JASS Blog Archives for March 2014

by Niken Lestari on March 19, 2014 on 10:36 pm

The first time I got my hand on computer, I wasn't scared at all. Maybe it’s because as a 16-year-old, I was anxious to try something new. My parents encouraged me into “techie” stuff because in big cities, one cannot survive without “upgrading” one’s skills. Having computer skills is one of them. But today I realize having computer skills is not enough!

I opened my first email account in 1997 using yahoo.com and I still use it for old time’s sake. I like the username I made that year— forevernikn. I felt then that there was a lot of catching up with my friends that I had to do. My friends and I created email accounts using several email providers just for fun and for practicing our internet skills.

I wondered back then why they would provide a service for free. Who pays for my email account? Why should I need a password to turn my computer on or to log on to my email account? Then I thought my email was like a locker where I am the only one who can access it because I have the key. I simply took what was offered virtually.  I thought back then, why bother?

Those were the days when consumers were passive and ignorant. I am now among billions of internet users. On the internet, there are many products, brands, services that try to “lure” me in. If I were an “internet-hungry”13-year-old kid without any digital literacy, I would “eat” everything up. The experiences of having many unused emails, outdated homepages, unread articles, unknown friends and falling in love with text messages sent by @lonelyguy via messenger taught me a lot. One is that I have to know my information needs. I also have to read the terms of my relationship with whatever available services are out there. In short, I need to learn the “game”.

Along the line, I sunk in the many information and communications technology (ICT) jargon in English such as privacy, terms and conditions, digital divide, digital literacy, assistive technology, e-learning, compatibility, open source software, copyright-copyleft, data mining, digital native, ICT for development, etc.  Lots of catch-phrases!

I used to work for Combine Resource Institution until 2007. Its tagline was “Building a Community-Based Information Network” by using community radios to spread their message. Since 2002, they have been using radio as part of community empowerment. At that time, “citizen journalism” was trending. For one or two years, CRI has been gathering people and feeding content to their website on disaster mitigation. During my stint at the CRI, I also helped to organize a Freedom of Expression conference with support from Ford Foundation in Solo, Indonesia in 2007. However, I didn't get involved in the discussion because back then, it was “too grand” for me and I was simply part of the events organizers’ team.

Lately, there has been growing internet activism in Indonesia in the form of gathering voices or support to different issues. Activists are now learning that multimedia convergence is inevitable because people are spread across different social media. The combination of “offline” and “online” activism is also important because there is growing skepticism on “online activists” or those who are perceived as working without a strong community organizing framework.

Recently, there were pilot projects supported by UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Mastel in the form of “telecenters” (or telecommunication centers) in remote areas. They learned that providing computers, internet connection and seed money without community organizers to help “empower” the communities were failure. Some telecenters were abandoned after the project finished. The World Bank learned well and when they developed a similar telecenter program, they partnered with Puskowanjati or Center of Woman Cooperative in East Java.

I am now learning to consume ICT according to my needs by becoming less fanatic about brands, understanding worker's rights behind all products, combining many tools to serve my work while looking for alternatives. But of course, “my need” is a battle ground often defined by industry and government law. I learned from JASS that leadership takes many forms. One of them is the confidence that each and every one of us is a “knowledge spring”. We inherit and enrich our own knowledge to be passed on to the next generation; watering the soil to make the ground fertile.

It is important to raise awareness among women that the use of the internet is beyond being a consumer or a user. This awareness is a powerful tool we need before we go face-to-face with a jumble of knowledge from other cultures and languages in a world we call the internet.

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by JASS on March 17, 2014 on 3:35 am

Over four hundred women are waiting in front of Harare Town House, a spot that once marked the centre of the city. There are all sorts of women in the crowd—the young and the less young, some with babies swaddled on their backs and others holding brightly-coloured placards with messages on them that say things like ‘End Violence Now’ and ‘We are Tired, Stop Rape!’ They all have one thing in common: they are draped in the colour red. Whether they’re wearing scarlet caps or crimson blouses, skirts, dresses, t-shirts, shoes, even some of the babies are wearing red too.

On February 14th, Zimbabwean women came together to take a stand against rape and sexual violence against women. It was an awe-inspiring sight, in a country where protest and free speech are heavily-monitored and often restricted, to see women streaming in the middle of a busy Harare morning, halting traffic as they shouted slogans, sang songs of solidarity and made themselves heard across the nation. Women walked four blocks from Town House to the Harare Gardens in a peaceful protest to End Rape Now and sign a petition that was later presented to the women's ministry on International Women’s Day (March 8).Women perform street theatre at the Zimbabwe Stop Rape Now march

Here are seven things that struck us about this historic moment!

  1. What’s in the colour red? Red has many meanings attached to it. It’s the colour of love, of passion, of blood, of emergency, of rebellion. There was something striking about seeing hundreds of women dancing through the streets in red, saying HEAR us, SEE us.
  2. Prayer as a feminist weapon. Sex worker activist, Miriam* said the opening prayer at the post-march gathering. Using prayer as a subversive political tool, Miriam highlighted the contradictions of society that depicts women as weaker and lesser beings and celebrated the power and strength of women. She called on God to hear the plea of women of Zimbabwe and to relay that message to His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe that women demand the recognition of bodily autonomy and want to be treated as equal citizens regardless of how patriarchal society has ensured they are not.
  3. Carving out space in a context where it is not easy. In order to convene any sort of process in Zimbabwe, organisations must seek a police clearance. This time, the protest organisers were only granted a very short route so as not to “inconvenience” drivers on the roads. But this didn’t deter women from making the most of that limited space—taking an hour to walk a route that normally takes fifteen minutes! Women activists brought traffic to a standstill, people sitting in their offices leaned out of their windows to watch and listen to the marchers singing. Women used flash theatre, mimes, crying, rolling on the ground as they cried for justice for rape survivors and respect for women’s bodies. It was a powerful spectacle.Women march at the Stop Rape Now protest in Zimbabwe
  4. What is love? The March was held on Valentine’s Day, a day that is meant to celebrate “love” in all its forms. As Winnet put it, “I have few reasons to celebrate Valentine’s Day as long as there is a woman out there who is facing violence.” For so long women of Zimbabwe have been told to keep quiet but they will be quiet no longer. There was something potent about women standing up to decry the atrocities and wars that play out regularly on their bodies on a day that they we are supposed to celebrate love.
  5. This was a march for ALL women. The number and sheer diversity of women and men who participated in the march was striking—there was a great deal of solidarity and unity. Organisations who are part of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, as well as allies including Padare (a men’s group), Childline, GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) and more!
  6. Women's voices are powerful. At heart, the march was a powerful expression of women’s voices that said loud and clear that women may face violations and struggle daily to survive in difficult contexts but they will come together to speak out on the issues that sit in their hearts.
  7. Holding political representatives accountable. The petition, developed by representatives from Women’s Coalition articulated not just the need to prevent violence but also demanded justice for rape survivors. Women are not interested in empty promises made by politicians and "allies" in the heat of the moment. The marchers are also committed to ensuring that rape survivors and their families receive adequate psychosocial support programming.

This blog was co-written by Maggie Mapondera & Winnet Shamuyarira of Katswe Sistahood.

*Miriam's real name has been changed.

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by Daysi Yamileth Flores Hernandez on March 5, 2014 on 12:08 pm

En marzo del 2014 se prevé la escogencia del nuevo comisionado o comisionada nacional de los Derechos Humanos, acto de particular importancia en Honduras ya que el titular de este cargo ha sido altamente cuestionado por su desempeño en favor del golpe de Estado. Esto le ha valido que la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH) lo expulse de la institución y demande que sea investigado. “Por sus actuaciones y omisiones recientes está desacreditando y deslegitimando la figura institucional del ombudsman,” expresó la organización iberoamericana.

Las palabras han vuelto. Después de un largo viaje a la luna financiado por la terrible estructura que inmoviliza e intenta amarrar las alas de todas las personas diferentes, finalmente, las palabras han vuelto a mí. Una sola frase bastó para desencadenar una ráfaga de ellas: “Todas las humanas y humanos  debemos ser guardianes de la memoria” dijo Berta Oliva, en un desobediente discurso hace unos días. Al escucharla junto a las y los panelistas en una jornada de reflexión provocada por ACI-Participa, me di cuenta que la memoria sigue siendo un bien común arrebatado por una especie de espejismo que nos lleva al delirio de una vida sin conexión que beneficia a unos pocos. Yo misma, por primera vez sentí en el cuerpo el golpe helado y profundo de darme cuenta de que la democracia que tanto defendemos en un país tan magullado como Honduras es incluso menor que yo.

Y es que recuerdo bien, a pesar de que era apenas una niña, los huracanes generados por jóvenes siendo perseguidos en plena ciudad como venados en los bosques para hacer el servicio militar obligatorio. Recuerdo los tanques y las escopetas en las calles, los uniformes olivos por todas partes, el miedo de mi abuelo, el dolor de mi abuela al saber a su hijo asesinado a quemarropa, el olor a gas en las calles del centro, las capuchas rondando el parque Herrera después de las 5:00pm. Recuerdo bien esa época que empapó mis pañales en la guardería San Isidro y que acompañó mis primeras letras en la Escuela Estados Unidos pero también recuerdo los Aires de Abril, las panudas y las mojadas que tanto escandalizaban a mi abuela, las amenazas de grupos comunistas que ponían bombas, el terror sembrado en contra de los jóvenes peligrosos por rojos, la quema de la Embajada Estadounidense,  las amenazas de que si seguía preguntando me llevarían a un campo para hacer jabón con mi cuerpo o la expresión, desaparecida vas a terminar mija, el grito rotundo de los grafitis en las calles denunciando lo que los medios trataban de ocultar y por supuesto, recuerdo bien la música disco que sonaba en patines Plaza y que  pretendía borrarnos de lo que estaba pasando del mismo modo que ahora lo hacen con multiplaza,  1D y JB.

Sin embargo, “la primavera democrática” llegó pronto y con ella la idea de los derechos humanos que tenía tanto sentido aunque en la práctica para nosotras era prohibido tener organizaciones estudiantiles, teníamos que escondernos para reunirnos y muchas veces mentirle a nuestros más cercanos referentes para organizar salidas a las calles, pero lo hacíamos. Recuerdo a Ricci Mabel Martínez y lo que su asesinato significó para nuestras pubertas vidas y para todo un pueblo. Ahora, en el 2014 nos encontramos ante la tercera elección de un Comisionado o Comisionada Nacional de Derechos Humanos, después de uno (Leo Valladares) que jugó un papel importante para todas las almas que veíamos lo que ocurría en nuestro país con ojos tiernos, llenos de ganas de soñar y para quienes apostaron por construir en nuestro país una democracia con memoria que asumiera las responsabilidades necesarias para que nunca más se repitieran los horrores. Otro (Ramón Custodio López), que traicionó su propia historia en el momento que tocaba defender la democracia, que aunque incompleta, fue construida a base de tantas vidas, apuestas y sueños y se volvió cómplice del poder opresor de la dictadura que revive los horrores de la represión.

¿Qué toca ahora que ni siquiera podemos como sociedad civil “legalmente” participar en esta elección? ¿Cómo se reconstruye la vida democrática subastada y secuestrada para la dictadura? La Coalición contra la Impunidad en un acto de decencia, legitimidad y rebeldía se atreve a proponer dos candidatos y una candidata legitima para este cargo: Reina Rivera Joya, Joaquin Mejia y Wilfredo Méndez. Porque ahora más que nunca nos toca como pueblo ser realistas y soñar lo imposible para que al igual que lo hicieran tantos y tantas en los 90´s, podamos alzar nuestras voces y gritarle a este régimen usurpador que hemos sido nosotras quienes hemos forjado la democracia que han secuestrado y que intentan seguir desmantelando a favor de sus intereses.

Somos nosotras quienes sostenemos la legitimidad del pueblo y no ellos, somos nosotras quienes cada día sostenemos  las luchas que impiden que sigan vendiendo, regalando y desmantelando lo que queda de la democracia, somos nosotras quienes cada día con nuestras resistencias reconstruimos y refundamos las vidas para que contemos con una Matria que al fin sea un lugar para todas y todos.  

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