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From 2016 to 2019, we worked for women’s rights and sexual rights activists to engage with internet and ICT policy and development as feminist issues. How far did we get? Check it out!
Promoted uptake and adaptation of the Feminist Principles of the Internet
Over the last four years, APC helped reframe feminist organising and movement building in the digital age.
Working with and learning from our networks and partners, we have continued to support the engagement of women's movements with the politics of digital technology. Guided by our Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs), we looked for and encouraged fresh ways of organising that build on the rich history of feminist and sexual rights movements with new tactics, energy and results. Our work influenced both the politics and practice of movement building in a digital age. Through projects and campaigns such as Take Back the Tech! (TBTT), EROTICS, the Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN), FPI city conversations and Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX), as well as numerous workshops and events, we spearheaded research and analysis of the priorities in a changing context, and developed the skills, capacities and confidence to use and engage with internet technologies in ways that respond to women’s rights, sexual rights and feminist activists’ needs and realities. In 2019, the FPIs were foundational principles in three regional and sub-regional convenings in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. These convenings led to building confidence, developing tactics and policy strategies, and making the critical work undertaken by feminist actors visible. Significantly, a new principle on the environment was developed by a local Mexican feminist collective.
We shifted the conversation on digital priorities using the Feminist Principles of the Internet.
Our FPIs were used to frame conversations on gender and technology at a variety of events, conversations and forums, including Imagine a Feminist Internet and TBTT meetings, hacker spaces and digital security workshops.
What we call “FPI City Conversations” emerged as a methodology for partners to create spaces to explore the FPIs and how they relate to specific contexts, with the first one taking place in Beirut in 2016. Subsequent conversations were held by our members, partners and collaborators in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, Argentina, Zimbabwe and Malaysia. A critical moment for the FPIs was a three-day conversation hosted in Mexico in 2019, where we began developing a Feminist Principle on the environment, focusing specifically on the extractive industry's relationship to technology and the internet.
An important intervention for us was participation in the 2016 AWID Forum, “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice”, held in Costa do Sauípe, Brazil. WRP put together a team of over 25 staff and members to participate in the forum, holding a one-day pre-event to “Imagine a Feminist Internet”, where the FPIs guided discussions on feminism and technology. APC also hosted the Feminist Internet eXchange Hub to put feminism – in all of its diversity and creativity – at the heart of engagement with technology, bringing together activists, researchers and techies working on advancing a feminist internet who were at the forum. Twenty-five sessions were hosted in the Hub during the three-day Forum. APC events attracted more than 70 participants from 33 countries.
In 2018, as part of the TBTT campaign in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, APC hosted a two-day Feminist Internet Content Carnival. The aim was to build collective knowledge and to share our stories as a way of populating the Feminist Principles of the Internet website with diverse voices, perspectives, and fresh and relevant resources.
Throughout this period, APC's flagship feminist tech website GenderIT.org strengthened the voices of feminist activists globally, and the visibility and impact of project activities.
GenderIT.org offers critical support to our activism on gender and sexual rights, and is an online resource that helps to shape our feminist perspective on the internet. It is a space for diverse feminist perspectives and opinions, and for sharing project information on activities, news and research. In 2019, besides daily content updates, GenderIT.org published special editions in English and Spanish on gender and sexuality in internet policy, on feminist ethics in research, and on the FPIs and community networks, attracting thousands of readers from across the world.
Built and strengthened inter-movement alliances on women's rights, internet and ICT policy
APC strengthened awareness of online gender-based violence globally, and built the capacity of activists to combat gender-based violence on the internet.
Through capacity building and campaigns, meetings, learning circles, and policy advocacy, we pushed back against online gender-based violence, and shifted national and global internet policy towards a more gender-sensitive approach.
For over a decade our Women's Rights Programme (WRP) and its network have worked hard to raise the profile of online gender-based violence as a critical issue faced by women and girls across the world. A key impact of these efforts was the mainstreaming of concern for the safety of women online in national and global forums, policy spaces and debates, as well as ground-breaking UN resolutions on digital gender-based violence (see “Rights” above).
Through creative campaigning both online and offline each year during the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, and a series of workshops and meetings with feminists across the world, the TBTT campaign raised awareness of tech-related violence against women, and built resilience among activists to demand a safer internet. APC members contributed to the campaign over the years with creative interventions, including One World Platform, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Colnodo, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Bytesforall Bangladesh, Derechos Digitales, Media Matters for Democracy, Point of View, Sulá Batsú and WOUGNET.
A milestone was reached in 2016 when TBTT celebrated its 10th anniversary with the campaign theme "Our collective story: Women who shaped technology". Participants in at least 25 countries reached more than four million people through online and offline action for the 16 Days of Activism.
TBTT also built capacity to respond to the digital needs of activists. Most recently, in 2018 we brought together campaigners from around the world to a TBTT global meeting alongside a Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) held in Nepal. The meeting injected fresh ideas into a movement seeking new, creative voices and approaches to the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies. (Read an illustrated love letter to the TBTT global gathering, an account of how to make your own hero and various reflections on feminist creativity and care.)
In 2019, in partnership with Oxfam’s Enough Project, TBTT piloted Feminist Learning Circles. These are online spaces for playful strategising and experimenting with technology to explore the internet’s possibilities for activism. Learning circles encourage the exploration of technology, experimentation with open source software and open knowledge, and the honing of tech skills in a fun, positive and safe environment for women, gender diverse people and the LGBTIQ+ community.
Over the four years, APC members in Africa built a knowledge base of the kinds of online violence faced by women on the continent and how this results in women being excluded from participating online. They used this research to engage policy makers and government stakeholders through panel discussions, multistakeholder workshops and meetings. In 2019, the Making a Feminist Internet: Movement Building in a Digital Age in Africa event, organised by the WRP and its All Women Count: Take Back the Tech! project (AWC-TBTT), brought together activists, researchers and feminists from all across Africa to explore the experiences of women and queer people in relation to technology and the internet in Africa. The MFI Africa event deepened our understanding of online gender-based violence in Africa, especially how the violence materialises and mutates differently across the continent. The event was also a space for reflecting on the purpose of our MFI work, and how to strengthen and invest in the passion and commitment of feminist organisations, collectives and individuals responding to the increase of online gender-based violence in Africa.
The impact of our work in Mexico was recognised in 2016 when TBTT and Mexican feminist media collectives Luchadoras and Sandía Digital received the Womanity Award for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. The award aims to strengthen creative and positive responses to addressing online gender-based violence. The collectives came together for the three-year Mexico TBTT project, which started in 2016, and was organised under the banner of “Siemprevivas: Acción y Tecnología”. The campaign’s key approach grounded actions in contextual realities and strengths, and the power of networks to organise for change. The shared vision for implementing TBTT in Mexico can be seen in the “Women shape the web!” video prepared for the Womanity Award.
APC bridged the gap between feminism and technology research.
In 2017 our mapping study on gender and digital technology highlighted the critical gaps in the research around gender equality and technology in middle- and low-income countries, and the impact this has on internet policy development and decision making, particularly in terms of addressing the needs of women, gender diverse and queer people. In 2018, in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), we launched the Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN) to counter this gap in the research landscape.
The network gathers researchers from around the world, but especially in the global South, to explore new approaches to digital research built around the FPIs and feminist research practices and values. Its overall objective is to address existing gaps in the field of feminist internet research, which means focusing on the dynamics of power and structural inequalities. This includes surfacing intersectional and often marginalised perspectives from the global South, whether due to race, caste, religion, class, sexuality or gender. Issues that the network considers range from meaningful access, to datafication, online gender-based violence and digital labour.
In 2019 the network arranged its first convening with eight researchers that were selected to be part of the FIRN project, six peer advisors, donors, and facilitators. Here the network managed to create a collective ethics of feminist research principles and domains of change that ground the network's values.
We increased donor support for women's and sexual rights online through ongoing advocacy with funders.
WRP engaged donors over the four-year period in a strategic effort to free funding resources for women and sexual rights interventions across the world. For example, we participated in the Oak Foundation Women's Rights Programme strategic meeting in 2017, and presented awareness-raising sessions on digital security at the global meeting of Prospera, an international network of women's funds in the same year. We also initiated an in-depth survey on technology-related risks with selected grantee-partners for the Open Society Foundation (OSF) Women's Rights Programme. The success of this consultancy resulted in funds from OSF to support small grants to four of our partners in our FTX network of feminist digital security trainers, to implement and localise our FTX: Safety Reboot training curriculum in 2019.
These interventions resulted in a digital security consultancy with Prospera where WRP, together with our regional partners, provided support to Prospera members in strengthening their digital security knowledge and skills. Four trainings on digital security, one per region (Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America), were held in 2018 and 2019.
Our effort resulted in more buy-in from women's rights funders into the importance of digital rights, and expanded the feminist internet community. This was evident in the collaboration between donors and organisations behind the global Making a Feminist Internet: Movement Building in a Digital Age event held in Malaysia in 2017, with AWID, Astraea, CREA, the FRIDA Young Women's Fund, Mama Cash and the Urgent Action Fund involved. Making a Feminist Internet: Movement Building in a Digital Age was a first-of-its-kind event that attracted 84 participants primarily from the global South, and concerned with issues related to internet rights, women’s rights, sexual rights and digital security.