The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective that undertakes community-centric efforts to develop and support open source technologies and technical frameworks with the goals of mitigating gender-based violence and working towards equal rights for women, LGBTQIA people, and gender non-conforming groups. We conduct research and advocacy in all the above areas and guide communities in determining appropriate technological interventions for themselves.
Rohini Lakshané moderated a session entitled “The gendered impact of intentional Internet shutdowns” at the Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF) on 5 May 2021. The speakers were Felicia Anthonio (Access Now), Sandra Aceng (Women of Uganda Network), Deborah Brown (Human Rights Watch) and Zaituni Njovu (Zaina Foundation).
Description: Women, gender-diverse persons, and marginalised sections of society have been using the internet to overcome the obstacles posed by an imbalance of power and social restrictions. Internet shutdowns, a tool increasingly used by governments across the world, are depriving these populations of access to the ways in which the internet acts as a leveller. Our panelists represent researchers, advocacy, and policy groups exploring the impact of intentional internet shutdowns on women and gender-diverse persons in communities across Africa. They will speak from the perspectives of free and fair elections, cybersecurity, freedom of speech, and expression and digital rights, and discuss coping strategies these populations use when they are digitally disconnected.
Rohini Lakshané was a panelist at the event “Digital Speech, Disinformation, Censorship: Social Media and Democracy” organised by Tufts University and held on 23 February 2021. The panel was a part of the “Critical Times, Critical Thinkers” series of talks held by Tufts Global Education.
Description: “This panel will explore the role of digital technology as social experimentation, the controversial role of Big Tech in policing and censoring speech, and provide a dynamic discussion about EU regulation of Big Tech and the lack of it in the US. Special attention will be paid to exploring differences in the impact of these practices in the Global North and Global South, particularly the ways in which these practices may support rather than challenge authoritarian regimes in the Global South (e.g. India and Myanmar). Each speaker will offer 5 minute introductory remarks followed by a moderated discussion among all participants. Questions from the public are welcome!”
Rohini Lakshané, Director, Emerging Research, The Bachchao Project, Mysuru, India
Manuela Kasper-Claridge, Editor in Chief, Deutsche Welle, Berlin, Germany
Adam Moe Fejerskov, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies
Moderator: Josephine Wolff, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Policy, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Early this summer The Bachchao Project contacted Localization Lab to propose a localization sprint (with the support of DataMeet and Random Hacks of Kindness India) to address the language accessibility needs of users in India, particularly those of women and marginalized groups. With regular occurrences of online harassment, censorship, surveillance, internet throttling and all out shutdowns regularly occurring in India, The Bachchao Project selected a set of four tools to localize which would provide everyday users and human rights defenders alike with a basic digital security suite:
Safe Sisters (developed in Uganda by Defend Defenders and Internews for women and girls) was selected because it is one of few digital safety guides developed for women in the Global South, by women in the Global South. The guide was developed not only with a focus on the unique needs and concerns of internet users who are women, but also with an understanding of the different circumstances and constraints faced by users outside of Europe and North America.
Signal was chosen as an easy-to-use and already widely adopted messaging tool whose adoption could be increased through being made available in more local Indian languages (other than Hindi).
Psiphon was chosen as a secure and reliable circumvention tool which The Bachchao Project has successfully used in many environments (including low-bandwidth) in India and which is easy-to-use for new users.
Tella was selected as one of the only secure, open source and easy-to-use mobile documentation tools available. Human rights documenters in India are in need of an straight-forward tool that will allow them to document quickly from a mobile device and will work well through internet shutdowns and in low-bandwidth environments.
Often the assumption is that localization into Hindi or English will suffice for users across India. Most users do in fact access tech in Hindi or English, however neither is the first language of the majority of the population. While users are able to generally navigate mobile phones and desktops in a second language, they do not necessarily understand how these technologies work, the privacy and security risks associated with them, and tactics for accessing the open internet. To address this, the India Localization Sprint focused on localization into local languages other than Hindi, however not fully excluding it from the event.
While India and the rest of the world continue to struggle through a global health crisis, there is a need to collaborate, convene and build networks in safe ways. In order to achieve the lofty goals of localizing 4 digital security resources into a number of languages, The Bachchao Project and Localization Lab organized a virtual localization sprint to take place over the course of 2 weekends. The India Localization Sprint was hosted in 7-hour blocks with tool demos, localization discussion and collaboration as well as feedback and Q&A sessions with the developers and creators of the resources.
The sprint was widely advertised throughout November and received a total of 26 signups.
The first weekend of the India Localization Sprint launched on the last weekend of November with localization of the Safe Sisters Digital Safety Guide for Women and Girls and Psiphon for Android.
The first day of the event focused on the localization of Safe Sisters into Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Konkani, Tamil, Manipuri and Assamese with a group of 13 attendees. Safe Sisters was highlighted for localization by The Bachchao Project (a techno-feminist collective serving women and gender minorities) because not only is it a guide developed by women for women, but it is one of the very few guides developed by women in the “Global South” and not form a European or North American perspective. The digital safety guide not only addresses women and girls and their unique digital safety needs, but originally developed for a Ugandan and East African audience, it keeps regional constraints in mind, many of which overlap with those faced by Indian users.
Helen Nyinakiiza from Defend Defenders joined us from Kampala, Uganda to start the sprint with an introduction to Safe Sisters and an overview of the unique approach used to create the guide – engaging a group of about 10 regional collaborators to communally develop the resource. The attendees then read through the full Safe Sisters guide in small groups, keeping an eye out for elements of the guide that would need to be added/removed/changed to make it most relevant for Indian audiences. Once consensus was reached over any changes and the groups had reviewed and solidified translation of key terminology used throughout the guides, participants dove into translating the guides in small groups by language. By the end of the event the Safe Sisters Guide was fully translated into Marathi, and Malayalam, with Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Tamil, Manipuri and Assamese translations still in progress.
The second day of the sprint focused on localization of Psiphon for Android into Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam with a group of 9 attendees. The event began with a presentation and Q&A with Keith McManamen of Psiphon who overviewed Psiphon, how it works and differs from other circumvention tools and most importantly, how Psiphon has been used in India in a period of increasing internet throttling and censorship. Psiphon was selected by The Bachchao Project for localization because a secure circumvention tool that is easy-to-use is essential in today’s India, a country which has had over 450 individual internet shutdown events in addition to long-term regional internet throttling. The Bachchao Project wanted a tool that would be usable and free for users in India, but would also be open source, not log identifying user information, and would actually work in India with differing regional internet connectivity.
After a meaningful presentation and Q&A with Psiphon, the day’s participants spent an hour overviewing a long list of technical terminology used throughout the Psiphon application. Prior to localizing the Psiphon Android app itself, participants worked in small groups – using resources like the Microsoft Terminology, Fuel terminology and Localization Lab Glossaries – to ensure all of the technical terms were understood and had agreed upon translations. By the end of the day, Psiphon for Android had been fully translated into Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam.
The second weekend of the India Localization Sprint focused on localization of Tella and Signal, both for Android.
Day one launched with an in-depth live demo of Tella from Raphael Mimoun of the Horizontal team (developers of Tella), sharing how Tella has been useful for defenders around the world. Tella has the capability of securely collecting and storing audio, video and forms for documentation and reporting. Raphael overviewed all of Tella’s features and then fielded questions from participants about how Tella would work in an Indian context. The Bachchao Project chose Tella because it is a useful documentation tool for defenders and journalists alike and participants were particularly pleased to hear about Tella’s icon “camouflage” feature and ability to work offline and with low-bandwidth. Raphael also shared more in-depth information about how form templates can be created using tools like KoBoToolbox in order to deploy surveys with Tella.
After the demo and Q&A, participants again reviewed the glossary to be sure that relevant technical terms were first understood and translated and then the group of 8 attendees dove into translation of Tella for Android into Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam and Tamil. By the end of the event Tella was translated fully into Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil with translations into Marathi and Hindi in progress.
The Last day of the India Localization Sprint was focused on Signal. Signal is a popular secure communication application used all over India and the Signal team has recently focused on translations into Indian Languages. The Bachchao Project wanted to support this effort further by updating and contributing to existing translations. As for other tools, the first goal for the Signal sprint was to review key technical terms and make sure that they were solidified in the glossary. Unlike with other projects which had no prior translations, the participants utilized features in the Transifex (the translation platform) to review existing translations and make sure the glossary was consistent with prior translations and highlight inconsistencies. Overall, 11 translators joined to contribute to Singal Android translations into Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam and Tamil and by the end of the day, significant progress had been made updating the Android app across all of the languages with Malayalam and Tamil almost 100% updated.
To end the day and the India Localization Sprint, Riya from Signal Group joined the event to answer questions from the attendees about Signal Groups and other upcoming new features, and – maybe most importantly – Signal’s plans for increasing outreach and adoption of Signal in India.
After four days of collaboration contributors fully translated or made significant progress across all four projects, and we are now looking for volunteers to help us finish the effort. Are you interested in helping translate or review one of the following projects? Contact us!
The Bachchao Project is looking forward to using Safe Sisters to train its partners. As a part of that effort they are looking to share the completed guides in 2021 in open access and set up training calls for its partners. The Safe Sisters guides need some more translations for this to be possible.
The Psiphon team will be deploying the translations that are ready in Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, and Kannada with a forthcoming update of Psiphon Android (date TBA). In the meantime, translators and reviewers can also sideload this version to be able to check the translations in-context, by selecting the relevant language under Options > More Options > Language or by setting their device language accordingly. Language setting instructions can be found here.
Translation Needed: Kannada
Review Needed: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi
Tella will be deploying the translations in four languages – Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi – once all strings are translated and reviewed in these four languages.
Translation Needed: Hindi, Marathi
Review Needed: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi
The translations provided for Signal are automatically included in bi-weekly (sometimes less frequent) builds. There are more strings that need translation in Signal. The Signal team has also created teams for Assamese and Manipuri in Transifex which were previously unavailable for translators.
Translation Needed: Hindi, Marathi
Review Needed: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi
Note: This blog post has been jointly written and published by The Bachchao Project and Localization Lab
Rohini Lakshané was one of the speakers at the Roundtable on Internet Shutdowns organised by the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) and Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) on November 11, 2020. The roundtable was a part of Technology and Society Series hosted by SFLC and the Centre for Software & Information Technology Management at IIM-B. Details of the event: https://www.iimb.ac.in/index.php/iimb-csitm-host-internet-shutdowns
The other speakers at the roundtable were Prof. Rajeev Gowda, former Member of Parliament and former faculty, IIM Bangalore; Anuradha Bhasin, Editor, Kashmir Times; and Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, SFLC. Prof. Neena Pandey, faculty, IIM Visakhapatnam moderated the session.
Rohini Lakshané co-moderated a session entitled “Not “revenge porn”: New trends in non-consensual intimate imagery in Uganda & the role of digital security” at RightsCon Online. The session was held on July 28, 2020. The speakers were Sandra Aceng and Patricia Nyasuna of the Women of the Uganda Network, Judith Heard (Founder, Day One Uganda), and Joan Katambi (Assistant Lecturer, Uganda Institute of ICT). Peace Oliver Amuge (Program Manager, Women of Uganda Network) was a co-moderator.
In the wake of certain recent events, The Bachchao Project (hereinafter “TBP”) has been compelled to publish this disclaimer regarding a talk made by an erstwhile contractor of TBP at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on 13 November 2018. A video of the talk is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nXB9if23Oo. The erstwhile contractor Ms Raashi Saxena has spoken for approximately 1 minutes 48 seconds from the time 33:50 to 35:38 in this video.
The talk is part of a panel discussion entitled “Impact of supplementary models of connectivity in enabling meaningful Internet access for women and gender non-binary persons”. It was delivered by Ms Saxena who represented TBP at this specific session as well as the rest of the IGF 2018. The talk was a part of IGF Best Practices Forum (Gender and Access) 2018. Her trip to the IGF was funded by TBP.
Ms Saxena was terminated from The Bachchao Project on 12 July 2019.
The contents of Ms Saxena’s talk are either half-correct or factually incorrect or misleading and portray our work as being of poor quality. In light of certain recent events, we are now publishing this public disclaimer that we do not approve of the contents of this talk. This talk is not a true reflection of the organisation’s research, advocacy and capacity-building efforts on intentional Internet shutdowns and access to the Internet in the northeast, which we have been doing since late 2017. This talk also does not reflect the tenacity, rigour and diligence that people at TBP bring to their work, and in which we take great pride.
Unfortunately, this talk has been referenced on several online pages, most of which were published after the former contractor’s affiliation with TBP had ended and in violation of the terms of her exit. Some of them have been listed below. On account of the disclaimer published above, these references are a misrepresentation of our organisation and its work:
“Through serving as a panelist at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, Raashi has also been a strong voice for women in North East India, helping them with network accessibility issues and fighting against Internet Shutdowns faced by those living rurally.”
“Raashi has been a speaker at several international forums such as UN Internet Governance Forum… for her contributions in the Internet Governance space. Her capacity building & advocacy efforts in the North East region of India have helped rural women fight against Internet Shutdowns.”
Rohini Lakshané delivered a talk on “Usability and privacy issues in government-issued Covid-19 apps in India” on June 22, 2020. The talk was organised by Thus Critique and Hasgeek and moderated by Nishthaa Manchanda.
About the talk: A slew of mobile apps were released by different government bodies in India as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak. State and Union Territory (UT) governments released apps for the purposes of quarantine management, ensuring compliance to quarantine rules, providing healthcare information and updates, and so on. Public health being a subject on the State List, the federal governments were the first to respond to the outbreak with technical interventions, much before the Aarogya Setu app was released. While Aarogya Setu has received much attention, the apps issued by state and UT governments in India have posed their own technical, privacy and usability issues. In this talk, Rohini Lakshané will speak about her findings from a preliminary analysis of approximately twenty government-issued Covid-19 apps from the perspective of privacy and usability of the end-user and will take the audience through a brief timeline of their deployment and subsequent events.
A breakout session entitled “No Woman, No Panic: Public Safety Tech, Women’s Agency, and Privacy” was held at the Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF), a virtual conference held on May 6, 2020. The speakers were Rohini Lakshané (The Bachchao Project), Chinmayi S K (The Bachchao Project) and Kate Sim (PhD Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute). The session was moderated by Dr Becky Faith, Research Fellow & Digital Cluster Lead, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK.
The session elucidated on the efficacy, evaluation, and audit of technological interventions such as mobile apps and panic buttons for public safety and their impact on women’s agency and privacy.
Rohini Lakshané moderated a breakout session entitled “Holistic security strategies to address non-consensual intimate images” at the Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF), a virtual conference held on May 6, 2020. The speakers at this session were Peace Oliver Amuge, Sandra Aceng and Patricia Nyasuna of the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).
This session elucidated on some of the recommended strategies and measures for holistic security (digital, physical, and psychosocial) that women and no-binary persons may adopt in order to recognise and prevent incidents of non-consensual intimate images (NCII), commonly known by the misnomer “revenge porn”.