Monday, November 15, 2010

Technology, Gender and Violence!! Break the Silence.

As I anxiously wait to join the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV) from 25 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 whose regional theme is "Engaging Faith-based Communities to Prevent Violence against Women" focusing on how our faiths and faith-based communities can (and should!) get involved in preventing violence against women, I can’t help think of the millions of mothers, sisters, Aunties and nieces who have been violated yet still remain helpless and silent despite the growing opportunities and improved technology which can help them break the silence through sharing and reporting.


According to a Ugandan psychologist Paul Nyende violence ranges from Physical, Emotional, Economic and financial. In physical abuse, usually physical force against someone is used meaning that sexual abuse fits in this. A signs of this, is being viewed as a sex object or property rather than a human being. Whereas in emotional abuse, the abuser attacks the victim’s spirit by eating away their feelings of self-worth and independence making the victim feel trapped and worthless. Signs of emotional abuse are humiliation, being yelled at and teased in a hurtful way both privately and publicly, Verbal insults and calling you names against your will as well as using threats.

The financial abuse which is usually ignored by many, involves the abuser controlling their victim financially; the signs include monitoring one’s account for every penny spent, not letting you get on with your career or sabotaging you at your place of work.
MAJOR TACTICS USED BY ABUSERS.
Dominance: This is used so that the abuser is in charge of the relationship.

Humiliation: This is to make the Victim feel bad about him/herself.

Isolation: This is to increase the victim’s dependence on the abuser.

Threats: To scare the victim into staying with the abuser

Intimidation: To make the victim submit to the abuser’s will, this involved denial and placing blame to push into excusing the inexcusable.


AND WHO BREAKS THE SILENCE?
With the emergence of New Media and Technology, it is now evident that the power of the media is in the hands of the people. The only issue is how this power is being used to create positive social change in regard to combating Gender Based Violence. Web 2.0 technologies have given people the power of real time reporting, networking and receiving timely information, but how many people have the technical know-how of using them? Then the mobile phones whose subscription in Africa alone has surpassed five million http://ht.ly/37Ks7 and powerful penetration to the rural communities and can be used to combat gender based violence, How many people use up to 50% of the mobile phone application/functionality? How many are aware that it combines text, video and Audio?

Many people have mentioned to me that you get more knowledge by asking many questions. I am desperate to learn from you the readers of this article.
I conclude by quoting one man from Eastern Uganda who once said that: “For every bullet that hits a man during war kills a Woman’s Child”
Gender based violence is real and it affects all of us, some directly and others indirectly. But the good news is that it’s within our power to end it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And who said that Gender does not matter in social Change?

“We are tired of hearing about Gender, What’s wrong with you Women?”

These are some of the words that many people echo when you mention GENDER. As if gender means WOMEN!

As I attend the Digital Natives: My bubbles, My space and My Voice workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, I cannot stop thinking about yesterday’s morning session on “Keyword paring”. This was an exercise that required each participant to describe their practices, policies and ideologies in one word which would be paired up with another participant’s one word description to form a topic of discussion.
Thinking about what describes me best and my ideologies was very easy, however, I had one problem; I came up with two words instead of the required one word. The words were GENDER + COMMUNITY
The first participant I attracted was Mr. James Mlambo the founder of Cyber Gateway in Zimbabwe who had the word INCLUSION, he was interested in pairing it up with my word COMMUNITY. We both agreed on having the words merged to come up with “COMMUNITY INCLUSION”. Our focus of discussion, in relation to our subject then centered on the marginalized and disadvantaged members of the community who are many, a times ignored in projects meant to benefit communities. These are; Youth, Children and Women. It was surprising that, this group of people make up the biggest percentage of many communities yet they are the most marginalized. We asked ourselves how to make sure that there is total inclusion and participation from all the members of the community without discrimination based on age, gender or political ideologies. And the answer was in linking technology to development.

Next was a participant with the word EQUALITY, Manal Hassan from the Arab Techie Network wanted her word EQUALITY merged with My GENDER to make GENDER EQUALITY. To many people, this does not sound new but as a team we looked at it from a technology perspective. We realized that Gender influences the dynamics of any society and that there is a digital divide when it comes to technology. One Gender (Male) is more dominant over another Gender (Female) in terms of Access, use and application of Technology. Of course several factors like perception, negative cultural practices and social cultural effects are responsible for this but our interest was in directing technology for younger generations not to use it just for the sake of it but rather relating it to development.
And finally Mr. Piadamoyo Muzulu from Padare/Men’s forum on Gender and the commercial Farmers Union(CFU) came in with REVOLUTIONARY and wanted it merged with my GENDER. We focused on ‘Deconstructing Masculinity’ and why the work of women as a gender is not quantified. According to him, the only way to empower women is through liberating their minds. The underlying questions is:
Does gender really matter when creating social change?

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