Feminist Tech Exchange
In November 2008, over 100 advocates and activists came together in Cape Town, South Africa to explore the creative and strategic use of video, audio, social-networking platforms and emerging ICT tools.
This is a report of the activities and experiences as they carried on to the AWID Forum.
Report by Anna Turley
How do we approach technology as women’s rights activists?
Where do communication rights fit into women’s movements?
How can we reclaim technology for women’s empowerment?
The Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) was developed in response to calls from feminist and women’s rights movements for greater understanding of emerging technologies, and their potential and impact on the rights and lives of women. It brought together women’s rights activists from around the world to share and build knowledge and skills on communication rights and information and communications technologies (ICTs), from feminist perspectives. Through skills sharing, information exchange and discussions, the FTX explored feminist practices and politics of technology, and raised awareness on the critical role of communication rights in the struggle to advance women’s rights worldwide. Organized by AWID and the Association of Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC-WNSP) along with local host Women’s Net, the FTX had three elements to it: the FTX exchange, the FTX hub, and FTX online.
The FTX eXchange 10-12 November 2008
The FTX was a groundbreaking capacity building event that aimed to strengthen the skills and knowledge of women’s rights advocates and organizations in the area of communication rights and ICTs. It was a three-day event organized strategically just before the 2008 AWID forum, and consisted of five training tracks, plenary discussions and skills sharing activities.
The FTX hosted over 100 advocates and activists from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America working on women’s rights, research, ICT for development and communication rights. Together, participants explored the creative and strategic use of video, audio, social networking platforms, emerging ICT tools, digital storytelling, mobile phones and community wireless networks for transformation, activism, advocacy and networking. They also engaged in extensive discussions on the interconnections between ICTs, women’s rights and movement building, and integrated this with their own articulation on feminist practices and politics of technology.
The FTX Hub 14-17 November 2008
Located right outside Auditorium 1 on the first floor of the CTICC, where the main plenaries were held, the FTX Hub was open to AWID Forum participants every day from 08:00 – 20:00 for a wide range of activities:
During the Forum, participants convened at the Hub to create and publish content on their experiences and perspectives of the forum. It was a dynamic space buzzing with activity where blogs were written, videos shot and edited, interviews conducted and content published. FIRE (Feminist International Radio Endeavour) set up their FIREPLACE at the FTX Hub, and produced daily broadcasts of radio programs and interviews. Kubatana set up Freedom Fone and created short audio programs that could be accessed through a local South African telephone numbers using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu. Throughout the forum, short interviews with forum presenters, selected excerpts from sessions, feminist news headlines as well as poetry and inspirational quotes were featured through FreedomFone. The FTX Hub also hosted daily editorial meetings by the Francophone alternative media collective led by Genre en Action, which was vital in supporting the creation of content in languages other than English to reach wider and more diverse audiences. Other partner organizations contributing content from and about the forum included the Global Fund for Women, the International Museum of Women and World Pulse.
Every day at the hub, open exchange sessions were held by a wide range of women’s rights and communication organizations. The exchange sessions provided the opportunity for women’s rights advocates and organizations to share, reflect on and learn about experiences of using a variety of information and communication technologies to advance women’s rights. From wikis and simple animation techniques to mobile phones for activism and digital stories, forum participants were exposed to cutting edge tools to support their work around the world.
The FTX Hub also hosted daily hour-long screenings of video shorts and digital stories. Women’sNet and Silence Speaks – both pioneer organizations in digital storytelling trainings – shared a wealth of digital stories that were produced in previous workshops held in different parts of the world. Topics of these stories included violence against women, HIV/AIDS and women’s health, women in situations of armed conflict, economic empowerment and sexual rights. Videos created at the FTX eXchange were also screened at the Hub and throughout the forum, and numerous participants dropped by the FTX Hub and shared their own advocacy videos and documentaries for the screenings.
The “Take Back The Tech” campaign, created by the WNSP of the APC, organized a Tech Hunt that took place during the forum. This was an activity where participants were led through the internet as they solved simple clues related to secure online communications. In the process, participants discovered different aspects of how information was stored online, and learned more about privacy and security issues. Take Back The Tech also organized several strategy meetings at the Hub with organizations working on violence against women to explore how they could localize the campaign, or use ICTs creatively and strategically in their advocacy areas.
World Pulse organized a raffle for a laptop by introducing new users to their community site, which provides tools that enable women to tell their stories, exchange resources, share solutions and collaborate in groups.
The FTX website is a community site where FTX participants published blog posts, audio casts, links to videos, snapshots and their reflections in multiple languages. These conversations are continuing on the FTX mailing list. Check out the site to read about the FTX and to learn more about the feminist practices of technology.
"Sometimes we have moments of magic that make our heads spin, our skin tingle, our hearts thump and skip in tune to the singing inside. There have been many such moments at my first ever AWID experience here in South Africa" - Lisa’s blog, FTX participant
"On my first night at the FTX I met a wonderful sister and rasta feminist. I was inspired talking with her and another friend about rastafari, feminism, the ways they work and don’t work together - and the fact that we are all ALIVE and THINKING, taking ideologies and mixing them up to make them our own" - Jessica’s blog, FTX participant
“One of the hardest aspects of a massive forum such as AWID is the feeling of uncertainty that newcomers may have. The FTX was very helpful in creating a sense of community among all the participants, so that when they arrived at the forum in nearly every space they went there was at least one familiar face. It was also very good the way the FTX Hub bridged the FTX Exchange and the forum so that people could feel a sense of continuity” - Margarita Salas, FTX Thematic Dialogues Coordinator
"Who said women cannot be empowered to set up their own wireless networks? Who knew that a can of peaches, that women often use to make peach melba, could be turned into an antenna ready for transmission? " - Nyaki’s blog, FTX Participant
“We faced constraints and challenges in developing 10 digital stories in under 15 hours in an intercultural context. But we shared sisterhood, understanding, courage and willingness to contribute with a thread to weave this colorful tapestry.” - Itandehui, FTX Participant
"This phrase has been bandied about for so often and so long that I’m increasingly confused as to what it really means. Women’s rights groups have often said, it’s best to “agree to disagree”. But what are we agreeing to disagree on except for the fact that we cannot come to a consensus? With rising conservatism and fundamentalism and women’s rights groups seeing the work and the gains they’ve achieved fast dissipate during political, economic and social crises, can we continue to afford to “agree to disagree”?" - Running Toddler’s blog, Forum participant
“I can now say I am a satisfied techie when it comes to mobile advocacy and wireless network.” - Oluwatoyin, FTX Participant
"What an inspiring event it is. The 11th AWID forum brought a lot of women together from all around the world. These women identify as feminist. I do too now with confidence. What a fun event to be at! I am part of a collective movement for change. I identify with a lot of prominent women, and I am really encouraged to go back home and share the knowledge." - Keba’s blog, FTX participant