Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 3: Connect and Help and maybe Twitter?

On Day 3, we are encouraged to explore and empower our selves with some new mobile technology such as SMS to report abuse, actions, and seek help-information. Maybe it's my over-connected self and thumbs tired from texting that have resisted Twittering. My Blackberry and tiny keyboard seem connected to instant messages (Google Talk) among other distractions-instrusions of email, on-line news, and uploading my cat photos to Flickr or Facebook.

Or my nearly 40 years of organizing via telephone and in person (landline, letters, magazines, demonstrations, in person conversations) make me a bit leery-weary of the hi-tech and Facebook approaches to organizing. Users can "join" a cause, sign digital petitions, or cut/paste their email messages to politicians-corporations without taking concrete actions or making changes in safety, security or advancing their causes' goals-agendas. At the same time, I have seen the power of Youtube videos in Rahela's case (previous post) or in the recent USA presidental election of Barack Obama!

Or maybe the two Thanksgiving dinners that I attended to today have temporarily dulled my technological appreciation!

Computer technology has led to websites for help and connection around VAW. Toll-free hotlines have given women new forms of communication about VAW as well as reaching out for help and reporting on their lives and experiences. Recycled cell phones have given new and safer voices to women to make calls to police and shelters that cannot be tracked by their abusers who may have ripped out their landlines.

Friends and family separated by distance can also send emails and instant messages via the computer for support. Although many VAW shelters have to stress guidelines for safe computer use for women to protect the privacy of their passwords, email, and communication from jealous partners and abusers.

Nonetheless in many countries, access to the new mobile and computer technologies still depend on access to electricity and funds to power their computers, recharge their phones, as well as reliable and cheap internet and connectivity...still in short supply in many countries. Loadshedding means that your computer and internet won't work and/or your mobile providers' circuits are disrupted. Finally, some men have used these technologies to harass and stalk women.

Now we have Twitter among other things.....Some women and activists have also adopted "Twitter" a way of sending short 140 character messages to near and dear ones as well as friends and those who care to know about our activities, thoughts, and even music. People can sign up to follow our "tweets", which can also be posted on social networking sites, such as Facebook.

On Day 3, the Take Back the Tech women have given a very informative and creative overview of the ways we can use Twitter and SMS to communicate about VAW, actions, and events. From their feeds, today I have also learned about the ongoing use of such technologies by the AZUR Development group in the Congo, their activities on HIV-AIDs, use of SMS messages and radio: I'm also proud that they are also part of the Rising Voices blogging grants!

At the same time, I hope that we can creatively embrace these technologies without losing some our interconnections built on social interactions, communities, and networks. We have many possibilities for remaining connected. For example, through his Facebook tweets, I can follow the music and adventures of my digital friend, Rising Voices coordinator, and global traveler, David Sasaki. who just landed in South Africa on a We Blog the World Junket but with no announced sessions-visits to groups dealing with VAW or such issues in South Africa. (Please see David's later post on failure to address these and AIDS issues on the junket). Earlier this fall, David worked with a group of South African women elders to set up their own blogs. Finally, through Rising Voices grant at Nari Jibon, I've digitally connected with many bloggers and even met some in person!

During my writing of this blogpost, David just made a digital introduction of Azur participant with Nari Jibon bloggers and myself!

From his recent travels to new technology conferences, David considered the possibilities, usefulness, and challenges of such communications, SMS, especially in his thoughtful Mobile Active 08L 6.5 Billion Text Messages Don't Make World Peace. He questions the usefulness of text messaging for peace-political issues and generating action-change. We tend to devalue such communications, "the more we correspond, the less we value correspondence". He also reminds us that a crucial mineral--Coltan--for cellphones &computers is being mined and fought over in the violent chaos of the Congo. Other writers, activists, and documentary filmmakers have reminded us that beyond displacing women and their families, government and rebel soldiers have raped and abused many women and their children and/or spread HIV-AIDS and STDs.

Unfortunately some of these connections-interests also can keep us in our own circles-interests and networks of international tours, websites, and blogs that ignore programs and campaigns such as Take Back the Tech, Nov 25 as International Day Against Violence Against Women, or even the 16 Days Campaign (which have appeared in only one blog post in Global Voices, the larger umbrella of Rising Voices) . For an update, please see Juliana Rincón Parra's excellent post and videos on eliminating violence against women and her video blogsite, which provide other forms of communication beyond Twitter. . Some of us are too busy (and/or distracted) to keep track of news-info-events on our own communities and countries much less all the possibilities on the Internet. Or other events intervene such as media attention to the three days of violence in Mumbai & needless deaths of many or the global economic crisis, which will send even more women, children and their families into precarious situations.

Hence I encourage every one to access, read, and learn from the Take Back the Tech feeds of SMSs from around the world, use your mobile technology to connect and make a difference, continue to speak up and educate people in your various circles of family, friends, blogs, classes, and media on these issues, donate and/or volunteer to local shelters, and last but not least go to the UNIFEM campaign for signatures: --who knows the petitions just might work! [unfortunately they stopped taking signatures on 25 november!] the site collected over 500,000 signatures from around the world...

Finally, I will sign up for Twitter in the morning and as soon as I recover from my Thanksgiving and observe "Buy Nothing Day" on the day after Thanksgiving....but I am only blogging about this....well maybe I posted something on facebook...and I still don't have my Twitter account.....

P.S. I just learned about some conceptually interesting uses of Twitter, Tumblr, iPhones by sex worker networks in USA.
Regina Lynn describes how the Desiree Alliance and SWOP (regional sex worker outreach projects) in USA have used Twitter, Tumbler iphones, and Google docs to create media blitzes. The Alliance and projects have their own blogs, for example, Bound, Not Gagged. You can learn more about 17 December Day Against Violence against Sex Workers , related resources and National and Regional events on the Bound, Not Gagged and the Chicago SWOP blogs--more details on Chicago in this SWOP blog.


cheekay said...

Very good post!

I appreciated how you contextualised the (emerging) creative use of new tech for organising and advocacy in the reality that many women do not have access to such tech.

I would like to add that women should be very aware of what they are "giving away" when they use these new tech -- and that informed choice is necessary for these new tech to have an empowering effect. Oftentimes, we are unaware of just what information about our identities we divulge through social networking tools. Most of the time, this is without our consent and awareness.

I think for women to take back the tech, we need to confront these issues head-on as well. And to learn how to protect ourselves (and our rights) through and in technology.

Looking forward to more posts from you.

David Sasaki said...

Nothing on the itinerary about violence against women and nothing about HIV and AIDS, not even today, World AIDS Day. This thing is definitely about selling SA's tech and science industry.

I'm so impressed by the Take Back the Tech campaign. It's a great illustration of using tech for good.