Blog

The Magic Slate Aug. 13, 2013, 7:20 a.m.

The Magic Slate

Summary :

Teaching leaders of women collectives in sex work to use ICT

Why this is important and you should support it too!

Our experience of training grassroots activists to use technology and the internet has always proven that access to information and means to connect to like-minded people and the world is powerful. Though it may not always be as earth shattering as an Arab Spring, it can be a catalyst to change.

Says Sumathi, a dalit rights activist, “I used to be scared to use the computer... this training that 

I have received, is not just for me, but is as good as teaching the members of all the 100 villages in my area.” In the video below, she speaks of how she has used some of her training and plans to use new things she learnt at our workshop. https://vimeo.com/69674913

When Samraksha asked us to do a training with women in sex work that will help them use technology and the internet, in their struggle to speak out about violence and to keep themselves safe, we knew it would mean the world to them.

Samraksha began work with women in sex work, in North Karnataka, in 1993, to create awareness and safety against transmission of diseases, to empower them to keep themselves safe from exploitation and to come together to lead change. Fifty five women leaders emerged that now head collectives that ensure safety and protection from disease and exploitation to other women in sex work, and even literacy classes for women in sex work and tuition for their children. Samraksha is now taking them through a course that will help build skills and further empower these women to lead change in their community and family. This includes providing counselling, improving language skills and, where we come in, building skills in internet and technology-based communication.

Samraksha and Mahiti have partnered to enable these 55 leaders to use technology and access information and contribute to dialogue that they have so far been completely cut off from.

Read more about Samraksha: http://www.samraksha.org/html/about_us.html

The programme will provide the women leaders with tablets - The Magic Slates, as they are more receptive to mobile usage and have low level language skills. The women will then be taken through a four month long programme that will include face-to-face training sessions, weekly online discussions and activities that are aimed at ensuring the women understand the the internet, and develop their own content and space to communicate, network and be heard.

When we met the group to introduce them to laptops and tablet devices, one woman said, “These devices are usually found in the hands of 'big people with important jobs', not people like us. When we begin to start using devices, people are going to take notice and look at us also with the same respect.”

We believe that owning technology and skills will make them better leaders – strengthen their communications, network better within their women collectives, respond to problems with real-time access to information, give voice to their hopes and dreams and most importantly, build confidence in their ability to lead change.

Says one woman leader, “We are part of other protests and movements in our community, whether it be for water or land. We want everyone to be part of ours, to recognise that an assault on one of us, is an assault on women.”

We invite you to join us in supporting this project and be part of contributing to change where most others would avoid since it addresses the dark underbelly that exists in our society. Support us to buy tablets that costs Rs 9000 each and to cover expenses of travel for trainers and participants.

Contact me, trupti.chengalath@mahiti.org for more details.