Danger and opportunity. ICTs and Women's human rights defenders

This edition of GenderIT.org is dedicated to women human rights defenders. Those working on women's and sexual rights often face challenges not only in the public space, but in their personal space, from their family and partners, as well. In this edition, we examine what new dimension brings ICTs into this struggle, how they are used to mobilize around women's and sexual rights, and the risks many defenders face online.

Security emerged as not only one of the main topics in our interviews but also in living practice, forcing us to question and change our communication protocols in order to pull this edition together without jeopardizing the safety of our interviewees. We hope then that you find the readings engaging!


Read the editorial by Joy Liddicoat, a former New Zealand human rights commissioner, who coordinates APC's Project the new "Connect your rights!" campaign. Liddicot introduces this edition and explores online and offline issues that affect the ability of WHRDs to exercise their freedom of association and assembly.


This edition is accompanied with the images of hands. Hands are a symbol of protest and safety. In the protest, as says writer David Schonauer, "we see hands that accuse, hands that shield, hands that threaten, hands that plead, hands that say "Enough." At the same time, we often depend on our hands to keep ourselves safe and connect with others.


The edition is a part of APC's “Connect your rights: Internet rights are human rights” campaign financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

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The changing face of women's rights activism: be careful what you say online

Jennifer Radloff, GenderIT.org contributor, and Running Toddler, a participant of a recently hosted workshop in secure online communications for women human rights defenders, interviewed the workshop's trainers, c5 and anonymous. In this first part of the interview, the trainers talk about their experience in training activists and human rights defenders to use technology securely, and the challenges inherent in communicating safely as feminists and women's human rights defenders, and the importance of awareness that these technologies can both serve us and put us at risk.
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“Defending yourself means defending your community”

In the second part of the interview with c5 and anonymous, the trainers from the secure online communications workshop provide strategies for mitigating some of the dangers for women's human rights defenders. While examining the practices of policy-makers, internet intermediaries and every day users, they conclude that security means more than just awareness -- it requires behavioural change.
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ICT skills gap = online security risks

GenderIT.org contributor Mavic Cabrera-Balleza interviews Mary Jane Real, outgoing coordinator of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition about the use of internet and information and communication technologies by women human rights defenders, the opportunities they present as well as the digital security risks women human rights defenders confront. Real goes on to share her ideas on how the risks could be minimized or eliminated.
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Connectedness or alienation?

Women's human rights activist Edna Aquino remarks on how ICTs have impacted her work, presenting both new opportunities and new risks. In her interview with new GenderIT.org writer, Maya Ganesh, Edna argues that activists using ICTs must be mindful of alienating women with the use of excessive jargon, and must always be keenly aware that there are inherent risks in online communications. However, she argues that these problems can be remedied through secure online communications training and capacity building.
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Who's gonna track me?

Flavia Fascendini looks at the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders -- which, for the first time in history, focuses on the situation of women's human rights defenders. Drawing on the report's findings, she talks to South-East Asian women's activists about the unique security risks they face online.
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Secure communications essential to women's rights defenders

Grady speaks to women's human rights defenders from India and Philippines who use ICTs in their work. They share their views how the right to freedom of association is exercised by women through ICTs. Speaking from their own experience, they dispelled some of the common myths surrounding the internet and ICTs use.
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Take Back the Tech! But know the risks first

Like any tool, ICTs can be tremendously useful, but dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. This is doubly true for activists and women's rights defenders. Jennifer Radloff and Erika Smith speak to participants from one of our secure online communications for women human rights defenders workshops who share their own experiences with ICTs and what they've learned from the training.