The internet was originally seen as the great equaliser – there was hope, that the digital landscape would be more open, inclusive and diverse. There was hope of equality, of equal representation and of empowerment of the marginalised. However, it has become apparent, that the digital world, has also inherited the biases and the challenges that have traditionally threatened the public experience of women. From invasion of privacy, harassment and blackmail, to cultural barriers restricting women’s access to tech, the dream of an inclusive, diverse and safe space remains elusive. However, progress is being made. This women’s day, Digital Rights Monitor reached out to some amazing Pakistani women to hear their perspectives on women’s digital experiences.
Here is what they had to say.
Internet has sparked innovation
Saliha Bodla is undergraduate student at University of Management Technology. However at such a young age, she is the Co-Founder of her own tech enabled startup called Smart Mirrors. She is putting into use her theoretical knowledge about computers to make tech enabled mirrors.
While Saliha had to overcome many hurdles to launch her initiative, she believes that persistence is needed to start anything.
Internet is liberating
Risham Waseem is the Creative Director of popular online web channel Maati TV. She is using her digital platform to highlight the plight of the marginalized communities.
“Similarly, Samah Akhtar launched her Digital Media platform ProperGaanda to highlight under reported issues. Setting up her Digital Media company has been a “liberating” experience for her.
Technology can play a significant role in women’s accomplishments
Namra Nasir is a Vlogger and filmmaker. Her short films have been featured in many national and international film festivals. She believes that technology has been her saviour and hopes that more women are able to harness their potential through it.
Digital and technological divide lingers
Dr.Nida Kirmani is an Associate Professor of Sociology at LUMS. While social media has allowed her to be vocal on different issues, she feels that the lack of internet access to many women is creating disconnect and needs to be addressed on a priority.
Make women part of ICT policy discussions
Sidra Jalil has 12 years of working experience in technology and social sector. She is currently is the Vice President of Internet Society-Islamabad Chapter and also Director Operations at Code for Pakistan.
Sharing her reflections on technology and gender, she said that government should take more tangible steps to make women part of the Information and Communication technology initiatives.
Despite technological, social and cultural barriers that hinder access for women in Pakistan, we are seeing more and more women connecting and navigating the digital spaces for personal and professional success.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.