the internet, among others. Bytesforall identified the growth of this trend during the COVID-19 pandemic, as users were staying at home using the internet for various purposes, including education.
With support from an APC research and campaign subgrant, Bytesforall Bangladesh continued to build on the existing work done in 2019 by analysing how gender-based online violence had evolved during the time of the pandemic, when users were mostly indoors and were extensively using the internet for various purposes. They did a survey involving more than 100 female internet users to map the prevalence, nature, extent and effect of gender-based online violence in the country’s online environment. The revealing results of this survey were very important to inform Bytesforall’s follow-up work on this urgent area.
Read the full APC Annual Report 2021 here.