Talking digital security and language with Chido Musodza

13 October 2017

Picture of Chido Musodza doing a training. Image source: Daphne Jena, Chido Musodza

Chido Musodza is one of nine digital security trainers currently with Digital Society of Zimbabwe (DSZ). Her specialty is in the translation of open source applications from English to Shona, one of Zimbabwe’s local languages. Chido is also a Programme Officer with Radio Voice of the People, a national radio station that broadcasts via satellite; and podcasts, and distributes information via website and social media. She was one of the feminists who were part of the Harare City Conversation held by Association of Progressive Communications in Harare earlier this year.

Chido is also a Programme Officer with Radio Voice of the People, a national radio station that broadcasts via satellite; and podcasts, and distributes information via website and social media.

Daphne Jena (DJ): What would you say is the importance of your work?
Chido Musodza (CM): Our work is more of awareness raising on the risks that are inherent with being in the online space. We then provide people with concepts and tools to mitigate those risks. We try to focus on human rights defenders, should there be interference for them with the internet. We teach them to communicate in the safest way possible. It could be tools that enhance information protection; circumvent interference on the internet and mitigation of the risks that are inherent with information management; storage; sharing and use in both online and offline spaces. Sometimes it is as basic as raising awareness around safer practices in the use of the internet and their devices. We encourage people to adequately secure their accounts and to be aware of the potential pitfalls that come with having information about themselves; their families; friends, and their work on social networking platforms as not all friends or followers or people traverse the online space with good intentions.

We try to focus on human rights defenders, should there be interference for them with the internet. We teach them to communicate in the safest way possible. It could be tools that enhance information protection; circumvent interference on the internet and mitigation of the risks that are inherent with information management; storage; sharing and use in both online and offline spaces.

DJ: Are the risks only about misuse of information by third parties, or there are more?
CM: People need to be aware that there are other risks that they are not aware of or never immediately come to mind when dealing with information or data and these may lead to loss of important information. It can be a robbery, a power outage, an accident. The main question will be how to mitigate those risks of data loss? So we also teach about data protection, storage and back-up.

DJ: If the feminist internet that was discussed in the Harare City Conversation could become a reality, would there be need for digital security?
CM: It doesn’t change the fact that there are risks online especially, when it comes to transmission of data, protection of data and storage of data. Even in a feminist internet, the giving out of too much information (both work and of a personal nature) can still happen because it is human nature to want to let people know where we are or what we are doing in life.

Even in a feminist internet, the giving out of too much information (both work and of a personal nature) can still happen because it is human nature to want to let people know where we are or what we are doing in life.

DJ: Can you please describe what you would call an ideally safe internet?
CM: We need to be our sister’s keepers. We can ensure that everyone adopts the tools and concepts we teach into their everyday life through focus group discussions; conversations such as the Harare City Conversations; trainings like we already run with the Digital Society of Zimbabwe and through organisations. That kind of information will make the internet a bit safer even for women. In teaching women about security online, I also see empowerment and emancipation because you also help someone go past cultural barriers to accessing the online space.

In teaching women about security online, I also see empowerment and emancipation because you also help someone go past cultural barriers to accessing the online space.

DJ: Now that you have spoken about breaking barriers, I would also want to think translating online tools is one way of doing so. Why do you specialise in such translations?
CM: That happened quite by accident. I was asked to translate a set of tools and I decided to try. During the process, I actually realised that I enjoy translating tools. However, when I do it now, it is because I feel that language development is a very important aspect of the development of any country. I do not remember the last time we further developed our language particularly for the age of technology. I do know we have Shona (language spoken in Zimbabwe) terms for email and internet but I think it ends there. We do not have local language terms for ‘encryption’, or ‘computer’ that are not directly translated into a context that is easily relatable to Shona speakers or other local languages. Translating using new local terms and mainstreaming the language into schools is important to promote the use of local languages in the online space. It will take a lot of effort for us as we don’t even have Shona terms for ‘gender’ or ‘feminism’ in our local languages that we can use without sounding patriarchal.

I do not remember the last time we further developed our language particularly for the age of technology. I do know we have Shona (language spoken in Zimbabwe) terms for email and internet but I think it ends there. We do not have local language terms for ‘encryption’, or ‘computer’ that are not directly translated into a context that is easily relatable to Shona speakers or other local languages.

If you educate a woman in a language that she understands, it makes it easier for her to teach other women. This increases the chances of empowering more women by breaking the language barrier and hence the opportunities out there to acquire new skills.

Chido Musodzo doing a training

DJ: What other aspects do you think need to change in order to increase access to online spaces for women?
CM: Socialization. We need to change how we socialize our children, that is, how we raise them to treat and view people of different circumstances; race and gender, in a way that improves how women are viewed in society. Women are still viewed as second-class citizens. They are hardly recognized because this is a patriarchal state. We also need to find ways to talk about the really difficult subjects in the African context such as sex and politics .

DJ: What should internet stakeholders (service providers, policy makers, developers, users) do to increase safety for women online?
CM: Those who have developed platforms need to take responsibility for what happens on their platforms. A good example is Instagram, which took down Robert Kardashian’s account after realising that he was abusing and violating the privacy of Blac Chyna, his former girlfriend on their platform by posting semi-nude to nude photos and videos that she had sent to him in confidence. I am not sure if they did it because someone or several people had reported it or they just took down the account after seeing what was happening. That level of responsibility matters for me. It is also important to involve everyone in the talks concerning the online space and avoid making it a patriarchal space by engaging only those they think matter. Most of these corporates do not know about the feminist principles of the internet. Most of them know about the digital rights and responsibilities but nothing about feminist principles. I really doubt if people in corporates are aware of them or their importance.

It is also important to involve everyone in the talks concerning the online space and avoid making it a patriarchal space by engaging only those they think matter.

DJ: In your opinion, what risks do you think women mostly face online and why?
CM: Cyberbullying and body shaming, because men generally tend to think that they can make decisions about how a woman behaves; what she says; and, how she should look. Women who are assertive; accept their sexuality and are outspoken are considered to be outliers in African society, hence a lot of cyberbullying is targeted at such women and girls.

DJ: Which feminist principles do you think may be able to address these risks and how?
CM: I will start with Principle 17- Online violence. Online violence should be a punishable offence and there should be clear policy and laws addressing and dealing decisively with online attacks, threats, policing, harassment and tech-related violence. The police forces should also undergo training or create units that deal specifically with the institutionalization of behavior and change in attitudes to incidences of violence and/ or sexual harassment in any form.

Then Principle 12 on consent. Internet platforms need to be more proactive around their terms of service when it comes to consent and use of images hence should be able to shut down or block an account deemed to be in violation of a person’s consent. Case in point, is Instagram which shut down Robert Kardashian (Jnr)’s account who was using the account to degrade and demean Blaq Chyna, his ex-girlfriend especially given that the images were not given to him by her for such purposes. It should not be acceptable for platforms to be used for the purposes of attacking another woman or human being due to their choices when it comes to what they wear, what they say, what they choose to do with their bodies. Internet platforms should be free spaces for any kind of expression as long as that expression does not infringe on the rights of others.

Internet platforms need to be more proactive around their terms of service when it comes to consent and use of images hence should be able to shut down or block an account deemed to be in violation of a person’s consent.

Lastly Principle 14 on memory
Internet service providers have to employ better methods for individuals to retain and exercise full control over what information they share about themselves and how. Humans change as they learn and become better versions of themselves over time. Should information about something they said in the ignorance of their youth be held against them 15 years down the line, particularly where such information was not incriminating or repeated in more recent years? I believe not. There should be clear policy and laws guiding how the right to forget should work, as long as such policy and law is in line with international statutes and standards.

DJ: Lastly please share you see some of these feminist principles changing the online space for women if implemented?

CM: I definitely see the most of the principles outlined having an impact on changing the online space for women and girls if implemented. However, I have two that I find particularly important to me because in one way or another, they result in women being better equipped to articulate their issues; in their empowerment and in them being able to adopt and take ownership of these spaces.

The Principle on Access to information and the principle on Usage of technology would definitely be a game changer in both the online and offline spaces for women, historically and particularly in African countries, women do not have as much access to information in comparison to their male counterparts, and this threatens to increase the already existing social and economic inequalities amongst women and girls. Women are already background active citizens who make significant contributions to their families and communities, and yet do not speak up and participate as much in various discourses especially on the national level because they lack adequate access to information. As they say, “educate a woman and you have educated a community”.

Women are already background active citizens who make significant contributions to their families and communities, and yet do not speak up and participate as much in various discourses especially on the national level because they lack adequate access to information. As they say, “educate a woman and you have educated a community”.

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Footnotes

Feminist Principles of the Internet feministinternet.org

 

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