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Internet's Future 7 August 2019

Working Together for an Internet for Women

Angelica Contreras
By Angelica ContrerasGuest Author

How can we get more girls and young women involved in the Internet?

Since 2017, the Internet Society’s Women SIG has developed global actions to promote gender equality and to develop digital skills and leadership among girls and young women.

With the support of several Chapters of the Internet Society, we’ve organized global face-to-face and virtual events on security and privacy issues focused on girls and women. But this work can’t be done alone, which is why we’ve promoted collaboration within organizations, government, civil society, companies, academia, and the technical community to organize events that have a positive impact on the Internet community. (We also collaborate with EQUALS Global Partnership.)

This year, to commemorate the International Day of Girls in ICT, promoted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which aims to reduce the digital gender gap and to encourage and motivate girls to participate in tech careers, we organized a series of workshops focused on digital skills for girls. The main node was organized in conjunction with the Internet Society Chapter in Guatemala and the Spain Cultural Center in Guatemala.

We also had a global celebration in El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Hong Kong, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Armenia, Nigeria, and Ghana. We brought together 11 countries, with 13 activities to inspire girls and young women to study, participate in the Internet, and meet women who work in these areas – to see them as inspiration and examples to follow.

But our work hasn’t stopped there.

 IGFem: Initiatives By and For Women

The IGFem emerged by and for women. It’s a space to learn, share, and reflect on how women strategize to be safe on the Internet. It’s been organized in Mexico in Guadalajara (2016 and 2017), Mexico City (2018), Aguascalientes (2019) and, for the first time, in Central America in Guatemala (April, 2019). We’re now extending this initiative to the Global South.

FemHackParty: Hacking the Latin American Community

We’ve also organized the 2nd FemHackPartyLAC. In August we’ll be in La Paz, Bolivia, promoting the initiatives of women and the Internet in the region. This year we want to highlight the work, the struggle – and how it relates at local level.

We’ve identified the challenges we must overcome, even in 2019, so that more girls, young adults, and women can become more involved in Internet use, creation, and leadership – and so that they can reach their full professional and personal potential.

For example, the challenges women face in accessing and browsing the Internet safely vary according to their local context. However, we have realized that women need tools and information to help them protect themselves online. It is not a legal issue, it is how they can access digital tools to ensure their Internet security.

In addition, there is a need not only to create, but to maintain these spaces in the medium and long term. One of the main challenges is to attract more stakeholders from the Internet ecosystem to support the continuity of such events in their countries.

The Internet came to be thanks to a spirit of openness and collaboration. Now we need more people in the Internet community to help women take a greater role in shaping its future. We invite you to join women to build spaces where women feel safe – able to speak and express their ideas, opinions, and fears without restrictions – so that we can make the Internet a open for all. We must consider the reality of women and encourage bottom-up approaches instead of top-down initiatives. We can’t do this work alone!

Let’s go from “connecting via cables” to having a feminist gaze – and helping women take their rightful place in the digital space.

Ready to make a difference? Join a Special Interest Group!

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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