Everything seems difficult when you look from outside, but starts appearing easier when you actually start doing it. Ten thousand questions would come to my mind with respect to internet. I would ask myself, what is so exciting about it?
It contains information from world over. You can be from anywhere in the world,Internet will have information for you. I started using Internet for the first time on my job, though I had used Computer before. I studied computer for two years as a part of my schoolcurriculum, but it remained just another subject for me.
In Indian schools and colleges, computer and internet remain purely theoretical concepts. When you don't have teachers or computer labs, and it's difficult for you to get a proper three course meal in a day, using the internet is the last thing on your mind. I first used internet on 1st April, 2011. It was then when I used mail and search for the first time. I was deeply scared within. Before this,whenever I had wanted to use internet, friends would make fun of me, and the computer centres were usually full of boys.
The organisation I am associated with works in the field of technical education, it trains adolescent girls in computer and camera skills. I learnt basic use of computer and camera in six months, taught adolescent girls computer, searched solutions for their problems online and on Youtube. All of this was a completely new experience for me. My life completely changed after the entry of internet into my life, everything was in my reach without even spending a single penny.
With the passage of time, I also realised how difficult it was for women and girls to make an entry into the world of computer and internet. Parents of our girls sent their daughters to our centre because we were providing them free education. The popular belief here is that technical education is not meant for women. Our girls despite working as domestic servants with their mothers, came to the tech centre regularly. When they first touched computer, they immediately realised the power of internet, internet became their friend. It also became their bridge to obtain whatever they wanted. Most of them enrolled themselves in college, made groups on Facebook with like minded people and learnt photography, they learnt documentary making from Youtube, and made their school projects with the images searched on Google.
In India, women can only openly use internet freely in spaces where they are allowed to access and use internet without any fear, and they aren't made to feel uncomfortable. There are no labs in schools, and there is rampant eveteasing in cyber cafes. Parents do not send them to cyber cafes, and men control everything at home. They aren't allowed to move outside to learn computer because there is more focus on their domestic duties than extra learning outside. Their boyfriends block their ids, and even if by accident they get to know that their girlfriends, sisters or daughters use internet, they are afraid that they would make relationships with other guys, will find ways to study further and eventually end up becoming independent. To stop this, our girls are brutalised and their mobility is restricted. In our local libraries, we have plenty of books on computers but hardly computers. In bigger libraries, there are computers, but they are mostly accessed by men.
Our free computer education for girls provided an avenue for girls to come and learn computers. We gave them information about internet, and provided a space where they could use internet freely, and also an understanding of how they could bring about a change in their lives. They made new friends on Facebook, shared their ideas with countless people, and used blogs as a medium to connect themselves with the larger world. They learnt film making, and uploaded their videos to reach out to a larger mass. They found new jobs and taught others too.
I would like to share another project with you all. The name of the project is “Apna Haq” which literally translates to “Our Right”. The girls used media as a tool, and reached out to other people to share the problem of lack of toilets in their community. Internet played an important role in this film. 25 adolescent girls took part in this film, we partnered with Pooja Pant, co director of VOW(Voices of Women) Media, an Amsterdam based organisation. We raised funds online to make the film. Girls took six months to complete the film, and presently they are going door to door and screening the film in their communities, we also made a radio show, and have uploaded it online. All this has only been possible because girls were allowed to use internet freely.
There are still plenty of challenges ahead of us. One centre has defintely transformed the lives of our girls living in the settlements of South Delhi. But for the wider change, we need to have more such spaces for women, where they can use internet without being afraid of the consequences that follow its usage. Similarly, as internet has many advantages, it also has many dangers too. There are also dangers of sharing one's personal life on the web, their IDs are hacked, and internet bullying can harm them psychologically. Trust is one of the biggest issues when we talk about internet usage, internet crime is on rise, there is no freedom of speech, the government should make strict laws against cyber bullying and teasing. The issue of privacy remains a big challenge.
If I win this award, I would open a centre where women use media to propagate activism, and teach them to use internet to increase awareness.WWW: Women Weave the Web