The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence run from 25 November to 10 December because they encapsulate several important dates in the fight to end violence against women. Today, 29 November, is marked by women's rights groups at the First Consultation on Women Human Rights Defenders in 2005, as International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders.
Take Back The Tech! supports this important recognition of the women and girls who defend and promote human rights. Most times, their work is unseen. Although women are often at the frontline of struggles for civil liberties, they are often forgotten when the war is won. Women who work on sexual rights issues, such as those who fight for the right to abortion, sex workers' rights or equal rights in the family in a context where patriarchal frameworks of marriage prevail, face severe repression on the grounds of social, cultural or religious norms.
In the area of technology, many women go unrecognised in their contribution to its development. Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Fram Bilas, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff and Ruth Lichterman who were the original programmers of the ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic computers, only received formal recognition for their contribution after 50 years, through the Hall of Fame award from Women in Technology International. Ellen Eglin sold her invention of a highly successful clothes wringer in 1888 to an agent for a mere $18 because, "You know I am black and if it was known that a Negro woman patented the invention, white ladies would not buy the wringer. I was afraid to be known because of my color in having it introduced into the market".
Women who are using emerging ICT to document and disseminate human rights violations are having their channels of communication shut down and are being threatened, beaten and arrested. The 1-million-signature Change for Equality campaign website in Iran has been blocked so many times that organisers were forced to repeatedly change the URL , making constant information flow a challenge. Not to mention the harassment, violence and arrests faced by women's rights advocates working for the cause, including the abduction and arrest of journalist Shadi Sadr who founded the Women in Iran website to document the fight for women's rights in the country, in July 2009.
In Honduras, feminists using social networking platforms like Facebook, You Tube and Twitter to document and disseminate information about violations currently faced under the de-facto military dictatorship - including deaths of activists and rape of women - are being threatened to be tried for treason and sedition against the State. As recently as 23 November, at least 21 political activists and journalists were abducted and killed - with the women amongst them raped and beheaded - by gunmen who are widely believed as being politically motivated.
These are just some of the stories of the women who fight for and defend the protection of human rights. There are other stories, hidden and unnamed. Some actions may seem ordinary to the world, but are taken with immense courage and risk to personal lives. A woman standing up to her friend's right to be queer in front of their employer. A mother defending her daughter's right to make decisions about her own body to her husband. A neighbour confronting another for abusing her domestic helper. A girl stopping a man from beating up his girlfriend on the bus. There are so many women human rights defenders around us.
Honour her. Name her. Defend her right to be a women human rights defender.
Recognise your shero!
- Take a moment to think about who she is. What she has done. What she is still doing to protect human rights.
- Tell the world she is your shero!
- Tweet her name:
- For example: "... is my shero! 29 Nov - International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders #takebackthetech" (don't forget to tag your tweets using the #takebackthetech hashtag)
- If by revealing her name, you will expose her to risks to her personal safety, just talk about the important work that she does. For example:
- "My shero hacks websites of people who talk about wanting to rape women on forums. 29 Nov - International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders #takebackthetech",
- "My shero operates a safe abortion clinic for women. 29 Nov - International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders #takebackthetech"
- and more...
- Don't use Twitter? Add her to the comment box below and we will Tweet it for you.
Communicate your support for women human rights defenders. Document her contribution in our living herstory!