I wonder if we will find women’s “J” spot at the Beijing +15 review…


Maria Suárez refers to the “'J' spot” in an article exploring why Section J was not a priority issue during the 2005 Beijing +10 review:




“In today’s globalized world, media and information and communications technologies play a defining role in shaping agendas... To be in media is to have a place in the world; therefore, to leave media out, really implies to “be out of it”! One good way to be relevant is to place media in the hands of women themselves - decision-making included - and supporting women’s media and ICTs, especially community media efforts in counteracting those trends. Until this happens, words will have little meaning towards the advancement of women, no matter how many commitments are made to other sections of the agenda, such as violence against women, health, political participation, poverty, etc”.(Suárez, 2005)



Five years later, can we claim that women’s media and ICTs are supported? Or do circular ‘development’ debates continue to perpetuate the false dichotomy between ‘hard issues' such as access to water and housing and ‘soft issues’ including women’s rights to own, access, use and shape media and communication tools and platforms? Do we still feel forced into ‘choosing’ between the struggle to end violence against women or eradicate poverty and the struggle for our rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and to tell our own stories?




As Suárez argues,
media and information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a
crucial role in all of the critical areas of concern of the Beijing
Platform for Action (BPFA). It makes sense therefore that our
activism is intrinsically connected and that there is no need to
‘choose’. If this is the case, the question shifts from that of
the need to choose, to one concerning, as Primo (2005) argues: how to
“grow women’s or feminist solidarity around a political agenda
that seeks to make ICTs a feminist issue”.



As women’s rights activists (ourselves included) and governments prepare to converge at the 54th session of the Commission of the Status of Women to review the implementation of the BPFA and share good practices so that obstacles and new challenges, including those related to the Millennium Development Goals, can be addressed, this question takes on significant meaning.




As the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) we say loudly that ICTs are a feminist and women’s rights issue. We want to share experiences that will help shift the utilitarian relationship that women’s movements have had with media and ICT tools (Primo 2005) and make clear that there is no need to choose. We want to, together with other activists and partners whom we have had the privilege of working with and learning from over the years, find women’s “J” spot.




Alongside such partners as Feminist International Radio Endeavour, the International Women’s Tribune Centre, FEMNET, Femlink and others, the APC WNSP has had a rich and long history of work on Section J and the Beijing Platform for Action, locating media and ICTs as central to the work of women’s movements.





So, how do we plan to continue doing this, at the Beijing+15 Review and beyond?



By showing and sharing very practically how women’s rights organisations have reclaimed technology and new media in their work to end violence against women (VAW) and in movement building. By continuing our efforts of taking ‘media and ICTs’ out of what has become the ghetto of Section J and inserting it wherever we are.



So you think ICTs have nothing to do with sexual rights? Think again. APC WNSP's
EroTICS
research project explores the ways in which the internet
andICT policy shape sexual practices of women living in such different socio-political, economic and cultural contexts as India, South Africa, Lebanon and Brazil. Rural women need income solutions and not technology? The GenARDIS Small Grants Fund has supported dozens of local initiatives that help women rural farmers take hold of ICTs for mentoring, pooling resources or getting better market prices.




The APC WNSP
project “Strengthening
women’s strategic use of ICTs to combat violence against women and
girls”,
supported by the Dutch government’s MDG3 Fund, exposes the connections between violence against women and ICTs in practice, policy and law in 12 countries, bolstering women and girls' ICT know-how to end violence and putting technology in women's hands.




Using the country reports we published in the last edition of GenderIT as a starting point, project partners held national consultative workshops and Feminist
Technology Exchanges
(FTX) to deepen understanding of the role technology can play to end violence against women. Women are reclaiming power and control over how they are represented by using ICTs. At FTX trainings, women in Uganda and South Africa produced digital stories in their own words and voices - on their own terms. The diversity of stories told explodes the comfortable myth that the face of violence against women is poor, black and in the global south.



Our country partners have also been confronted with the very arguments that led us to asking: ‘where is women’s “J” spot’? Their response, like ours has been to show the centrality of ICTs in women’s rights. In this edition of GenderIT we publish two cross-country overviews of national reports from Asia and Latin America which show the importance of connecting the dots between women's rights, violence against women, and ICTs, given limited understanding across both regions.


We will no doubt be confronted with many challenges as we try to build feminist analysis around the intersections of violence against women and ICT into global, regional and national ICT policy processes and build and strengthen the capacity of women, girls and women’s rights organisations to use, reclaim and shape ICTs to stop violence.



Whatever lies ahead, we hope it will be easier to find the “J” spot – because ICTs in women's hands means we can all spotlight the urgency of Section J.




Jan Moolman
is a feminist editor, writer, trainer and activist with extensive
experience in the Southern African women’s and communication rights
sector. She is a former editor of Agenda, South Africa’s longest
surviving feminist journal and was a columnist for Independent
Newspapers. Jan has contributed to a number of publications dealing
with women’s rights issues. She is also experienced digital story
telling trainer.



From 2006, Jan
was the Media and Information Manager of Women’sNet, a Southern
African organization that promotes the strategic use of ICTs amongst
women, girls and marginalized groups for social action. Jan is
currently managing a 12-country project of the APC that seeks to
strengthen women's strategic use of information and communication
technologies to stop violence against women.








References



Primo N (2005)
‘Digital solidarity and the10-year review of the Beijing
Platform for Action’
in Agenda, 64.

Suárez M (2005)‘Where
is women’s “J” spot?’

available at http://www.radiofeminista.net/feb05/notas/jpoint.htm,
site accessed 16 February, 2010.






In this edition:

To gain a snapshot of ICT and VAW law and policy read the full country reports:

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