Initiated and organised by the Association for Progressive Communications, Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP), "Take Back The Tech!" is a campaign designed to educate people and inspire their activism around issues surrounding the interconnections between information and communication technology (ICT) and violence against women (VAW). The initiative, which draws on an interactive website in order to inspire local action, draws on the idea that both ICTs and VAW affect women's capacity to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. For example, websites can be a useful place for women in violent relationships to get information and help; in contrast, tools like spyware and global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices have been used by abusers to track and control their partner's mobility.
The core strategy being used here to address the links between ICT and VAW involves raising awareness, encouraging reflection and dialogue, and providing tools for local action on the Take Back the Tech website. Visitors to the site, which is offered in English, French, and Spanish, may gather information and ideas through reports, campaign tools, ideas for action "on the ground", case studies, and so on. For instance, one can learn about initiatives taking place around the world to explore the ICT/VAW connection, such as the Domestic Violence Virtual Trial, which is designed to help judges and court staff in New Mexico (in the United States) learn about issues and challenges in VAW cases, and compare rulings with colleagues. One may also access tips about how to protect personal data on one's computer, and can explore strategies other women have used to reduce the risk that ICTs can pose to them (for example, survivors of domestic violence reportedly use untraceable, donated cell phones to ensure secure communication).
A blog hosted on this website is designed to encourage debate about questions such as this: can mobile phones, webcams, blogs, and other ICTs transform power relations between women and men, even while video games such as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas", according to APC WNSP, may encourage players to treat female sex workers as objects of aggression and murder? Other interactive, multimedia tools available on the Take Back The Tech! website include a library of digital stories which emerged from a South African initiative to build the capacity of women survivors of violence to share their experiences of transformation and courage through video. Any visitor to the Take Back the Tech! site may also create her own postcard and submit it to be included in the gallery of images.
Because the ultimate aim is to foster change in communities around the world, one page on the website includes campaign tools designed to enable women to localise the ideas shared on the website. One banner on the website reads "How can you take back the tech where you are? How do you even say 'take back the tech' in your language? Localise this campaign and use this space as a platform for your activism." Using tools such as those provided here, groups and collectives around the world are taking action. For example, in November 2007, the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) created a short message service (SMS) campaign called Speak out! Stand Out! to collect messages against violence against women. In Quebec, Canada, feminists and communication rights activists are creating short video clips and comic postcards to protest violence against women. And in Malaysia, Burmese refugees are making online audio defending women's rights together with Centre for Independent Journalism.
Person-to-person experiences are also integrated into Take Back the Tech!; in May 2012, young Afghan women participated in a digital storytelling training in Kabul. Through short videos available online (one example may be viewed below), the women narrated their stories and captured their ideas visually through drawings and pictures. The training was held in conjunction with Bytes for All and APC WNSP and was supported by the Afghanistan Media Development and Empowerment Project (AMDEP), which is implemented by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Women, Gender, Rights, Technology.
From the Take Back The Tech! website:
"There are at least two ways to see how ICT impact power relations:
ICTs are able to transmit and disseminate norms through representations of "culture" and social structures and relations. Often also acting as media, images reinforce notions of "difference" between men and women by normalising stereotypes of gender roles as reality. However, this dynamic is not straightforward or simple, as cultures are not homogeneous or static. The increased diversity of content producers on the internet also allows an array of representations that affect gender relations in complex ways. The strands of gender, sexual, cultural, and racial discourses communicated through ICTs must be unravelled to assess their role in affecting culture and norms.
The speed, vastness and relative ease of use, especially of "new" ICTs reduce distance and time between people. This can have a great influence on social relations. ICTs can allow survivors of VAW to seek information and assistance, but can also endanger survivors if utilised without an understanding of their dimensions. Local strategies by organisations can be compromised by ICTs through issues of privacy, misrepresentation and misunderstanding. On the other hand, organisations have utilised the capabilities of ICTs to network across great distances and mobilise immediate action on urgent situations of VAW. By examining how ICTs have been employed, women's movements can shape stronger connections with greater understanding of their potential and limitations.
More information and examples on how VAW & ICTs are interconnected, including example of case studies, can be read through APC WNSP's research papers here."
APC WNSP is a global network of over 175 women from 55 countries who support women networking for social change and women's empowerment through the use of ICTs. These women are part of the APC, an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of ICTs, including the internet.