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In Focus: India’s techno-feminist collective

“Technology is the new frontier now. The Internet is the new battlefield, and so you’re not just merely a technologist now or a digital rights technologist. You are a human rights defender.”

These are the words of co-founder of The Bachchao Project: Chinmayi SK. The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective based in India, following the principles of open source and open communities. They work with gender–women & LGBTQI–and tech groups to build bridges and build useful technology.

Chinmayi reiterates, “when we work with gender groups, we try to help build their knowledge to represent their needs and demands in different spaces.” They started doing digital rights work by looking at the needs of communities, as well as the tools and frameworks that exist. Slowly, they then provided members of these communities with materials and trainings relevant to their issues. She also shares, “we also helped make sure that spaces exist for conversations between gender rights advocates and techies (who built the technologies). Then we started seeing the need to work on policies. Although we don’t work heavily on policies, we do the research that is necessary to make informed consultations on policies.”

The Bachchao Project also writes frameworks that are necessary for technologists to support advocacy groups in building tools that are usable and useful in advancing human rights. Chinmayi added, “these groups also taught us a lot of things that helped us in our journey; and when we do our research, we always involve the communities we work with and work for.”

Recently, they conducted a study and looked at internet shutdowns from a gendered perspective, which they asserts should be considered in policy-making as women are proven to be affected differently.

“We don’t just look at technology in monochromatic lens where you just build apps and websites and just leave it there, we do want to do more work on questioning the technology and examine the reason why they were built. We want to explore alternative ways which actually work better than just building tech. We want to help shape tech and help shape the methodologies & the protocols,” Chinmayi concluded.