Posts tagged ‘Activism’

Sabeen Mahmud talks about the role of technology in mobilizing people

Sabeen Mahmud is a young woman whom I have known since the 1990s. She is excited by technology and has, over the years, used it in many different ways. Having run a technology company for many years, she recently set up T2F, a project under the PeacheNiche umbrella.

PeaceNiche, a not-for-profit NGO, registered under the Societies Act of 1860, is committed to becoming a vibrant centre of Pakistan’s developing civil society. PeaceNiche is a social entrepreneurship project that blends the best of business practice with the non-profit urge to make meaning rather than focusing purely on the bottom line.

T2F has become a space where many of us get together to have a conversation, to chill out, to network, to attend workshops, jam sessions or book launches and engage in any kind of activism.

Sabeen and T2F have been very supportive in the TBTT campaign and this year have partnered with us on several initiatives like the “Creative Coalition against Gender Violence” and the “Interactive Session on Social Activism”.

I asked her to give us her views on TBTT and the role that technology plays in creating awareness regarding important issues. Here is what she had to say.

December 1, 2010 at 11:41 am 4 comments

Interactive Session with TBTT Activists & Campaigners at T2F on Dec 2

Thursday, 2nd December 2010 | 7:00 pm

Take Back The Tech (TBTT) is a collaborative campaign that takes place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (25 Nov – 10 Dec). It is a call to everyone – especially women and girls – to take control of technology to end violence against women.

Join us at T2F for an interactive session with activists and campaigners spearheading Pakistan’s Take Back The Tech campaign.

Take Back The Tech!

~ Programme ~

1. What is TBTT?
An introduction to global and local efforts by Jehan Ara (that’s me!)

2. An overview of two TBTT projects designed to address gender violence issues through the strategic use of ICT
– Nuzhat Kidvai, Naveen Naqvi and Sana Saleem

3. Screening of “Mukhtar Mai: The Struggle for Justice”
– A 10 minute documentary by Beena Sarwar

4. Social Activism in the Age of Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs –
Conversations with Beena Sarwar, Attiya Dawood, and Farieha Aziz, moderated by Sabeen Mahmud

Global TBTT Website:
Twitter Hashtag: #takebackthetech

Take Back the Tech! is a project supported by the MDG3 Fund and implemented by the APC Women’s Networking & Support Programme through P@SHA & BytesforAll, its partners in Pakistan.

Date: Thursday, 2nd December 2010
Time: 7:00 pm
Venue: PeaceNiche | T2F Address | Map

Seats are limited and will be available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. No reservations.

Join us at T2F for what promises to be a really interesting and engaging discourse. Look forward to seeing you there on December 2 at 7 pm.

November 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm 2 comments

Happy 20th birthday APC from all of us in Pakistan

1990 – 2010 the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is 20 years old.

APC, the world’s longest-running network, celebrates their 20th anniversary in May 2010. Twenty years networking online for social justice and sustainable development.

Since so many APC women were in Islamabad for the FTX, we decided to celebrate the birthday at Saidpur Village over dinner by cutting two cakes (each depicting one decade of APC). Happy birthday to a dynamic association that has become a network that many of us have come to depend on.

Shahzad joining the APC women in cutting the two cakes.

Here I am presenting a Sindhi Ajrak to Jan as part of the celebrations.

A warm hug from Jenny as she receives her Ajrak.

Afia explains the history of the Ajrak as all the visitors oooh and aaah over their newly acquired pieces. 🙂

June 13, 2010 at 9:11 am 3 comments

The slogan: “We work hard but we party hard too!”

June 13, 2010 at 8:43 am 2 comments

What are your views about the FTX Sana?

Sana Saleem, activist, writer, medical student and blogger has now decided to be Director, Producer, Star, Script Writer and Distributor all-in-one. Here she shares very briefly her experience of attending the first Feminist Tech Exchange in Islamabad.

June 13, 2010 at 12:13 am 1 comment

Jan talks about the Digital Story Telling workshops

Jan Moolman, one of the facilitators of the Feminist Tech Exchange, and a key member of the APC Women’s Program, talks about the Digital Story Telling workshops and what they entail.

June 13, 2010 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

So Jenny tell us about the APC Women’s Program

Jennifer Radloff, who is a part of the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) Women’s Program, talks about the APC Women’s Program and the capacity building work that she and others at APC are a part of.

June 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm 2 comments

Creating our first Digital Stories as part of the FTX

I know it is not a very difficult task to create a digital story (especially with the kind of easy-to-use software that is available today) but the process of creating a story that is personal to you can be extremely stressful and can take a lot out of you. Remember also that for many of the women who took part in the FTX, this was a first.

Here is what the process involved:

The story circle took the most out of the majority of the participants as they reached into the deepest recesses of their soul to pull out a personal story. This element of the workshop took the longest time as well.

Once the stories poured out, full of emotion and accompanied often by tears and heartbreak, the facilitators broke them into parts so that they could help us all to put a story idea together with some clarity and focus. Once this was done we had to write our scripts. It is one thing to break down and ramble on about something that hurts you to the core. It is another to take a step back, look at what happened and clearly put the words down so that it can be developed into something you can share with others.

As the ladies (and our one male feminist) tried to put words down on screen, we realized that as we worked, what we were actually doing was starting the healing process.

The next step was to record the narration once Jan or Jenny or Val had looked at the scripts and told us if there were any amendments that were needed. We had been taught Audacity by Cheekay so we knew how to record, remove noise, increase the volume and edit the narration if necessary.

With the narration completed, it was time to visualize the story. This was tougher than one had imagined. Whether it was one’s own story or a story about someone else in which one was present. you had to be careful about who you depicted, whether to use visuals but annonymize them, whether to use sketches instead or to find abstract photos that would serve the purpose.

Once the visuals were found and worked on using open source manipulation software, it was time to merge the narration, the visuals and add the music and the transitions so that it became a story. We had been given a tutorial in both MovieMaker (for Windows) and iMovie (for Mac) so that we could put our digital stories together. Easier said than done of course. Some of us found we had too many visuals, others found there weren’t enough, syncing the narration with the right visuals was a challenge too. And we had a deadline to work with. Yikes! Tough facilitators wanted it done in time so that there could be a screening on the fourth day :). It didn’t help that everyone was trying to be a perfectionist, wanted their stories depicted just so!

There was frustration, there were cries for help and poor Jamal, the facilitators and some of us were called upon to assist at various stages of the exercise as data disappeared from laptops and the Movie making apps did all sorts of weird things.

It didn’t help that the internet connectivity was slow and intermittent and that the airconditioning played havoc with our lives. Headphones were broken and some laptops faced static issues.

We had been told that we should only use open source or licensed software and copyright-free images if we wanted to distribute the stories later or use them for training purposes. Certain websites were identified where copyright images and sounds were available.

It is not surprising that many of us worked through the night in order to finish our digital stories, and even then we weren’t really satisfied with them. We wished we had had more time, that we were better illustrators, better photographers, better script writers and narrators, better at putting together a movie.

But when the time finally came for the screening of the Digital Stories we had created, we realized that we had unnecessarily been too hard on ourselves.

As I viewed movie after movie, I was amazed at the way each story had been crafted. The sensitivity and the pain came through each story as did the courage of each of the women whose stories we saw and heard. The talent and technique, the artistry, the ability to put into words something so personal, so deep, so heartbreaking at times that all you wanted to do was go and hug the storyteller.

I think our facilitators were as surprised as we were at what we had accomplished in three days. As I watched them watching the visualization of the stories they had heard that first day, I saw some of the expressions – the empathy, the amazement, the pride and the joy of seeing the result of the process that they had started only a few days earlier.

June 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm 6 comments

The first Feminist Tech Exchange in Pakistan a pleasant surprise

I think that although I have always been an optimist, in many ways I am a cynic as well :). Although I was confident that most of the participants that we had nominated for the first Train the Trainer program of the MDG3 Feminist Tech Exchange were confident, dedicated, talented, hardworking, fun-loving individuals with a strong commitment to making a difference to the society and the community, I wasn’t really sure what the take-away from this first workshop would be.

Having attended zillions of conferences, seminars and workshops over the years, I am very often put off by the format of such things. There are facilitators or speakers who, through those much-dreaded Powerpoints, tell us how much they know, how much they have achieved and what we should do to join the ranks of the successful and be more like them.

Fortunately for us, the FTX facilitators turned out to be pleasantly very different. Jan, Jenny, Val and Cheekay have put a structure to the workshop no doubt, but the space has been very much ours. From the get-go participants have been encouraged to share, to create and to be a part of the proceedings.

It started with the three videos that we were shown. They showed each of us how a simple but impactful message could be created using very basic tools. It didn’t require one to be a creative genius or a nerd.

The story circles were powerful and totally unexpected. The sharing of experiences (our own or those in which we played a central role) revealed much more than any of us had really expected. The struggle, the abuse, the violence, the challenges and the eventual strength, confidence, success and empowerment that resulted from not letting the circumstances engulf us but deciding to survive instead and go on to empower others, was a message that came clearly through.

Sure there were tears as many talked about very personal experiences for the very first time but it resulted in catharsis of a sort although it was unbelievably draining. I think that the sharing of the stories and experiences created a bond between most of the participants. It also showed them that they were not alone, that things happened which were sometimes totally out of their control. It also spelt out quite clearly the many varied societal issues that exist and how some have managed to not only survive them but have got stronger because of it, and are now prepared to help others avoid similar challenges and issues.

More later. Have to attend Day 5.

In the meantime, here are links to blog posts put up by some of the facilitators:

The bright side of Pakistan: women

Sharing our stories in Pakistan

June 11, 2010 at 10:27 am 6 comments

Internet access – quality denied

Okay so total access has not yet been denied but we are fast getting there. Have any of you noticed how slow the internet has been the past week? And how many times the connection has dropped? Some ISPs have been worse affected than others.

Working in the cloud has certainly been slow of late. Reminds me of the days when we used dialup connections. If you are wondering why we are facing these service issues, wonder no more!

When internet monitoring & surveillance takes place and when content filtering is being done, service can depreciate anywhere from between 10 – 75% – usually at least 35%.

No I am not making this up. There has been a debate going on in Australia where the government is spending A$42 billion on improving and expanding the broadband infrastructure because they realize that broad internet access is going to be essential for E-Learning, E-Health, E-Government and E-Business and to assist in the further development and growth of the economy.

The debate has been surrounding content filtering and if under the current security situation around the world, one should buy/develop content filtering and monitoring software and hardware solutions. Researchers and technologists have warned that if filtering and monitoring is built in, it will slow down the overall Internet experience by as much as 75% thus hurting the Australian economy.

Has our government even thought about this? As it is, service levels are not that amazing and work often takes longer than it should. If filtering and surveillance becomes a trend, we have to worry about declining service levels. In addition to a lack of access to hundreds of sites, even the ones we can access take forever to load, thus impacting on the user experience.  I hope the powers that be will wake up to the fact that the actions being taken are only hurting Pakistanis and the Pakistani economy. No-one else is losing anything.

May 26, 2010 at 12:41 am 20 comments

ICT & VAW: National Strategy Workshop Part 3

Following the policy discussion, the National Strategy Workshop broke up into a general discourse on VAW and ICT and the future course of action that we needed to adopt as a group.

There were a lot of suggestions – here are some that there was a consensus on:

1. VAW and ICT needs to be taken to schools, colleges and universities.

2. There is a need to develop an online portal where all policies, resources, reports, discussions, strategies, links to videos and presentations & to women support groups can be provided. This portal should also contain information on how or who to report VAW to, what process to follow and who to contact in case help or advice is needed.

3. It was strongly felt that the TakeBacktheTech website should be localized to achieve maximum impact and outreach.

4. Presentations on VAW & ICT should be developed and shared so that various TBTT activists can use the same material when presenting at schools and colleges across the country.

5. More detailed hands-n workshops and awareness sessions are needed to learn the Online Activism Tools and how to maintain Privacy and Security online.

6. There was a need for various stakeholders to continue to raise issues, keep them current and advocate policy interventions that were required to ensure that women-friendly policies were framed and adopted.

Participants were told about the upcoing Feminist Tech Exchanges (FTX) that were being planned, the Digital Storytelling sessions and the Small Grants that would enable some interesting and useful initiatives.

Fariha live-blogged from the workshop on both days and I have a sneaking suspicion that a few of the people who showed up on Day 2 did so because Fariha made it sound like a discussion that just couldn’t be missed – and she was right.

I came out of the two day workshop feeling that we had accomplished a great deal, that we had created linkages that would serve us in our activism and our policy efforts for a long long time. All the work that had gone into organizing this workshop, had been more than well worth it. Shahzad and I thanked Nuzhat Kidvai and Tahira Abdullah for their support and their guidance throughout the process. Without them we would never have been able to get the kind of participation that we did. We also thanked all the out-of-towners who had showed up and engaged in discussions.

The workshop may have ended but Fariha, Nighat, Shahzad and I sat in the hotel lobby having coffee or tea and going over all that had been said over the past two days and planning what needed to be done next. Follow up activities were very important to keep the momentum going. Many important issues had been flagged and we needed to make sure that they were addressed and we lived up to our commitments.

March 16, 2010 at 9:59 pm 2 comments

ICT & VAW – National Strategy Workshop (part 2)

After the intense morning session, Dr. Awab Alvi (better known as Teeth Maestro), gave a very enlightening presentation on “Online Activism Tools”. He engaged the participants in a discussion on how they currently engaged in activism, awareness-creation and policy advocacy and showed them how various online social media and SMS tools can be used to effectively involve people in activism on important issues. He also showed them how to organize groups of people for rallies and protests and how to remain annonymous if one needed to, while engaging in these activities. Some of the tools were even new to those of us who are actively using new media already. Awab’s talk was received very well and participants asked him a lot of questions which he answered very patiently.

The next presentation was by Rabia Garib, Editor-in-Chief of CIO Pakistan. She spoke about Online Privacy and how to keep oneself safe online while using all the latest technologies. “We are our first line of defence”, she said and there are simple things we can do to ensure that we are secure online and that our privacy is not invaded.

She gave some common-sense tips that participants could follow to avoid being cyber-stalked and to keep ones personal data “private”. She made it all sound so simple and easy to do. The Q&A showed how interesting and relevant the talk had been.

On the second day of the workshop Tahira Abdullah gave a very comprehensive presentation on existing laws and policies that affected VAW in Pakistan. She explained how many of the policies were actually in conflict with the Constitution of Pakistan. The presentation was extremely detailed and presented with the passion that one has come to expect from Tahira. She had participants listening intently to every word she uttered. A copy of the presentation is available for download here.

Tahira spoke about several pieces of legislation and policies that had been enacted over the years and explained how they were inadequate. These included the Women’s Protection Act, the distorted Domestic Violence Bill, the laws on Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace and a draft bill on Reproductive Health and Rights. Her contention was that positive new legislation cannot be effective without repealing existing anti-women legislation. She also emphasized that there was a need to collect, compile and analyze all data sets disaggregated by gender. There also needed to be greater participation of women in all fora: political, economic, legislative – decision-making and policy planning, she said.

I then made my presentation on the Prevention of E-Crime Ordinance & VAW – the gaps, the issues and why all of us should be concerned and should work with the government to bring about the changes that are necessary. In fact the consensus was that any policy that was being formulated should have a gender element and focus to it.

(Part 3 of this post will be put up in the morning).

March 16, 2010 at 2:04 am 3 comments

P@SHA & Bytes4All organize National Strategy Workshop

The morning of 19th February was one that we had been working toward for some time. There was anticipation and yet there was fear – anticipation because it was an important initiative that we were all excited to be a part of; fear that perhaps we had taken on more than we could handle, that the relevant people would not show up, etc. etc.

But we needn’t have worried. They were all there –  the presenters and all the stakeholders – an interesting mix of women’s rights organizations, activists, media professionals, bloggers, lawyers and technologists who had gotten together to develop a National Strategy for the “Strategic Use of ICT to combat Violence Against Women and girls.” We had made arrangements for between 40 – 50 participants but were not expecting more than 25 to show up. Imagine our surprise when close to 50 showed up on both days and actively and passionately participated in the proceedings.

After having got the welcome and introduction of the project out of the way, Shahzad Ahmed of BytesforAll and I (on behalf of P@SHA) handed over to Nuzhat Kidvai who has been a key part of the Women’s Movement in Pakistan for many years. Nuzhat had been requested to present highlights from the draft Country Issue Paper which had been put together by Kyla Pasha. She did this very coolly while pointing out that the statistics and surveys were weak and some of the facts inaccurate.

Tahira Abdullah, a very outspoken and well-respected long-time activist from Islamabad, was not that gentle. She tore the paper to shreds (metaphorically speaking) stating that whoever had written it had very little knowledge of the women’s movement in Pakistan, its uphill struggle for decades and its achievements. Some of the key areas that she highlighted were:

1. The statistics, facts and figures in the paper were taken from an Aurat Foundation report that was already out of date and contained results that were questioned by Aurat Foundation themselves.

2. The surveys conducted for the Issue Paper were very superficial and limited to a very small segment of te population. The results therefore did not reflect the facts.

3. Types of VAW that were listed in the paper were incomplete

4. The commentary and opinion stated about the Women’s movement was offensive, insulting and false. The paper stated that the women’s movement targeted religous groups and was anti-religion but did not take up the legitimate causes of VAW. The paper also stated that women’s rights organizations did not conduct research or provide input to the government on policies. Nothing was further from the truth, said Tahira. Consistent research had been carried out, policies had not only been scrutinized and commented on point by point, some policies had actually been drafted and provided to the government to move things along.

5. The list of organizations in the Issue Paper was anything but complete and in fact contained some organisations that were responsible for some of the ills that were faced by women in Pakistan.

6. The policies mentioned within the Issue Paper were also incomplete.

Tahira’s critical analysis of the paper was added to by Nuzhat Kidvai (who now felt she didn’t have to hold back how strongly she felt about the quality of the paper and its contents), Hilda Saeed and Nilofur Farrukh, all of whom had been active members of the Women’s Action Forum for decades.

After much passionate discourse, there was consensus that the paper needed to be re-drafted. Nuzhat Kidvai and Tahira Abdullah were requested to take responsibility for different parts of the paper and involve anyone else who was required.

After the intense discussion on the Issue Paper the group broke for a sumptuous lunch.

Watch out for Episode 2 of this report 😉 which will be posted soon.

March 16, 2010 at 1:01 am 2 comments

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