AWID Forum, Bangkok: ICTs and Bulgarian Women’s Rights Movements
GERT, together with other few Bulgarian organisations, participated in the AWID Forum 27-30 Oct. 2005 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Central and Eastern European (CEE) sessions were related to a number of debates, one of them the use of ICTs. The following publication is a case study from the AWID Development Journal, which will get out in the beginning of 2006 and will contain impressions and debates held at the Forum. The photos are made by Christina Haralanova and Jivka Marinova, who were both participants and speakers at this conference.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a pool of opportunities for those who have access to it. Bridging the gap between women and ICTs in Bulgaria is a priority area of work for Gender Education, Research and Technologies Foundation (GERT). In the past three years, we focused on a research of women’s needs, followed by three local and one regional trainings in the strategic use of ICTs by women’s NGOs. In our training and work, we stress particularly on the complicated at first glance issue of Free Software, which gives an added value to our activities: a freedom to copy programmes rather than buying them, a possibility to translate them into Bulgarian language, a better security and lot more. This approach gives more choice to our ICT work and makes us more powerful without making us more dependent.
ICTs were also a central topic at the AWID Forum, not only during the global meetings, but also in the regional ones. The Central and Eastern European discussions, held around women’s rights in the region. In all the themes such as violence against women, trafficking, and sexual and reproductive health and rights ICTs had inevitably played a role, whether related to networking, to communication or to share different experiences.
However, even if the regional input is important to our work, we have realized we need to gain more visibility in inter-regional plan, we need to exchange our ideas with women from other parts of the world. Our CEE experience is also valuable to show as an example to people who are geographically far away from us. We also need to hear their ways, as an input from outside.
Definitely not the next big conference, without future and past AWID was a continuation, it was the follow-up of women’s actions around the world. This is why, AWID Forum was the right space for us there are not many other possibilities to meet 2000 women at the same place, most of them sharing common values and struggles like us. We were just six Bulgarian women among all the participants.
It was important to us, because it gave us the possibility to actively participate, and also the freedom to speak out our struggles for change. It was a cross-road event, a process, in which we all participate, and which gives us a new perspective for future development in the women’s movement.
Internet technologies are a tool for women to mobilize globally, and to fight their rights and freedoms by helping them learn from each other’s experience, and not to repeat the same mistakes.
ICTs have made it possible for us to become part of the AWID Forum, much before it was held in Bangkok, it has given us the chance to connect to women’s movements regionally, and to prepare for this meeting, in order to make our participation more valuable. Our experience with use of ICTs, and Free Software in particular, can help other women from other parts of the world, overtake their challenges. The fact that Bulgarian women could bring such knowledge to this forum, and bring issues that others can learn from, makes our struggle worthwhile.