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Engendering IT Tools: WLP Partners Share ICT Advocacy Strategies

Sun, Oct 12, 2008

Press

AWID / By Women’s Learning Partnership

On September 5th, Women’s Learning Partnership presented a panel at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) entitled “Technology for Women’s Rights Advocacy and Democracy Building.” In introducing the event and the panelists, Carl Gershman, President of the NED, pointed to the importance of women’s political participation and the key role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in mobilizing women as voters and leaders.

The discussion, moderated by WLP President Mahnaz Afkhami and including panelists Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, Asma Khader of Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan, Lina Abou Habib of Collective for Research & Training on Development-Action in Lebanon, and Rakhee Goyal of WLP, addressed the increasingly crucial role of ICTs in the context of advocacy for women’s rights, and how ICTs can be used within a participatory framework.

Mahnaz Afkhami introduced the discussion saying, “International movement building in the 21st century and involvement of youth in advocacy will be made possible largely through technology.” From an educational standpoint, ICT plays an important role, explained Sakena Yacoobi. Ms. Yacoobi, a well known Afghan educator, worked to build interest in ICT trainings by first integrating them into a workshop series addressing leadership and literacy. She noted demand for computer training quickly increased following these trainings. Women began to spend hours and hours in computer labs where they can “push a button and get linked with a different world, different resources,” and from there they go on to take leadership roles. Asma Khader described how technology facilitates discussion within the “Claiming Equal Citizenship” campaign, moving it from a local to a national and international level. ICT is inherently democratic and empowering, she explained, offering freedom, accessibility, and a sense of solidarity. Ms. Khader also observed that in the context of the women’s movement, ICT serves not only as a large-scale catalyst, but also as an access point for sharing experiences and obtaining anonymous legal advice on nationality or other family law issues. “Sometimes,” she said, “in cases such as honor killings, it is a tool that saves lives.” Lina Abou Habib described the experience of coordinating multi-national Arabic leadership e-Courses, pointing to the broader potential for outreach and mobilization using this tool. E-courses can reach beyond constituents she describes as “intermediaries” – the community organizers and activists who are often the target audience for live trainings – and instead become a tool for mobilizing a younger generation, overcoming challenges of geographic and social mobility, and offering a more economically sustainable training option.

All of the panelists emphasized the importance of ICT for facilitating communication within the women’s movement, as well as its ability to connect activists and experiences across regions. WLP Executive Director Rakhee Goyal concluded the panel, showcasing the use of blogs and social networking tools such as Facebook and YouTube by women’s organizations to raise awareness and mobilize constituents to advocate for women’s human rights. She pointed to the use of participatory training methods for technology training featured in Making IT Our Own: Information & Communication Technology Training of Trainers Manual.

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom

Quotables – Technology

"[Modern information technology] has the potential to empower women in ways unprecedented in the social and cultural evolution of human history" - Making IT Our Own: Introduction

"The new information technology, indifferent to human suffering, does not accommodate humane needs unless we harness it and make it do so." Leading To Choices

"We must be bold and creative, our feet firmly grounded in the realities that surround us, but our gaze aimed at the lofty possibilities that our advancements in science and technology promise and that our growth as a global society is only beginning to comprehend." - Toward A Compassionate Society

“International movement building in the 21st century and involvement of youth in advocacy will be made possible largely through technology" - Engendering IT Tools