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eWIT Prajnya joint event held on 9th, 2013 at Alumni Club - Anna University

Digital Media, Gender Violence, Privacy and Freedom
A Panel Discussion

The event was conducted jointly by eWIT & Prajnya.  This was conducted as part of Prajnya’s 16 days campaign against Gender Violence.  The panel speakers were Ms Gayatri Buragohain, Founder, Feminist Approach to Technology, Ms Harini Calamur, Head, Digital Content, Zee Media Group and Dr. Anja Kovacs, Director, Internet Democracy Project moderated by Ms. Kalyani Narayanan from eWIT.

The event started with Ms. Swarna from Prajnya introducing Prajnya and its tie-up with eWIT.  Ms. Kalyani Narayanan gave a brief introduction about eWIT and its work towards women empowerment through workshops, events, etc.

Ms. Kalyani Narayanan went on to introduce the speakers and the topic of the event.

Ms Harini defined digital media as any personal device such as tablets, laptops, mobile phones, etc. where information can be seen and sent via internet / phone.

She suggested using digital media to stop violence instead of creating violence.  Gender violence is not because of digital media.  Even in older days, when there was no mass media or digital media existed, gender violence was prevalent (Example : The epic Mahabharta describes the violence caused to Draupathi, and even as recent as 20th century, there was violence committed on women such as child widows. 

By using the digital media effectively, one can change the attitude of the society and stop violence.  She went on to say that Television programs where women are portrayed as housewives who constantly sacrifice their needs for the needs of the family get better viewership than those where women are portrayed as bold and successful outside the family. 

The attitude of the society can be stopped by constantly (and creatively), celebrating women on the digital media.  Both men and women need to take part in this.  For example, a male telling on the media that he is a proud father of two daughters will reinforce against female infanticide or feticides.

Especially it is a lot less expensive to showcase even real life stories on digital media such a male or a female telling / sharing their personal life stories would be a great way to change attitudes.

You are likely to get more people to support you in digital media than in real person because of certain anonymity that exists in the digital media.

Therefore, use the digital media to change attitudes thus transforming the society.

Next, Ms. Gayatri Buragohain shared her thoughts on the subject.  In the IT field, the work involves a lot of team work and communication among the team members.  Working women spent more time at work than at home.  Therefore, it is but natural where complications related to gender violation would occur.

Not only women are experiencing new challenges by entering into work place, the men also are finding it difficult to adjust to an environment where they are no longer the sole bread winners. 

She felt the percentage of women taking up IT as career are very less compared to other fields as the reason may be the prevailing gender bias in IT field.  May be it is not the personal issues that make women fall off their career path.  May be many women feel neglected, and ignored by their male colleagues when they work as a team.  The feeling of being treated like a second class citizen causes them to quit.

She suggested women should take up leadership roles so that they can be a role model for other women in the field.  Ms Gayatri also suggested that IT women develop apps that are helpful to other women.

When Dr. Anja Kovacs spoke, she felt that in many ways online is less dangerous than physically facing violence.  The anonymity that online provides is both empowering as well as threatening.  The marginalized segment of society can derive a lot of support and power on digital media because of the anonymity which provides the freedom to voice their support anonymously.

Consider internet as a street and act as such.  We would not physically hang around in shady places that lurk danger?  Similarly, in cyber space, do not give out personal information on digital media.  She suggested closing private settings, photos in Facebook, Twitter, etc. to public to avoid gender based violence. 

She recommended not handling issues in isolation but get the cyber community involved while handling online abuses such as re-tweeting. 

There were many questions and discussions around the responsibility of Facebook, Twitter, etc.  What kind of laws are they governed by and if we find unacceptable content on the digital media, what are the possible steps one could take to get it removed.

The event ended with the thank you note from Ms. Kalyani Narayanan.

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