Stories can change the world. Yet there are many stories that remain untold because there is no name for them, because of shame, and because they lay hidden beneath everyday acceptance. These are stories of violence that women and girls face all over the world.
But the world is changing. We are increasingly networked, and this connection has created immense possibilities to share unheard realities, to organise and come together for collective action, to shape and define a world that is more equal, inclusive of diversity, and that does not tolerate discrimination.
At the same time, violence is also taking place online. Cases of online harassment, cyberstalking, violation of privacy and violence targeted at groups of people online due to their gender or sexual identity and politics are growing. Worse, many of these experiences remain untold and undocumented. Their invisibility and our seeming acceptance inflect online spaces and practices with a culture that seems willing to tolerate acts of violence against women.
This year we call on campaigners to collectively gather evidence for transformation, strengthen our capacity for safer experiences online and amplify our rights in addressing technology-related violence against women. Take control of technology to end violence against women.
How can you take back the tech?
1) Map your story
Share your experiences and knowledge on technology-related violence against women. Tell your own stories, ask someone you know to share hers, or join with others to document cases that have appeared in the news. Every story is important.
Map it on the Take Back the Tech! online platform and collectively build a body of evidence on the reality and dimensions of violence that takes places online and through mobile phones against women and girls. Make the invisible visible and demand for change.
The online mapping platform will be launched on 25 November on this site, with detailed instructions on how to take action and document your stories.
We will be focussing on 5 areas of violence against women:
- Culturally-justified violence against women (25 November 2011)
Cultural norms and attitudes support the perpetuation of violence against women in hidden and explicit ways. It can be something as thoughtless as forwarding a sexist joke that supports the idea that women are less valuable than men and are nothing more than mute sexualised objects, to starting a Facebook group that promotes different ways to rape girlfriends. How has culture played a role in acts of violence against women where you are?
- Online harassment and cyberstalking (28 November 2011)
Mobile phones, social networking spaces like Orkut and geolocation tools like Foursquare have helped us stay connected with each other. At the same time, they have been used by abusers to track our networks, friends, movements and activities. Countless women all over the world have received harassing SMS messages and become fearful of being watched by people who mean them harm, which affects their ability to freely and fully participate in their societies. Have you experienced or heard of cases of online harassment or cyberstalking? Share your story.
- Intimate partner violence (1 December 2011)
Technology has enabled couples to express themselves to each other by creating and documenting private moments and communication through video, photographs and more. But intimate partners rarely discuss privacy issues, such as when to delete private images, and what happens when the relationship breaks down. Women’s rights organisations have received increasing calls from women who are afraid to leave abusive relationships due to threats of disclosure of private and intimate communications by their partners. How do you see technology in the context of intimate partner violence?
- Sexual assault and rape (4 December 2011)
Boys and girls in a school in South Africa stood by when one of their schoolmates was raped in front of them. Not only did they fail to intervene, they recorded the rape with their mobile phones and passed the images around. In another case, a woman in the US was raped when a former boyfriend posted personal information about her on an online ad listing that called for “a real aggressive man with no concern for women.” Technology can play a role in perpetuating violence by endless copying and widespread distribution, or by helping perpetrators seek or post false information about their victims. Has it happened where you are?
- Violence targeting communities because of their gender or sexual identity and politics (7 December 2011)
The websites of many women’s rights organisations have been hacked because of their stance on gender equality and feminism. Women bloggers who were outspoken about discrimination have also faced overwhelming attacks and messages that aim to disrupt their ability to express themselves online. Online communities and groups have been set up that call for violence against groups of people because of their gender or sexual identity, including transgenders, pro-choice advocates and lesbians. Do you know of any instances where technology has been used to target a community because of their gender or sexual identity and politics?
2. Strengthen your skills
The more we understand how internet technology and services work, the more we can take control and shape the online spaces we occupy. How can you use internet and communication technologies in a way that protects your privacy and safety? What are some strategies and tools that are available?
We will be sharing resources and how-tos throughout the 16 days on secure online communication tools and practices. They include information on geolocation and tagging, social networking use and practices, mobile phones security, portable apps and good privacy practices in online communication.
Build your skills, add to the pool of knowledge, teach someone, share the resources and recommend changes to technology platforms that prioritise privacy and security for all users.
3. Exercise your rights online
Technology-related violence against women creates unsafe online spaces that compromise our ability to freely express ourselves, access information and build communities. They violate our rights to privacy, autonomy, bodily integrity and security. This in turn, impacts on our ability to fully participate in shaping the society we live in.
Define technology that supports the fulfillment of women's human rights! During the 16 days, take creative action that amplifies our collective stance on the promotion of rights on the internet. Join us throughout the campaign period, or start your own campaign.
Here are some ideas:
- Create digital postcards that unmask cultural justifications of violence against women and send them to your Minister.
- Change the script of sexist ads by creating your own subtitles and spread them on social networking spaces.
- Start a viral campaign to demand for better privacy protection from online service providers.
- Make a list of top feminist children's storybooks. Pass it to your local library.
- Occupy online spaces and populate them with icons, messages and calls for an end to violence against women.
- Start a #16days twitter dialogue on promoting women's rights online.
If you are interested in starting a local Take Back the Tech! campaign, or wish to organise any of the activities above, contact us and we'll be more than happy to brainstorm with you and feature your action.