An open letter of thanks to AWID

4 October 2016

This was my first time at an AWID Forum. By the end of the conference it was clear that that I am a woman. Strong, determined, beautiful and powerful. This realization has come late in my life and that makes me sad to realize all the time wasted on feeling powerless in my community.

My work is not an easy thing to explain. Let me try this … I train human right defenders in digital/physical security and workshop facilitation. Now this is much more modest than it sounds. In my experience, women are often targeted by online violence and it is time that they take up the responsibility to find a solution. This can be done by individual digital security trainers like myself OR by organisations that promote internet literacy for women and young girls. It is quickly becoming dangerous to have no knowledge about staying safe online. Because of my work, a friend of a friend put me in touch with an amazing organization in South Africa (APC-WRP). For some reason they believed that the AWID conference would be beneficial to my work. They weren’t wrong.

So many conversations and smiles. Soft voices carried by the warm Atlantic breeze.

At the first plenary session what I saw immediately were women! Women as far as the eye could see, in all their glamorous colours, shapes and sizes. So many conversations and smiles. Soft voices carried by the warm Atlantic breeze. I must have been introduced to at least 100 sisters and every single one of them greeted me with joy and an inexhaustible curiosity about my work and my life, and question after question after question… I still have the lines curved into my face from all that smiling. It was great.

Often times we feel that our situation or that of our community is in fact the worst of them all. I think that the sessions at the AWID conference were designed to provide a platform for sharing experiences so that individuals like me who come from a relatively ‘closed’ part of the globe can hear and be heard! No matter which part of the forum you went to or at whatever time, there were always experiences being shared. It is through that sharing that we unburden ourselves of challenging issues thereby creating space within our minds for problem solving.

I think that the sessions at the AWID conference were designed to provide a platform for sharing experiences so that individuals like me who come from a relatively ‘closed’ part of the globe can hear and be heard!

I went to sessions for women human rights defenders and for young women in tech, and heard about people’s experiences. Our concerns about technology were very similar, whether about privacy and social media apps and the importance of the tools we use for our movements.

I suppose AWID’s choice of venue comes from the desire to provide a mixture of focus, peace and fun. As a first time visitor to South America, I was blown away by the size of the resort. Each day I felt like Alice-in-Wonderland trying to find my way around the property. Around day 3 I realized that the easiest way to get around was walk along the beach. Oh right, I haven’t even mentioned the beach yet. Well, I won’t even try because I am sure I won’t do justice to it.

Okay, so now the conference is over and I am taking some time to think about true feminism and how I can show the women of East Africa just how important and powerful they are. That is my job now. The organizers of AWID have a task to do as well and that is to make the next conference happen and inspire yet another me to write this ridiculously honest letter.

Thank you AWID!

It is through sharing that we unburden ourselves of challenging issues, thereby creating space within our minds for problem solving.

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