Advancing Digital Strategies for Women’s Empowerment: Reflections from IT for Change

Just like every other moment of disaster, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been deeply gendered. World over, supply chain disruptions have disproportionately impacted women’s jobs, especially in the informal sector. The burden of women’s unpaid care work has exponentially increased due to ‘sheltering in place’ and school closure policies adopted by the majority of governments. Home-based isolation has also led to an explosion of domestic violence, leaving many women and girls with no route to escape their abusers. This Women’s Day, we stand with women everywhere, in their struggle to reclaim the first-order right to participation as full and equal human beings in their social, economic and political life, challenging the unholy alliance of disaster capitalism with patriarchy.

Prakriye, our field centre in rural Mysore working on context-appropriate digital strategies for women’s empowerment, coordinated emergency relief at the height of the pandemic to respond to frontline needs of the women and girls in the communities we work with. The field centre has also been actively tracking marginalized women’s unfair exclusion from digital benefit transfers through our information centres , run in partnership with women’s collectives on the ground, in order to guarantee women’s access to their rightful entitlements. The members of our ‘ICTs in school education’ program joined the National Coalition on the Education Emergency, adding their voices to civil society calls for immediately re-opening public schools, to prevent the permanent entrenchment of intersectional inequalities in access to education.

Our research in these years has focused on the question of how network-data technologies can be leveraged effectively in the project of gender-inclusive socio-economic reconstruction, post-pandemic. In partnership with the social enterprises LabourNet, Vrutti and SEWA, we have been experimenting with the creation of alternative platform enterprise models that can bring a fair share of value to marginal women farmers and women workers in the economy. Emerging insights from this action research on the kind of institutional policy support required for promoting and sustaining such digitalized gender-inclusive livelihood promotion models have been fed into policy consultation processes of the NITI Aayog and the State Government of Kerala.

We have also been actively pushing back against the normalization of sexism and misogyny in Internet-enabled cultures during the pandemic, calling attention to the urgent imperative to reclaim the digital public sphere for gender transformative politics, through our IDRC-supported study on strengthening legal-institutional responses to sexist hate, ‘Recognise-Resist-Remedy’.

Anita Gurumurthy,
Founding Member and Executive Director

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