Access Now 8 Mar 2018

In 2018, honoring women, transgender, and non-binary persons will make the internet safer for everyone 

On this International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to recognize a few of the many phenomenal organizations working to improve the lives of those of us who are marginalized because of our gender or sexuality — and to honor people from these communities who are doing groundbreaking work across all sectors.

We know inclusion matters, yet all too often women and non-binary persons are excluded from the conversation. This affects everything from the development of tools that we use to live full, enriched lives, to the construction of laws, policies, and institutions that define our capacity to enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms. At a time when major voices in the technology sector are failing to include the perspectives and expertise of our broad community, International Women’s Day — and Women’s History Month — is an important time to #ShineTheLight on the invaluable contributions of women and gender non-conforming persons in defending human rights and making the world more equitable and just for everyone.

This month and throughout the year, we encourage you to engage with these organizations, share their work, and donate if you can. Here’s what they have to say about their work, the challenges their communities face, and the importance of International Women’s Day:

Acoso.Online, Chile
In Acoso.Online we work with non-consensual pornography victims. We are a feminist project, and we work to make non-consensual pornography socially unacceptable. We empower women, trans, or gender non-conforming individuals to continue to use technology in their sexual life in a way to give them back the control of their pictures and videos.

The basic challenge is access to information: victims just don’t know what to do, and, worse, the majority are not conscious that they are experiencing gender violence. At the same time, there are more complex challenges, such as how, as a community, we can redress the harm and reintegrate victims to a normal life when the internet often seems to be such a hostile environment for women, trans, or gender non-conforming individuals.

We give orientation to Latin American victims: from legal issues to technical recommendations on how to experience sexuality with technology, to what to do in their communities, etc. But it is not just information. We also want to give them a strong sense of community and solidarity: victims are not alone, there is a community to support them, and we are fighting the idea of “tolerance” for gender violence.

Chayn, Global
Hera Hussain originally founded Chayn in 2013 after seeking information online to help a friend facing abuse in Pakistan. Unable to find substantial guidance on how to access a divorce or apply for asylum, Hera decided to make her own guide and publish it. As a result, Chayn’s How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without a Lawyer guide was born. This guide provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to recognize, document, and successfully leave an abusive relationship, via an effective divorce case, regardless of access to legal support.

When people seek support online, we realized, they can also put themselves unwittingly at risk, due to a lack of knowledge about online privacy and digital security. To help women protect themselves, Chayn crowdsourced a DIY Guide to Online Safety, sourcing knowledge from digital security experts, lawyers, and survivors, to create an advanced guide to staying safe online. Many women and non-binary people are threatened with online surveillance as part of relationship abuse, so the practical guide, which includes tips as simple as turning on two-factor authentication, can quickly help those facing abuse to limit these online risks.

Chayn is an intersectional feminist organization, and our number one motto is to always design with not for. This means that our resources are always created by and in partnership with women and non-binary people who have experienced the abuse in question.

It is quite clear, from the #HungerForFreedom detained women, to the fact that the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is only 35, that we have a long way to go to smash patriarchy in society and all the other forms of oppression that surround it. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to shine a light on the progress we still need to make and to make a stand to do so.

Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline, Global
In a world where misogyny, transphobia, and sexism pervade most social spheres and affect the largest part of civil society, the digital tools that we all use to communicate often turn into powerful weapons deployed for the oppression of women, trans*, and gender non-conforming persons. These weapons can isolate, silence, and harm, and as women, trans*, and gender non-conforming people are threatened in the digital, physical, and psycho-social spheres alike, consequences are often very serious and can affect the society as a whole.

Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline has committed to supporting these users at risk in securing their digital activities, and by networking and interacting with feminist and LGBTQI groups focusing on holistic security and autonomous infrastructures, we are developing customized approaches to help victims of gender-based violence that take into account all their needs.

Internet Democracy Project, India
In a conservative society like India, the new spaces for privacy, exploration, and action that the internet offers can have a genuinely transformative effect for many women and people belonging to sexual minorities. But that potential is curtailed by communities that restrict or even block young women’s access, by online harassers who try to shut down anyone who has anything to say that challenges traditional gender roles, and by social practices and legal gaps that make it increasingly difficult to control your own information online, even when it is as sensitive as about health issues.

The work of the Internet Democracy Project shines a light on these issues. Through our research, we build deeper understanding of these challenges; through our advocacy work, we ensure that these issues become part of broader policy debates as well. All too often, the concerns of marginalized groups fly under the radar in internet policy debates. Our work seeks to change that.

i freedom Uganda, Uganda
Women in all their diversities face a range of problems in our communities, but one of the most pressing in the recent past is that many of them have fallen victim of revenge pornography online and in traditional media. Even more troublesome, most often the women who have to be treated and or viewed as victims end up being the suspects before the eyes of the law, thus making it hard for many of them to lodge formal complaints against their abusers — who most of the time are men who find it easier to use their masculinity to abuse women than to use it to protect and defend their rights as equal human beings.

At i freedom Uganda Network, we undertake to train women in all their diversities how to safely use social media and the internet through equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to defend themselves online and while offline using other ICTs.

Point of View, India
The lesbian, trans, and disabled women we work with face loads of stigma and discrimination. They’re seen as “bad women” or “not woman enough.” These are not harmless labels — these labels mean that the harms they face go unrecognized. That their voices aren’t heard. That their lives and realities are discounted, including the violence that they face.

We push back hard against this — both online and offline. We unlock and amplify the voices of marginalized women through media, art, technology, and education. By building a feminist internet that doesn’t reinforce the inequalities of the physical world. By equipping girls with the digital skills to tell their own stories (especially around stuff that’s taboo for them to talk about, like teenage pregnancy, forced marriage, or same-sex romance). By protecting the rights of women with disabilities to love & desire. And by continually amplifying the voices of marginalized women.

Basically, we keep chipping away at patriarchal culture through all possible means.

KICTANet, Kenya
The Kenya ICT Action Network, a multi-stakeholder platform for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation, has been at the forefront in Kenya in raising awareness and pushing for the rights of women to communicate freely and safely online without attacks, without intimidation, without discrimination or fear. KICTANet produced a first report in Kenya on the negativities that can be perpetrated through cyberspace, titled, Women and Dark Side of ICTs. KICTANet has continued to support women’s organizations such as the Kenya Chapter of the Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) and the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) to keep alive this campaign for safe online spaces for women. It has supported research and training of women, women journalists, and women bloggers on the theme. For more information, please read the first report produced by KICTANet.

Feminism in India, India
Feminism in India’s main idea is to increase the representation of women and marginalized communities in the online sphere — their stories and their histories. We amplify these usually unheard stories using digital storytelling techniques, pop culture references, and new media.

In a bid to prevent appropriation and to center the voice of the marginalized, our editorial policy allows only people who occupy a marginalized position to comment on the issues and lived experiences of that community. FII has dedicated sections for intersectional experiences — caste, gender, sexuality, religion, race, and also other forms of stigma and discrimination like mental illness and physical disability. You can read more for the rationale of our editorial policy here.

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, United States
Forty years ago, a group of mostly queer women of color founded the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice to address the lack of funding for progressive women’s organizing, particularly organizing led by lesbians and women of color. This International Wom*n’s Day, we celebrate the lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, and intersex women and gender nonconforming people around the world who challenging oppression in all its forms and creating a future that is self-determined, sex-positive, safe, welcoming, and inclusive.

Originally published in Access Now.