From Imagination to Action: In Latin America, Building the Internet That Women Want Thumbnail
Internet Governance 6 September 2018

From Imagination to Action: In Latin America, Building the Internet That Women Want

Angelica Contreras
By Angelica ContrerasGuest Author

In 1843, Ada Lovelace published “Sketch of the analytical engine invented by Charles Babbage” in the book Scientific Memoirs. But because of her “condition” as a woman she, like many women who were pioneers in their time, was forgotten by history. Women could not access education or the sciences and, for that reason, history forgot them, just as we forgot that many women were mothers of the Internet.

“History drove us out of the digital industry, we stopped being important and a male industry was created.”
– Kemly Camacho, Sula Batsú

Every day many people ask us, where are the women? Why don’t they participate? I tell them to look at the immense number of initiatives that women are doing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

With the cold of Buenos Aires, between its tall buildings and its warm people, our friends at the Tierra Violeta Cultural Center received us after four months of planning the FemHackParty LAC. In December 2016, at the Internet Governance Forum that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, we organized with a group of women the first FemHackParty, within the framework of 16 days of activism against violence against women. We had the chance to learn about different regional initiatives that fight to reduce violence against women on the Internet.

Years later, inspired by women’s movements in Latin America – with its epicenter in Argentina – and in the framework of the 11th Preparatory Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum of Latin America and the Caribbean (LACIGF) in Buenos Aires, we organized the 2nd FemHackPartyLAC. The event was planned with the Association for the Progress of Communications (APC) and the Argentine Chapter of the Internet Society.

August 1st was the most feminist day in the LACIGF. In the morning we started with the LACIGFem Meeting, a space that aimed to bring together organizations and institutions that are carrying out actions to empower women in the tech ecosystem. This was the second year in a row of this event, as every year we ask the Organizing Committee of LACIGF to give us a space in the agenda to discuss gender issues.

What are we doing?

In numbers, women’s participation during the LACIGF11: 48% female panelists, 76% of Committee scholarships to women, and equal participation (174 women and 174 men).

“This year, the gender focus has not been so marked in the speeches, there was a lack of gender perspective in the sessions, but I do believe that there has been quite a balance in the face-to-face and virtual participation. It’s encouraging to see that there are activities that are being done in parallel to the meeting by groups of women and that they have a framework around the Internet.”
– Dafne Sabanes Plou, APC

Eight in the morning and coffee in hand, the question was posed: What actions are we implementing to reduce the gender gap and increase the participation of women?

In the LACIGFem meeting we had a very diverse group of participants: Olga Cavalli from ISOC Argentina, Daphne Plou from APC, Kemly Camacho from Sula Batsú, Carolina Caeiro from LACNIC, Alexandra Dans from ICANN, Yacine Khelladi from Alliance for an Affordable Internet (A4AI), Paula Ferrari of GSMA and topic chair of the W20 digital inclusion group, and Angeles Ayala of Women in STEM, Future Leaders.

We explored how women are not well integrated into the digital economy and how to involve them so that they become producers and not just consumers.

“We do not just want to be workers in the digital industry, we want to be creators.”
– Kemly Camacho, Sula Batsú

As it was highlighted in the session, we must move to a real gender perspective that involves women not only in speeches but also in decision-making processes, promoting the creation of public policies, and involving new generations. It is necessary to create resources, goals, and objectives, but we also need to know where, when, and how to do it and for that we need to know what is happening in our regions.

“We need to move from declaration to action: To Latin American women I’d like to tell them to apply to all the positions that there are. Don’t be afraid because if we do not show ourselves nobody chooses us.”
– Olga Cavalli

We hacked the LACIGF.

The FemHackPartyLAC program had an hour and a half of activities. We had 19 initiatives and more participation from women. We started by reading a letter from our colleague Rosalia Viñas, an activist who lives in Cuba and was not allowed to leave the country to participate in the LACIGF. The party lasted for 3 hours, while we shared sweets and beers.

“At the beginning we started by imaging a feminist Internet and now we are making a feminist Internet.”
– Dafne Sabanes Plou

Marianne Diaz, Maricarmen Sequera, Daniela Pardo, Estefania, Amalia Toledo, Maritza Sanchez, Juliana Soto, Nancy Reyes, Sara Fratti, Fabiana Pineda, Marieliv Flores, Marina Benitez, Kemly Camacho, Mariela Reiman, Daphne Plou, Jeannette Torres, Linda Garcia – and all the women who were not present but are taking actions to achieve a feminist Internet in Latin America – were there with us.

Global and multistakeholder efforts were also mentioned and the EQUALS Global Partnership, a multistakeholder initiative that seeks to reduce the gender gap in technology, gave us a framework for the discussion. (The Internet Society recently joined EQUALS as a partner.)

Learn about all the initiatives presented.

For years we’ve made visible the concerns and inequities in the construction of Internet and technology: how we must take firm steps, take actions for ourselves, and start thinking about building and creating the Internet that women want.

“The patriarchal system itself must begin to give in and understand that this is a real struggle for our rights. It seems that to speak of a gender perspective on the Internet is to put women to talk and that is not a real gender perspective”
– Marina Benítez Demtschenko.

As we can’t do this work alone, we, as the Internet Society Women’s Special Interest Group (SIG Women) organized these activities to join efforts. We are committed to building a network with women from all over the Internet ecosystem because we must work together if we want to achieve an Internet for all.

Want to help close the digital gender gap? Join SIG Women!

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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