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Feminist Approach to Technology in India

Throughout much of India, technology is still viewed as the exclusive province of men. Opportunities for women and particularly young women to experiment with technology and Internet use can be hard to find. Gayatri Buragohain was all too familiar with the challenges posed by culture and social expectations to women hoping to use technology. Though trained as an engineer, she still found herself contending with male family members restricting her access to the household computer. “They thought that if I touched it, something would go wrong,”she recounts. Gayatri decided to do something about the fear of technology she saw being instilled in women at even an early age. In 2007 she founded Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) in New Delhi, India, with the goal of filling the gap in technical awareness for women byincreasing their rights and supporting broader career choices through access to technical resources. FAT hosts a community tech center in Lajpat Nagar with a female only staff to help impart skills while providing a safe space for underprivileged girls to learn and experiment with computers and the Internet. For Gayatri, the biggest hurdle to women’s Internet use and access is not cost, “but cultural stigmas.” She says, “In many cases the household situation is that the woman’s number-one role is to take care of the family, so why does she need to use the Internet?” At FAT, girls can seek the guidance and training they want from staff, but they are also encouraged to experiment with the Internet and learn about things they are interested in or want to pursue. “It is the rule that in many families,” says Gayatri, “that after turning 18, a girl’s job is to get married, so why would she continue in school? After our program, girls realize that it is possible to go to college and even get scholarships. Out of our first batch of girls, 18 decided to go back to college.”
While Gayatri believes putting Internet in the hands of women is a first step, she recognizes the services her
organization can provide are only a piece of the larger puzzle, and strongly believes that more is needed to have
a lasting impact. “You can’t just put technology in the hands of girls and expect it to empower them—it requires
a long-term investment in teaching them how to realize the benefits.” When asked who she thinks needs to play
a larger role in changing how society and women view women’s relationship with technology, she responds that
schools and the media have a large role to play. “They have much longer term relationships with girls and boys and
could do so much to change the cultural perceptions of women using the Internet.”

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

Comments

Lea's picture

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this piece, Arunima and for presenting all the wonderful things that FAT is doing to empower women through technology. I discovered FAT a few months ago and was so impressed by the organization's achievements in terms of helping girls develop confidence in their ability to use technology and to feel a sense of self-worth in a safe and nurturing environment. I completely agree with you that educating girls in the use of technology is a long-term investment which should be supported by more institutions and society in general. I'm so glad that there are organizations such as FAT that believe in the power of girls and that provide them with opportunities for being successful and for making a difference. Thank you again for this article!

arunima dutta's picture

Thanks Lea

I am grateful to you for dropping by and finding out the time to read the article... FAT is indeed doing a great job,i earnestly hope it gets the necessary aid from the goverment to fuel its causes...Organisations like these needs to branch out,they have to go to places and not always wait for the women to come to them...

Regards,
Arunima

Natalie K's picture

Thank You

Thank you for sharing this insight,
I do wish FAT all the best in ensuring the inclusion of women in digital spheres,
And i agree empowerment is a lot more than provision of technology,
Keep it up.
Natalie

Natalie K

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