Seeding change: Meet Hackers Comunitarias, the women challenging communications, tech and access inequalities in Mexico

"With this clear idea we began to dream on the intranet, a situation that led us to find those allies along the way who are always there to share their knowledge and to build with us, with all the patience and affection that may exist."

How are women overcoming gender barriers around technologies and creating safe spaces to build community networks from a collective and local perspective?

In this photo essay we will discover the experiences and learnings from two communities in Mexico – Cherán and Xocoyolo. The women in these communities get together to redefine technologies and develop their networks in a way to strengthen the community memory, as well as communicate their sense of locality.

As part of a project called “Women hacking spaces for the community’s life”, these women partnered to create the Hackers Comunitarias, a collaboration among women in Cherán and Xocoyolo who are exchanging knowledge and affection to challenge communications and access inequalities in the region.  Supported along the way by mentors from Latin America, they are sharing stories that are grown and cultivated from their territory, while enabling more women to use and design technologies, such as Wi-Fi digital networks with open source services to run locally and offer the community members an intranet.

Find out more about their journey through the inspiring pictures and words from the Hackers Comunitarias women in the gallery above (Click on the photos to open the gallery.)

Intranet and self-determination in Cherán

Xamoneta, which in P'urhépecha means “echo”, is a collective of mainly young women who aim to strengthen the process of defending their territory – Cherán K'eri, in Mexico – through communication, memory and community organisation.

Cherán is at a meaningful stage for such a goal: this Indigenous community decided to self-govern and legally reclaim the right to self-determination over their territory after a civil uprising against corruption and crime triggered by women and young people in 2011.

Now, as part of Hackers Comunitarias, the Xamoneta collective is looking into technology as a tool to strengthen language and community memory. As part of this process, they promoted online and in-person workshops aiming to rehabilitate the community’s intranet – a digital network functioning locally with the goal of safeguarding and disseminating audiovisual, informative resources and educational material from and about the community.

While creating a local alternative for Cherán’s communications and memory keeping, they challenge gender stereotypes and power relations embedded in fields like infrastructures and digital technology building. Working together, these women grow the confidence and ability to experiment and learn together.

The intranet is part of a long journey built on their traditions around community communications, memory and organisation. As part of this journey, in 2018, a comprehensive communication strategy was designed including different communication spaces, such as Radio Fogata. This strategy embodied the dream of creating an intranet as a tool for safeguarding memory and community knowledge, creating and disseminating truthful information, and offering an alternative form of entertainment. Its revitalisation included a series of activities such as open workshops and gatherings.

Redefining technology with the women of Xocoyolo

Xocoyolo is part of the Municipality of Cuetzalan del Progreso, which is a touristic town in the northern mountain range of Puebla, Mexico. It is also home to a beautiful initiative of women coming together to create safe and welcoming spaces to experiment with and shape technologies.

These women were also part of the Hackers Comunitarias initiative to build an intranet in their territory. As part of this process, the women of Xocoyolo held three workshops with the objective of breaking stereotypes, strengthening autonomy, building trust and appropriating technology.

During the gatherings, in one activity the participants asked themselves, "What is technology?" Answering with drawings, in the beginning, almost all the women drew devices such as mobile phones or computers. But they realised that technology goes beyond digital and created their own definitions for the intranet to come.

However, at the end of August last year, a hurricane hit the region. The losses were enormous and all the energy of the community members was focused on helping people and fixing damaged houses. Likewise, in the following months, a wave of COVID-19 occurred in the region, causing tragic losses in the community.

The plans were postponed but they are still alive: this year the community expects to install the community network nodes and build a captive portal to it. As part of Hackers Comunitarias, the women will help to move it forward. The photos here partially capture the knowledge they built together and their new definitions of technologies and viewpoints.

This piece is a version of information, quotes and photos shared by Hackers Comunitarias as part of the project "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" for the Seeding Change column, which presents the experiences of APC members and partners who were recipients of funding through "Connecting the Unconnected" gender interventions grants and of subgrants offered through other APC projects and initiatives.

Did this story inspire you to plant seeds of change in your community? Share your story with us at communications@apc.org

 

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