Our ambitious journey with our first Take Back the Tech! this year started on a really good note – media response.

For years now, the topic of violence against women that is happening through ICTs has not been “attractive” enough for our local media. Even with the rise of the number of mapped cases and educational trainings held, they simply did not seem to care enough to publish our case studies, much less, to do an interview on the topic. That was up until this July. Our first opening event was solely organized for representatives of media houses in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was called Breakfast with media on the topic “Is virtual real enough to you?”

The representatives of press (video reporters, local TV media, daily newspapers and web portals) that attended was the biggest we’ve had so far, and to our surprise, they were well informed about our path and the nonexistence of laws in our country to protect the victim or prevent this type of violence. The news about the campaign was highlighted in a short interview in the main news report on one of the most prominent TV Channels that same day. Other than that, newspapers finally started to publish news on VAW and ICT cases happening locally. This means that they are recognizing VAW through ICTs as a problem, and this is a meaningful step forward due to immense influence that media has on its audience. Changing media’s perception on VAW and ICTs means changing the perception of general public, or at least moving it forward in a way that it is being observed as a – real form of violence.

One journalist took an interview with us, and as she told us, she is currently doing a research on this topic which will include interviews with internet service providers (ISP), police authorities, lawyers and yes – it included our organization, which is quite an honour and responsibility at the same time, considering the fact that not many organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina tackle this issue.

“I will get to the answers that you and I need, trust me. They (ISPs and police authorities) are always a bit more afraid of media, because they are aware of the power that we as journalists have, so it will be easier for me to get to them” said the journalist. By the end of our campaign, her research was still ongoing. We are more than happy to make her our ally and to include the answers that she gets, in our own research. The social media side of our campaign was a success because it allowed people to share, discuss and open up about the cases of VAW that they personally went through. Many people who did engage with our social media content (comments, retweets etc.) reflected the fact that perpetrators should be revealed and that victims should speak up about it. However, majority of them was not too convinced that ISPs will do anything about this topic any time soon. “Money is the driving force for ISPs; they do not have time to care for things such as human rights and protection of girls and women” stated in one of the comments. On the other hand, we have to commit more time to raising awareness throughout the year and make people talk about it.

When it comes to police authorities, we made a useful leaflet with all of the important information about VAW and ICTs, our contacts and our map. Since many girls and women are going to police to report violence through ICTs, we wanted to give them a plan B, in case there is nothing that police can do for them (which is still the case). At the time of writing this, we are still waiting for police authorities of Sarajevo to confirm that we can leave these materials in all local stations.

Until then, we made sure to have a short video with all the information in the center of the city, on a LED screen of a shopping mall. Also we made sure to have a visible “Is virtual real enough to you?” commercial on local TV station.

Our campaign ended on July 25, which we incorporated with the global initiative Orange day and held a workshop with one of the strongest activist youth organizations “KULT” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their activists were thrilled to share their own ideas about the topic and give possible solutions for the situation of ICTs and violence against women in our country. They all agreed that our schools lack educational courses on the topic and pointed out the unwillingness of ISPs to engage in the conversations about this topic.

However, ISPs are still quiet. As we have been told, lack of possibility to meet with them during the week of campaign is because majority of relevant people that would meet with us are on their holiday breaks. By the time our campaign ended, our main ISP launched its own campaign with big billboards with its logo and a simple quote “Everything starts from 1. August. Are you ready?” promoting a new product. We could not help but daydream that some day soon, with all the struggle and efforts, we will see the same question in the context of new policies that ISP providers will have reflecting on VAW and prevention of violence.

Yes, we are absolutely ready to fight the battle against VAW through ICTs, but why are you not, is the question?

Belma Kučukalić is the new media and communications coordinator at OneWorld-Platform for Southeast Europe (OWPSEE).

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