T2F played host to an interactive session with Take Back The Tech! activists and campaigners on December 2. The session began with an introduction to TBTT by Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA, one of the core members spearheading the campaign in Pakistan.
Going over the general aims of the campaign (see “Ending Gender-based Violence Against Women”) which involve harnessing technology to empower women and countering harassment, Jehan Ara informed the audience of the activities taking place during the “16 days of Activism” – November 25 – December 10 – and future plans, which include projects undertaken by individuals who have recently been awarded grants through the MDG3 Fund. The heads of two of these projects that are based in Karachi spoke in detail about their initiatives.
The first of them was Nuzhat Kidvai who has been a member of WAF (Women’s Action Forum) for 25 years now and is also the founding member of WAR (War Against Rape). She aims to create an informational website that documents VAW (violence against women). But more than creating a website that documents facts, she wants it to be an evolving database and a portal that holds answers and legal recourses for victims of VAW. Often, due to the simple reason of not knowing the right procedures, women are handed unfair sentences (perhaps they watch as their abusers are let off scot-free) or their cases are not registered at all. The website hopes to detail what is to be done in a specific situation, in addition to providing the expert opinions of lawyers and doctors, and other professionals.
The second of the Karachi-based awardees were Naveen Naqvi – broadcast journalist and blogger – and Sana Saleem – medical student and popular blogger. Theirs is a joint venture called Gawahi.com, a website that will archive stories – both in written and digital (audio/video) format – of women and children who have been subjected to abuse. The stories will not have to be told by the victim herself. Thus, there will be narrations of other people’s experiences. The project arises from a lack of support networks available to victims of abuse, due to which abuse goes unreported. Sana says that telling one’s own story is cathartic, and one is able to look at it from a third person perspective. The collection of stories also aims to provide a very important message to the victims (and eventual survivors): that they are not alone in what they face. Gawahi.com will also act as a portal for NGOs that do not have an online base, reach out beyond the urban centres, and document stories of survival and overcoming – the anonymity of the sources being the top priority.
Before breaking into the final session, there was a viewing of a nine-minute clip of Beena Sarwar’s documentary Mukhtaran Mai: The Struggle for Justice. The thought provoking nine minutes quelled the audience into an absolute silence, which was eventually broken by questions and comments for the director / journalist. The concluding session, which I too was a part of, was a moderated discussion between fellow panelists Attiya Dawood and Beena Sarwar, both well-known activists, with T2F’s Sabeen Mahmud as moderator. The discussion centred largely on how social activism in the age of Facebook, Twitter and blogs has withdrawn from the street presence that was once the defining feature of activism and movements of the 70s and 80s. Now, with the click of a button, people would rather sign and send a petition than go out and be a part of a protest or procession.
However, it was agreed that these platforms allow an exchange of views and encourage dialogue between people who harbour completely different views and would otherwise never interact. With a list of pros and cons on both sides of this debate, it remains an ongoing one.
Here’s how you can become a part of the TBTT campaign (it’s not too late):
Create a poster, photograph, song, animation, movie or illustration and join The Creative Coalition Against Gender Violence. Send your entries by December 10 to firstname.lastname@example.org and your work could be among the few selected entries exhibited at the TBTT meet-up at T2F on December 18.
You can also join the TBTT Pakistan SMS groups.
TBTT is a broadcast group on which the TBTT Pakistan camp will send you messages (notifications) about the campaign to you.
TBTT-Discuss allows you to contribute by sending in messages to the entire network (those part of the initiative and others like you who choose to join). However, the messages must keep to the subject itself (TBTT, gender, ICT, VAW) and no user should be found spamming.
To join the above groups, just send the following:
- join tbtt
- join tbtt-discuss
to the following numbers:
- 03124117660-8 (For Mobilink users only)
To send a message on the groups, users have to include the group name with a “dot” -> “.” at the start of the message. For example, to send a message on the group TBTT, use the following syntax: