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Women’s Access to Safe Internet as a Priority


When I’m harassed on the streets and roads or when I have to do all the chores, as a girl, before having the chance and the time to access the internet, that is when I understand that it is not only the tools, resources and trainings that can make it easier for me to access the internet.
I need the time and the space that is not only important to obtain the necessary tools such as a computer for which I wouldn’t have to depend on a male, resources such as internet which would not have stigmas with it coming when accessed, and trainings for which I do not have to walk the streets where even small kids, learning at their households and the society, throw stones at me and shows me their crotch, a symbol of their masculinity and thus their ‘superiority’ over me.
I have been able to learn how I could safely use internet by practicing and having classes; but being comfortable using the internet is very different when I’m on campus at university in Bangladesh or when I am at home in Afghanistan. The difference is the extent of male domination that is there in Afghanistan but very less in a women’s university.
In the process of my access to internet at home, I have been able to overcome some of the challenges by getting help from my younger brother to go out and complete the process of having internet access at home. In this process he has been an ally but also somebody I've been dependent on.
Not only having easy and comfortable access to internet at university where I don’t have to face any kind of obstacles that society can cause, but not being at a male dominated space also provided me the opportunity to contribute for making internet accessible for others in society. With the WEE community together, I taught 30 female students from schools about how to use computers and the very basics that can help in the process.
The more knowledge and skills a woman has in computer, technology and programs, the safer it is for her to access the internet. For example, if I know how I can create an account or send an email can save me from the risk of being used and fooled by someone I might be otherwise dependent on.
Besides, the safer it is for women to get out of the house, the easier it is to find better and thus safer sources of internet to use. In this part it is important to change people’s mindset about both how they perceive a woman working outside the house and also a woman having access to internet.
Therefore, the examples of how women in Afghanistan could access safe internet depends on the availability of courses and knowledge about access and thus safe access to internet and other knowledge; the affordability of such tools for women who are mostly economically dependent on their families and male members of the family; less street harassment and social condemnation for the getting out of the house or having access to internet or any other kind of knowledge.
However, it is important in this process that their families cause the least obstacles for them, they can afford the tools and resources and also that when they have to face another process such as getting out of the house the society is helpful at least to some extent.
The very small steps count when it comes to a goal and the same is true with access to internet. For women in Afghanistan, a washing machine at home that can make it easier and quicker to wash clothes can help in having time and thus easier access to internet and so there are other small steps that can help in making them feel comfortable and safe while using the internet.
Not having access to tools, resources, and trainings such as computers and internet that ensures my access and comfort in using the internet have not always been the problem. It is not that internet or computers are not available but instead the process of accessing any of the tools, resources and trainings is important. Making this process easier can be a big step towards the main goal of easy and safe internet for women.
What is important is that women’s access to safe internet needs to become a priority.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »



Greengirl's picture

Hello Rabia

It is really nice to read your words again. Your article is revealing, and I must commend you for for laying much emphasis on the challenges that limit women from accessing and using the internet. The issue of time which you raised is often overlooked, yet it certainly counts. Women and girls must continue to brainstorm and support one another, in the quest to overcome identified barriers.

Keep up the good work you are doing in your community and country.


Carolina Torres's picture

Dear Rabia, Great story.

Dear Rabia,
Great story. Through your words, I was able to picture the situation. You are right, is not all about the tools, the equipment, but is more about the system. Congratulation, because of people like you are re framing the system.

I also loved how you highlighted the power of allies, in your case you mentioned your brother. YES! It is important to work in partnership with local leaders, grassroots organizations, and others to reach a common goal.


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