The Bachchao Project at Rightscon 2019

Members of The Bachchao Project spoke at two sessions at RightsCon held in Tunis, Tunisia from June 11 to 14, 2019.

 

“Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”, Rightscon 2019

We are publishing the plan for our Rightscon session entitled “Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”.

Details: https://rightscon2019.sched.com/event/Pvrh/studying-the-impact-of-shutdowns-from-the-lens-of-gender-conflict-and-ethnicity, Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5.15 pm to 6.30 pm, Hannibal, Laico Hotel, Tunis.

Speakers: Rohini Lakshané (also facilitator), Jan Rydzak, Unnamed speaker

Chatham House rules apply.

Main goal of the session: To equip the audience with skills and knowledge about devising studies on intentional Internet shutdowns while factoring in the intersections of gender, conflict-strained geographies and ethnicity. We would like the audience to be able to modify and adapt the study for their contexts and employ the lessons for the workshop for research or advocacy or both.

Description: A skill-building and knowledge-sharing workshop for activists and researchers who are investigating the impact of intentional Internet shutdowns from the lenses of gender, ethnicity and conflict. The methodology and the complete research report are available at: http://thebachchaoproject.org/of-sieges-and-shutdowns

We would elucidate on the methodology we employed in an exploratory study in northeast India in late 2017 about the impact of shutdowns on the lives of women entrepreneurs and feminist activists belonging to India’s ethnic minorities. We carried out qualitative interviews with 16 women residing in different districts of the state of Manipur. The activists in the control group and their organisations work in different areas of empowerment of women and girls: relief for victims of domestic abuse, increasing the number of women in governance, economic independence of women, and child trafficking. Some of them also run small or medium businesses.

Awareness of digital rights, cybersecurity and online privacy in the state is little, leaving citizens vulnerable. This intersection of gender and ethnicity is further complicated due to the suspension of civil rights in the region since the 1980s. Owing to the complexity of the topic, an individual directly affected by the shutdowns in Manipur would start the session with an introduction of the demographic and the region. Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project would then speak about the research methodology, its evolution through the course of the project, and the differentiators from other interdisciplinary and qualitative studies on shutdowns, while trying to achieve a level of abstraction high enough for the methodology to be applicable to other, similar demographics and regions. Jan Rydzak, Associate Director for Program, Standford Global Digital Policy Incubator, would follow by speaking about the research methodology he employed in the quantitative study “Of Blackouts and bandhs: The strategy and structure of disconnected protest in India“. The study examines how structural and strategic characteristics affect collective action responses during a network shutdown in an extreme case via statistical analysis.

The Bachchao Project featured in RightsCon Community Voices series

The Bachchao Project was recently featured in the RightsCon Community voices series: https://www.accessnow.org/community-voices-the-bachchao-project-fights-for-gender-rights-online

Community Voices: The Bachchao Project fights for gender rights online

28 August 2018 | 2:29 pm | Nikki Gladstone

CC-BY 2018 accessnow.org

The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective working at the intersection of technology and gender rights. Chinmayi S K, a computer science engineer by training, is the founder of the project, which she started in recognition of her own experiences developing and using technologies that do not reflect the needs of women and queer individuals online.

“There has always been a gap between those who produce technology and those who use it,” says Chinmayi. When that gap exists, and technological innovations do not represent or consult users, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, they risk coding existing discriminatory biases into tools that do not serve everyone.

The India-based organization works with what they call “both ends of the spectrum”: technologists and users. Both groups, Chinmayi acknowledges, struggle. Technologists face difficulties understanding the on-the-ground reality of user groups, while users new to technology lack the support needed to navigate these innovations. The Bachchao Project seeks to bridge the two, under the overarching mission of equal rights for women, gender minorities, and LGBTQIA persons.

Since the team is made up of both technologists and human rights defenders, they’re able to deconstruct technological concepts while simultaneously understanding the needs of different communities. They also rely on concerned individuals to build circles of trust within their communities and pave the way for impactful interventions.

Despite this, they face ongoing challenges in the work they do. The tendency for organizations to work in silos makes it difficult for them to get buy-in for an approach that seeks to promote collaboration. In some cases, it can be difficult to get organizations not only to consider seriously principles of diversity and inclusion, but also to integrate them in their work and tools.

For the Bachchao Project, RightsCon is an opportunity to confront those challenges head-on, in a space that thrives because of engagement and strategy building across sectors and disciplines. At RightsCon Toronto, the team released its latest publication, Of Sieges and Shutdowns, a report detailing how unreliable mobile networks and intentional internet shutdowns affect women activists and entrepreneurs in the economically underdeveloped and conflict-ridden state of Manipur, India. The project is a starting point for understanding the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by women in the region.

Learn more about the Bachchao Project on their website or follow them on Twitter, and get in touch directly if you are interested in volunteering or collaborating with The Bachchao Project on one of their initiatives.

The Bachchao Project at RightsCon 2018

Members of The Bachchao Project spoke at five different sessions at RightsCon held in Toronto, Canada from May 16 to 18, 2018.