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CITIGEN Bulletin - Issue 4


CITIGEN at the APC pre-event of Internet Governance Forum, Kenya

Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change, participated in a workshop organised by APC Women's Networking Support Programme as a pre-event to the 6th Internet Governance Forum (Kenya) which took place from the 27th to 30th of September 2011. The workshop brought together 20 women from different countries to ideate on ways of putting the feminist concerns in Internet Governance agenda. To read a report on the event by Dafne Sabanes Plou, click here.

We shared the emerging analysis from the CITIGEN research projects in form of a research brief, 'Insights along the way - a mid-stream report of the CITIGEN research network'. This analysis also informed our contribution to the statement by the Gender Dynamic Coalition on gender equality and women's rights in the IGF. A transcript of the deliberations has been put up on the IGF website, while the statement itself can be found here.

Kerala Team at the Women in Politics conference, East Timor

Binitha V. Thampi and J. Devika from the CITIGEN network attended the 2011 Women in Politics conference that was held in Dili, East Timor between 29 September – 1 October. Titled 'Amplifying the Voices of Women in Politics: The Second Asia-Pacific Conference on Women in Politics and Governance', the conference provided an opportunity for feminists from the region to collaboratively ideate on the issues and challenges that women's participation in politics has thrown up.

Participants at the WIP conference, Dili

Binitha and Devika focussed on deployment of technology for feminist ends – the inherent possibilities and the attendant problems. The workshop was divided in three parts and in each part collective reflection by the participants followed the team's presentation. In the first part, the need for feminists to engage with technology and the political significance of the same was discussed. This shared understanding provided the ground for the next part, where the practical difficulties in persuading women to use technology and its networking possibilities was discussed. The team shared the Gramamukhya experience in this segment. Next, the experience of setting-up the website and related details like the structure and design of the website, the rationale of the contents on the website and their development were discussed.

Many women, for example women MPs of Timor Leste, shared with the team that such platforms would be useful for their own struggles. Such links, forged with feminists working in different contexts, made the conference an enriching experience for the Kerala team. One of the central ideas of CITIGEN – ways and means of actualising citizenship for women in the emerging information society – was conveyed by the Kerala team in their intervention at the Women in Politics conference.

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Published Think Pieces

Three new contributions were made to the existing CITIGEN outputs by think-piece authors Margarita Salas, Farida Shaheed and Supinya Klangnarong. Think Pieces are paper contributions by prominent scholars and practitioners studying the intersections between the micro-context of community information ecologies and macro socio-political developments.

'Gender and information society in Central America: Between the immediate and the strategic scenarios' by Margarita Salas provides an overview of the feminist struggles and their engagement with ICTs, embedded in the political and economic realities of the Central American region, specifically in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The paper examines the interaction between the global, national and the community contexts and studies the need for and the depth of engagement with ICTs required by feminist movements in the region.

'Gender and citizenship in the information society: A perspective from Pakistan' by Farida Shaheed explores the emerging information society context in Pakistan, analysing subjectivities in relation to the emerging digital ecologies. The paper begins with a brief overview of some of the key issues related to female citizenship and goes on to examine the breaching of the jealously guarded borders of the traditional private-public spheres through the medium of radio, that influenced isolated women to support instead of oppose, the regressive Taliban agenda in Swat. The final section of the paper reflects on the opportunities afforded by social network media and digital technologies for those with access to reconfigure the meaning of citizenship, based on the experience of activism and humanitarian relief in Pakistan.

'Internet rights, netizen's sub-culture and gender perspectives during political transformation in Thailand' by Supinya Klangnarong provides a snapshot of the current usage of ICTs in Thailand using gender aggregated data, followed by an account of the political resistance being built by Internet users or 'netizens' in order to counter government restriction and control over the freedom to access and express using online spaces. The paper explores the possibilities of new media spaces, typified by 'free culture', for discourse shaping in areas of not only civil and political rights but also gender justice. The paper ends with relevant policy recommendations.

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Think Pieces by IT for Change

IT for Change, is working on two think pieces to add to the knowledge pool of the CITIGEN network. From our experience in India, and from many case-studies across several other developing nations, two phenomena have caught our attention – the first is the rapid diffusion of the mobile phone network and the second, the new community institution called telecentres, used for different interventions spanning a range from service delivery, to capacity building and empowerment. In the below papers, we approach both phenomena with a gender and information society lens.

Mobile phones for development : The unique qualities of the mobile phone have positioned it as an increasingly favoured tool for supporting development aspirations, as it enables individuals to be uninterruptedly connected to the network, allowing them to transcend temporal and spatial constraints, along with absorbing the characteristics of other ICTs. The exponential growth of mobile technology and its penetration of markets in the global South, inter alia as the preferred way to access the Internet, has only added to the growing excitement. Using an information society framework, our paper examines the mobile phone phenomena, the ideologies which inform its architecture and usage in the development sector, focussing in particular, on the nature of the female subject thus created. By incorporating a feminist lens, our analysis encompasses both the gendered nature of the emergent techno-social paradigm and a nuanced understanding of the possibilities that mobile technology might hold for breaking traditional gender norms and be truly transformative. 

Information Center, Kutch

Chloé Zollman and Arpita Joshi from IT for Change made a presentation entitled 'Recasting the potential of mobile phones for gender equality' at the MobilePlus Conference, held in MSSRF (Chennai), 15-17 September 2011, reflecting on the emerging analysis.

Gendering telecentres - an institutional approach : The pros and cons of telecentres / community access centres, understood as decentralised, technology-enabled spaces located within communities to meet several development ends, have been widely debated and experimented across the global South. In our paper we explore three case studies showcasing different models of telecentres, run by different agencies to meet diverse ends; looking in particular at the possibilities they offer for women's empowerment. The case-studies undertaken are: the Gender Resource Centre – Suvidha Kendras (GRC-SKs) of the Mission Convergence, Delhi; the Community Learning Centres (CLCs) run by Self Employed Women's Association, Gujarat; Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, Gujarat.