AWID: Women’s Information Technology Transfer (WITT) has just launched a web portal site in Eastern and Central Europe to link women’s organisations and feminist advocates. Could you please give us a brief background on WITT and how the website idea evolved?

MilNat: WITT has roots in trainings held by ENAWA (European and North American WomenAction, in the South European region mainly in the period of 2000-2002. These trainings covered bases of editing images, web design, on-line communication, Free Software (FS) concept introduction, and where mainly held in Zagreb (Croatia) and Belgrade (Serbia). They were
aimed at teaching women activists in the region about the power of ICT as a strategic tool for activism. Besides having the world of information at one’s fingertips, this tool helps make one’s work more visible, enables connecting with women worldwide to share thoughts, ideas, experiences and
establishing powerful partnerships and networks.

The trainings were of international character, gathering trainers from ENAWA’s partner organizations from France (Les Pénélopes), the Netherlands (IIAV), Czech Republic (Gender Studies) and Croatia (B.a.B.e). They were held in English taking place about two times per year in the region. They had a strong impact on several women participants who got “hooked” to the
idea of using ICTs in their activism and everyday work, and sharing the knowledge they gained in their local communities and in local language, thus being able to reach more local women.

WITT grew from the evident need for promoting and training women activists in the region in the area of ICT, as a far-reaching international network of women’s groups and individuals for mutual exchange, connecting East and West.

One of the most accessible and efficient tools, which supports our goals is surely a web site. It has first been created from the need to have a common place where we can find and present information about our work and activities. It has recently been through an “overhaul” in both terms of
information structure and design to make it more efficient, attractive and accessible. It is not by far finished as we have more great plans of how to improve and enrich it as a resource tool and a meeting place for women activists in the region and worldwide.

AWID: You have described the website as being ‘collective’. What kinds of tools will the website provide, and what is its main purpose?

MilNat: Following our principles of promoting using FS, WITT web site is developed in PHP/ MySQL based free and open source software called SPIP (, which is a content management system (CMS). CMS has a so-called “back office” which is a space where the content of the site (articles) are being added in a very simple way, in a short time and from any place,
alleviating the need for thorough technical knowledge of those posting and dependence on a single person – the web master. The back office also provides a common working place to develop documents, comment on articles submitted and leave messages, instructions, etc.

Thus, the web site is collective in many ways, but primarily in the sense that everyone can contribute to it by posting articles. We simply create a username and a password and enable access to a new author to the back office of the site. WITT has an editorial committee and is currently establishing team of editors in many languages along with common editorial policy. The idea is that this site becomes multilingual (it is in English only at present), with consistent visual presentation, which is what the tool, SPIP, supports. All regional local languages would be present, and the Web site has forums enabled, which provides interactivity.

Apart from witnessing WITT activities, the site presents announcements of various ICT related events, calls for proposals, has handouts from our trainings and various tutorials, a cyber diary that contains our every day adventures with computers and new technologies, a photo gallery, links to
our partners and women organizations we share common goals with.  We have plans to create a portrait section of all women involved with WITT, an audio gallery, and a searchable data base of WITT trainers and their skills, which we are willing to share.

AWID: What is the role of the annual Trainers Exchange Event (TEE)?

MilNat: TEE is envisioned as a yearly gathering of women dedicated and closely involved with WITT’s development and ICTs in general, with three main goals:

* to exchange the knowledge each of us has or that has been accumulated in the year that has passed;
* to promote WITT among new TEE participants we have recognized as potential partners; and
* to establish new partnerships and networks.

We have had two TEEs so far. It is where we refresh ourselves from excessive e-mail communication ;) get energized, enthusiastic, where new acquaintances are made, new ideas born. What is fantastic is seeing WITT grow from one annual meeting to the next as we exchange facts, talk about participation in great projects and events, about changes we initiated and witnessed, and having the opportunity to see how each of us taking bigger and bigger steps towards personal and professional growth. The approach we take at TEE is that every participant has specific skills she can share. Participation is therefore highly interactive, with lot of discussions that come in between of specific skills sharing sessions. We avoid the obsolete approach of one person teaching passive listeners.

AWID: The WITT philosophy, as explained in your press release, is that “technology is a tool to be used, not feared”. Could you elaborate on this philosophy in the context of women in Eastern and Central Europe?

MilNat: Poverty greatly reduces access to ICT skills and communication infrastructure development. Overcoming poverty and the other remaining challenges specific to women is the task of many women’s organizations in the region.  What most Eastern European and CIS countries have in common to some degree is - economy and society in transition. Experience of the countries in transition shows that changes do not necessarily improve the position of women in the society, politics and economy, let alone in the job market.

Based on the results of research conducted by WITT, there is a clear need for a training institution in Eastern Europe and the CIS that caters specifically to the needs of all women’s NGO’s, to support them in using ICTs in their information strategies.

New technologies are an area of unexplored economic opportunity for women, but as activists we also believe that ICTs should be used more in everyday work of women activists and organizations. Women’s organizations already use mailing lists in everyday communication, but improving ICT capacities is essential for keeping the pace with global trends and further development of cooperation among women’s groups. It is crucial to explore alternatives to dominant ICT policies, which are pushing for expensive and inaccessible software, and consequently, hardware, and we consider this an economic, political, and educational issue. 

Technology is something that serves all of us. It is incorporated in our lives to save our time, enable instant communication that traverses great geographical distances, provide valuable information. Mastering the technology is not an aim in itself. The purpose is to use it to make our life, and lives of those who surround us, better, easier and to create possibilities and opportunities.  There is a techno-phobia, a fear of touching a computer, present. Computer literacy has become a necessity when applying for a job, which presents a torment for some, as it seems as enormous obstacle that cannot be coped with.

Our approach and methodology is to simplify and demystify the technology. To show it can be mastered with ease and that it is user friendly made. We tend to be “infectious” and “contaminate” a woman’s mind to become brave, and restless in her search for, customisation and development of tools that best serve her and her organization’s needs.

AWID: Do you see the WITT project expanding in the future to provide ICT support for women on an international level? Are there any opportunities to link up with similar projects in other regions?

MilNat: We already are crossing borders. We have focal points in Bulgaria, Macedonia, partners in Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Moldavia, France, the Netherlands and Poland. Our aim is to focus and act more thoroughly in each of these counties, and gain partners in
others at the same time. We are interested in knowledge and experience sharing, joint projects and new partnerships perpetually!

We use every opportunity we get to promote our work and invite people to join us. One of our activities planned is to become more visible at international conferences and forums, where there is a great concentration of people who think and act alike coming from all parts of the globe.

One of our initiatives in this direction is the application for participation at AWID’s International Forum on women’s rights and development to be held in October this year in Bangkok, Thailand! We surely hope to see you all there and share our story and experience first hand.

We hope that one day we will be big, powerful and so far-reaching that we will hold an annual WITT’s conference inviting women from all over the world to join us.

You can learn more about WITT on their website at

Rochelle Jones

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