Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) is an organisation committed to creating a world where the access, use and application of technology is gender neutral, and FAT’s tech centre is a big leap in that direction. Tech center is a space where girls get an opportunity to explore, experiment and use technology. We do not identify ourselves as a charitable institution or simply a computer centre or even a skill building organisation. We have never believed in the idea of creating cogs to be fitted into machines fit for the market.
Even at our tech centre, we have never told our girls to enter into certain fields or professions just because of its economic viability, or because we feel that more women are needed in this field of work. Instead we provide them an environment wherein they are able to make informed choices for themselves irrespective of the demands and pressures of the market. We acknowledge the fact that the inequities aren’t going to diminish just because you push more women into the industry. Ours is a rights-based approach.
We want to promote equity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) not by giving these girls appropriate trainings and finding relevant jobs for them but by developing a sense of inquiry and curiosity around STEM. To this end we also conduct out-of-the-box Math and Science classes where girls get to watch videos, see experiments, take field trips and most importantly ask those questions that irk them.
The thrust is also on making these individuals aware of their rights and choices. For instance, the labor laws and employment laws in India are very poor and there are hardly any channels of information dissemination. We prepare young women to be aware of their rights instead of manufacturing ‘hands’; they in turn become free agents to push for those desired changes. Some of our tech center girls have already started to impact the world around them, and we are already beginning to witness that kind of change. One of our girls, Seema (name changed), on being told by her boss not to laugh too loud just because she was a girl and only a junior employee retorted back and questioned his actions. This led to a reversal of discriminatory office policies at her work place.
The curriculum at the tech centre is designed in a way to bring out the issues of gender, sexuality, discrimination, and women’s education and rights. After the completion of their modules on technical skills, they are asked to work on projects on these issues with full freedom to express their own ideas and opinions. What emerges is a kind of self-realization and understanding of these matters. Moreover, enabling them to make projects, presentations etc. on all these relatable subjects expedites their learning process.
More than anything else, our centre provides these young girls with a wonderful, open and creative space to express themselves, make new friends and soon enough they find themselves part of a community where they can trust those around them and truly be themselves. We have seen stupendous changes in the girls’ self-confidence and their perception of their own self worth. Self-expression and negotiation are other skills that they develop here which enables these girls to find a voice of their own in their families, neighbourhoods as well as communities and beyond.
Arpita( name changed), a girl fresh out of school from a small village in Ranchi came to Delhi with her parents with little idea of what awaited her. At the centre she got the encouragement to acknowledge, understand and stand up for her mother who had been suffering at the hands of her father. She supported her mother in taking the very difficult decision to leave her father’s home while she herself continued to stay with him to ensure that he didn’t back down from his obligations towards his family. She spoke against abuse, infidelity & patriarchy and for women’s rights, self reliance and independence all in the same breath. This is simply one of the numerous stories of success that tech centre has produced over the past few years.
At FAT we truly believe in empowering this section (young girls and women) by enhancing their awareness, interest and participation in technology. While our Young Women’s Leadership Program is an open space for adolescent girls and young women from disadvantaged communities to learn about common ICT tools from a feminist lens, the Jugaad Lab teach STEM concepts to the younger lot of girls between 10-15 years and help them innovate further to create new things. Recently they have made solar lamps to fight against eve teasing in their locality.
With Take Back the Tech, we would like to take out our girls’ stories to the world.