The Gender and Internet Governance Exchange-Asia (gigX) hosted by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in partnership with the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) gave me an opportunity to learn about the intersections between gender and internet governance in a simple way. Honestly, I didn’t have much knowledge about internet governance. When I joined the discussion, I secretly asked myself “what is my role as a social worker in relation to technological advances in society? Am I suitable in this new field?” Until such time, I saw myself mingling with the group of gender and women’s rights advocates from different countries, introducing myself as a social worker that has been dealing with women and children sectors for eight years.
Most of the participants in the gigX were also present during the RightsCon-SEA event in Manila. I’m so glad that the gigX was a great success. It was a great way to catch up on the activities of the participants and a good opportunity to make new friends.
While writing this blog, I realized that successes are often private, while failures are often public. Sometimes, those who are unfamiliar with the profession can be left with a one-dimensional, stereotypical view of what feminists are or what they do. Now more than ever, it has become increasingly important to tell the stories of what feminists really do online and offline.
The two day Gender and Internet Governance Exchange brought me to a real world of feminists on the internet. The gender and internet rights activists from different countries gathered together to discuss and build awareness and understanding around the relationship between gender, women’s rights and internet governance. As mentioned by Jac sm Kee, the facilitator of the two day sessions, the integration of gender, women’s and sexual rights perspectives into context and the process of internet governance are very significant to achieve a social change.
The skills and knowledge of the facilitator and each participant during the event was really impressive and relevant. It prepared me for the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) which took place July 1-3, 2015. The two day sessions were rich in information and helped us to fully understand the relationship between gender and internet governance. Little by little, I enjoyed the mechanisms and context of the discussion. It was a mixture of fun and information. The facilitator’s methodology was very useful and effective.
I learned that there are several issues that need to be addressed, like how many technologies are powerful in product services but fragile when it comes to the welfare and best interests of women. There are numerous digital divides preventing access to information and confidentiality, security and privacy that can simply harm women and girls. I am thankful that the Feminist Principles of the Internet was discussed in a specific and comprehensive manner. Out of the 15 principles, Jac sm Kee, clustered it into five areas – access, economy, expression, autonomy and agency, movement and public participation.
The Feminist Principles of the Internet performs a critical role in internet governance. It explores the relationship between new technologies and, gender and sexuality issues. The emerging issues on gender and internet governance are another color on the thread that one must pay attention to. It looks at the relationship between existing systems of discrimination and computing technologies. Most of us integrate technology into our lives without considering the end-product and impact on us.
It was also a good opportunity for me to gain a basic understanding on internet governance. Honestly, I was a bit worried especially because the concept was very unfamiliar to me. The support and wide range of experience from FMA on internet governance seemed to be helpful. In every partner’s meeting and short educational discussions, they already impart it to junior staff like me. In addition, I also found time to read Internet Governance by Jovan Kurbalija as I joined the gigX and APrIGF.
Fortunately, the facilitator delivered the subject of internet governance really well and made the whole process participatory. We discussed a vast amount of information ranging from the evolution of internet governance to who the multi-stakeholders behind this are and their roles. The cram discussion on this topic was useful to understand what internet governance is. The small expertise groups also contributed to discussion. As the internet broadens globally and its economic, political and cultural influences have increased, it is essential to develop appropriate policies to govern it in order to manage and protect its presence in our lives. While the governments and states apply their laws on the internet, the internet presents many issues and challenges.
Other than having a good group of participants and wonderful discussions, I also enjoyed the kind of activities was prepared for us. It was delivered with creativity and was very informative. For instance, the Ring of Acronyms. It helped to familiarize me with the array of acronyms and terminologies found and used in every internet governance book, meetings, discourse and other related-topics. For me it has really been a life-long learning experience. I started to take down notes and tried to understand the technical words and their roles like IETF, MSM, VoIP, ICANN among others. The Spectrogram was also a good activity. It provided a space where we could share our opinions and perspectives on certain issues. Through this activity, I learned that some countries are flourishing with internet/mobile connection and yet others are falling further behind. These countries may not recover from this due to its country’s restrictions on policies, access, affordability and other related aspects.
The sexuality ladder activity was really eye-opening for everyone. This activity gave us an opportunity to level off our own knowledge on gender and sexual issues in each respective country. We learned that gender roles are set from societal norms dictating what are generally acceptable and appropriate for a person based on their actual or perceived sex. It is really obvious that there is a conception of femininity and masculinity regardless of age, status quo, race or cultures. On process of learning, there was a debate as to what extent gender roles and their variations are determined and to what extent they are socially constructed.
Another interesting activity during the exchange was the mapping of multistakeholders who can bridge the gap between gender and internet governance per country. This activity helped us to familiarise our own organisation whom we can seek help and have initiatives to reduce the gender digital divide and making links to internet governance issues.
Through the gigX, my knowledge on gender and internet governance increased. Familiarisation about the existing laws, policies and regulations from different institutions also helped me to identify the issues and challenges around which we can focus our non –associative learning process about internet governance to the multistakeholders that we work with.
I also realised that I should have the ability to discuss and influence the policy on gender and internet governance in most effective way. This two day event gave me an opportunity to put things right strategically for laws and policies related to internet to improve and contribute to women’s lives and development.