Advocacy with women’s funds and donors on the importance of supporting work on feminism and technology

In 2017, the APC Women’s Rights Programme’s ongoing advocacy with funders resulted in increased support of programming related to women’s rights, sexual rights and the internet. There was also more buy-in by women’s rights funders and expansion of the feminist internet community. This was evident in the multi-funder and organisational collaboration behind the global Making a Feminist Internet: Movement Building in a Digital Age event, with three movement-based funds (Mama Cash, Astraea and Urgent Action Fund), in October 2017 in Malaysia.

As part of APC’s strategy to influence and impact the digital security community using a feminist movement-building strategy, three staff members attended the Initiative for Sustainable Activism meeting of trusted allies for strategic planning for holistic security organisations and individuals who work with activists and human rights defenders. APC’s work is influencing women’s rights donors to understand and see the need to embed digital and physical security in response to growing surveillance and harassment of grantee-partners.

APC Women’s Rights Programme manager Jac sm Kee participated in the Oak Foundation Women’s Rights Programme strategic meeting in March 2017, and presented awareness-raising sessions on digital security at the global meeting of Prospera, an international network of women’s funds, in October 2017. APC has also initiated an in-depth survey on technology-related risk assessment with selected grantee-partners for the Open Society Foundation Women’s Rights Programme.

Image: Fragment of a design by Constanza Figueroa.

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Increased take-up of women’s rights and online gender-based violence in global and national policy spaces and debates

APC’s Women’s Rights Programme has made visible the impact of online gender-based violence on women’s rights for more than a decade. During 2017, APC continued to present its analysis and positions on women’s rights and online gender-based violence, resulting in greater uptake of these issues in global and national policy and debate spaces.

A key result in 2017 was the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s adoption of General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating General Recommendation No. 19, which includes a reference to contemporary forms of violence against women occurring on the internet and in digital spaces.

Another key moment in APC’s advocacy took place on 13 March at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women. APC participated along with UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and Malaysian human rights lawyer Zarizana Abdul Aziz in a parallel event on online gender-based violence and accountability of states and the private sector.

APC also participated in the World Association for Christian Communications’ Gender and Media Consultation on 9-11 March 2017 in New York, with a presentation during a panel on gender and communication policies since the World Summit on the information Society (WSIS). The UN General Secretary adopted this input, which would later be published in a resolution adopted during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Another highlight was APC’s participation in the panel “Gender-based violence online: Levelling the discussion” at the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017 in May.

At the regional level, APC participated in the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum in July 2017 in Panama, in a panel discussion of public policies on online violence against women.

To watch out for: The HRC will discuss prevention of and responses to violence against women and girls in digital contexts in 2018, and this is expected to result in further advances.

Image: APC women’s rights policy lead, Jan Moolman, participating in the panel “Gender-based violence online: Levelling the discussion” at the Internet Stockholm Forum.

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City conversations on a feminist internet with women’s and sexual rights activists

During 2017, APC engaged in intense advocacy work to bring the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs) to women’s rights and sexual rights activists, as well as internet rights activists, around the world, to promote their uptake and adaptation to local realities. The main channel to develop this was through the convening of five city conversations in different countries that reached 112 activists.

The first of the city conversations took place in January in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, organised in partnership with One World Platform and the feminist online media initiative Zenskaposla, with 15 participants. The second was in East London, South Africa in February, with 28 participants, organised in partnership with Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre and Women’sNet. The third city conversation took place in April in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with 38 participants, held in partnership with the Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos. The fourth, held in March in Mexico City, in partnership with Luchadoras and Sandia Digital, brought together 27 participants. The fifth and last, a city conversation in Harare, Zimbabwe in July 2017 in partnership with Her Zimbabwe and the Coalition of African Lesbians, brought together 14 activists.

In addition, the FPIs platform was updated in 2017 to further increase outreach and engagement, through the addition of new content as well as re-organising and animating the platform.

To watch out for: Stay tuned for a Feminist Principles of the Internet engagement kit containing visuals, audio, banners and social media products to be developed and used by several organisations and media, and a re-designed FPIs platform.

Image: Screenshot of the video “Tenemos derecho a navegar seguras en internet” of the city conversation in Mexico.

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Take Back the Tech! campaign reaches wide range of activists

APC’s 2017 Take Back the Tech! (TBTT) campaign continued to reach a wide range of activists and raise awareness on gender-based violence, through a global TBTT campaign on the histories of the movement to end gender-based violence, which brought together participants in 44 countries. There were also 16 local campaigns developed in 11 countries.

The APC Women’s Rights Programme (APC WRP) drafted changes to the TBTT campaign kit in 2017 and tested a new monitoring and evaluation form for local campaigns during the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This effectively encouraged more local campaigns to report impact and capture stronger results, especially through brief stories of change around campaign capacity and understanding of the dynamics of gender-based violence.

The Take Back the Tech! game, which is in development, was piloted at several events in order to test it and receive feedback from peer groups, such as a meeting by Safe Sister trainers in Kenya, the APC global members meeting in South Africa, trainings in Mexico with adolescents, teachers and women human rights defenders (WHRDs), and in the Philippines with WHRDs, as well as at a workshop at the Internet Freedom Festival 2017 in Valencia, Spain.

To watch out for: The TBTT game will be officially launched in 2018, so stay around to play with us!

Image: Audience members enjoying a story at EMPOWER’s Living Library for the Take Back the Tech! campaign in 2017.

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Mapping research in gender and digital technology

Between January and November 2017, APC carried out a mapping study of the research in gender and digital technology taking place in or concerning middle and low-income countries in the last decade (2006-2017). The study focused on information and communications technologies and the internet in particular. but broadly encompassing digital technology and its impact on gender.

The “Mapping research in gender and digital technology” study mapped the trends, issues and changing contexts that emerged through a literature review, as well as the key issues, challenges, gaps, priorities and emerging areas, while providing a brief overview of the key actors and initiatives contributing to the work in different regions and subregions. It also addressed the value of research networks in this field, what would contribute to their success or impact, and the key challenges they face. Another of the objectives was for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which supported the mapping study, to examine its funding initiatives and programming.

The final output of this project was a publication that maps research and knowledge production in the field of gender and digital technology. In addition, produced a special edition on the subject, launched in September 2017, titled “We cannot be what we cannot see”, taken from Kerieva McCormick’s moving exploration of how young Roma women and girls deal with, understand and talk about violence and harassment faced by Roma people, online and offline.

To watch out for: Keep an eye out for the publication of the executive summary of the mapping research in gender and digital technology study to come out in 2018.

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Point of View’s Skin Stories: Essays on sexuality, disability and gender

In August 2017, Point of View launched the publication Skin Stories, which is a weekly essay series of narratives on sexuality, disability and gender. The origins of the publication lie in a nameless blog on Point of View’s website, which only had one writer for a long time, and then two. But over time, the site was able to reach more and more people who lived with either disability or chronic illness, and who wanted to write for it.

The community of writers grew slowly and steadily, and it became clear that there was a need to create a platform that would do justice to their powerful voices, and help them reach the wide audiences they deserve. And so Skin Stories was given its name, its launch, and its current home: pages on Medium and WordPress that are updated every Tuesday. Together, the essays, articles, reports and illustrations not only reaffirm the premise of Point of View’s Sexuality and Disability programme – that people with disabilities are sexual beings, just like anyone else – but also give readers the gift of fresh, urgent, intersectional perspectives by voices they may not otherwise have access to.

Image: Upasana Agarwal for the story “I’m a Dalit woman, and my mental health matters.” 

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From imagining to making a feminist internet

The Making a Feminist Internet: Movement Building in a Digital Age meeting was held in October 2017 and hosted 84 participants from around the world, primarily from the global South, concerned with issues related to internet rights, women’s rights, sexual rights and digital security.

This first-of-its-kind event – co-organised by APC and movement-based funds and organisations: AWID, Astraea, CREA, the FRIDA Young Women’s Fund, Mama Cash and the Urgent Action Fund – brought together multiple actors to discuss feminist movement building in the digital age, with a specific track addressing digital safety and security issues. This third feminist internet meeting represented a turning point on how technology is understood among women’s rights and sexual rights funders and feminist networks.

One of the premises of the event was the need to build the future with a strong memory of the individual and collective past, acknowledging that movement building happens in a continuum in the digital age, with a central focus on the discourse on technology in relation to infrastructure, safety, participation, governance and decision-making, expression and violence.

A special edition was launched in November 2017 and captured the main thoughts emerging after the prolific gathering: how to grapple with the new questions to be asked about accountability, movements, ethics, self-care, organising and expression, and to pin down the role of remembering and archiving, of telling, finding and constructing the herstory.

This convening represented the synthesis of a full year of focused advocacy and relentless strategic engagement through capacity building and evidence building with the feminist, women’s rights and sexual rights funders community, leading global organisations and networks, and very localised work with APC members and partners.

To watch out for: APC’s movement building towards a feminist internet will continue, with a fourth gathering of feminists in 2018.

Image: Participants arranging elements in the Museum of Moments installation, as captured by Fungai Machirori.

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WOUGNET highlights the importance of the Feminist Principles of the Internet to achieve women’s rights online in Uganda

On 26 October 2017, WOUGNET held a national, local-level conversation on the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs) under a project funded by the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, combined with a capacity-building activity funded under our Women’s Rights Online project, seeing as both sought to target policy makers by highlighting the need for an inclusive internet. The activity was intended as an opportunity to discuss information and communications technology (ICT) policy recommendations and policy gaps, and draw on case study narratives as orientations for discussion. It included components of the status of internet governance in Uganda while highlighting the implications of policy gaps on women’s online rights and digital empowerment.

The Feminist Principles of the Internet are an ongoing discussion and debate on proposed principles designed to guide legal frameworks of the ICT sector while pushing to incorporate a strong component of gender equality and a human rights approach. The recommendations in the 2015 report on Women’s Rights Online and the five-point action plan also share the same goal, with strong emphasis on internet access for all and the need for ICT policies and laws that are inclusive. This activity attracted participants from various institutions, including researchers, students and staff from Makerere University, the National Union of Women with Disabilities, I-freedom Network and NITA-U, among others.

Image source: WOUGNET Facebook page.

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OWP builds online safety for Safe Houses in Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Building Online Safety for Safe Houses” is a project implemented by One World Platform (OWP) from July to December 2017, with the financial support of an APC subgrant. Within the framework of the project, in October 2017, OWP began trainings that covered topics related to policies for the integrity and security of organisations and online violence against women and girls. On that occasion, OWP cooperated with four organisations responsible for safe houses that provide shelter for women and girls who have been abused: the Foundation for Local Democracy (in Sarajevo), Vive žene (Tuzla), Udružene žene (Banja Luka) and Medica (Zenica). The workshops were intended for employees of safe houses and the organisations that run them.

OWP worked with them to help them create and implement their own digital security policy, but also talked about technology-related violence and why it was important to recognise it as a form of violence. Almost all of the participants confirmed the importance of the topic we dealt with and said that they were completely unaware of certain things that seemed to be quite irrelevant at first. Additionally, OWP published the manual “Online Safety 101”, where they explained all the details regarding online violence, its most usual forms and most importantly, how to be safe on the internet.

Image source: OWP.

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Latin America in a Glimpse 2017: Gender, feminism and the internet in Latin America

The internet exists thanks to the work of many women who have been rendered invisible, shut out from spaces of power and also subjected to violence. Different organisations around the world have attempted to respond to, fight back against and change this reality. Derechos Digitales has learned a lot from them, and just over a year ago, they began to develop a strategy to join the cause. They want to construct an internet that is safe and inclusive at every level; they want to make another internet.

From the Latin American feminist movement, Derechos Digitales has learned that together we are stronger: we can help each other, support each other, teach each other and respond. As an organisation that defends human rights and the public interest, their work consists of promoting and strengthening a community of women and feminists working at the different levels of the digital ecosystem in Latin America. How? By getting to know them, promoting their work, mapping their efforts and fostering contact between them.

Feminist servers with policies that zealously protect our privacy; women teaching and learning programming languages; geolocalising open data; developing apps to disseminate information and assist victims of domestic, social or institutional violence. Organisations that develop methodologies to raise awareness and promote adoption of safe internet use practices; journalists, editors and storytellers working to share our stories. All of us together are building this internet we dream of, and many of them are in the 2017 report, Latin America in a Glimpse: Gender, feminism and the internet, produced with the support of an APC subgrant.

Image source: Derechos Digitales.

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