4 min

Safe Spaces in the Latin American Civic Tech Ecosystem

Reflection of woman in laptop screen.
Written by
Published on
December 21, 2017

Latin America has a severe problem of gender violence. According to data from 2015, six countries in the region — El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and Puerto Rico — have the highest rate of femicides in the world (page 28). These figures are alarming and demonstrate the issues that women have to face every day. Fed up with the situation, movements such as the #NiUnaMás campaign started to form that highlight violence that women experience in public and private spaces.

The space of civic tech and open data in Latin America has grown considerably in the last five years. To date there are companies, civil society organizations and communities that work daily to create tools that contribute and improve our society. Some of the principles of civic tech encourage collaboration, inclusion and diversity. However, similarly to the situation of women in tech found in many other places in the world, Latin America has its own examples and has a long way to go, when it comes to creating more safe and inclusive places for women.

We want to contribute and create spaces where women and historically marginalised people are safe. Lots of women face discriminatory situations and the movement of civic tech in the region is led, to a large extent, by men. The conferences, meetings and other events about civic tech and data are dominated by men who take the floor and tend to overshadow women.

To move this forward and tackle the current discriminatory tech environment, we shed light on the problems that the community needs to address via the following recommendations to consider when creating an equal and just space for all.

  • Raise awareness on the topic in your team — Unfortunately, we were not taught to speak about gender violence and our rights in school. If you are working in Latin America, all of our problems intersect with gender. This is why it is key to educate yourself, and others along the way. By training your community and team, you react to and incorporate the problem of gender discrimination, including gender violence, in your projects and conversations. It is important to start this process by highlighting problems such as unequal salaries, sexual assault, objectifying bodies, and misogynist culture in general. You should try to be more aware of biases that you include in your work, what your privileges are, and the statistics available that can help you understand the problems in your community.
  • Create a code of conduct or guide of behaviour for your community — A code of conduct is a group of norms that serves as a reference for what is expected from the community member. Some events and communities establish a code of conduct to guarantee that no one is being discriminated against and as a guide to solve situations where there is conflict. Whether you facilitate a group discussion, organize a meeting or have a collaborative project, a code of conduct allows you to have the tools to moderate and resolve conflicts. In addition to the laws of behaviour, it is important to establish processes to report incidents in a safe and confidential way. For this, you can assign one or two people, or even a group of people that are available in the community for this task. Here are a few examples of codes of conduct:
  • Citizen Code of Conduct
  • PyCon
  • Codeando México
  • Internet Freedom Festival
  • Question, inquire, learn and share — The main tool to combat gender violence is to question our own actions and beliefs. Gender violence is so normalized in our society, that it is common to hear misogynist jokes, believe that it is ok to objectify women’s bodies or think that women lack the skills to produce technological tools. Have you ever thought: “Wow, this woman is pretty and codes”. Well, we have to start there. When you are initiating a project, always consider its different gender perspectives. To achieve this, you should approach projects or people who have experience on the topic. Open Heroines is a great resource, but it is always a good practice to look for local organisations that work on the topic; to learn about projects and experiences on the topic and share with the civic tech community. Creating safe spaces is an ongoing learning process, where we must document errors, learnings and opportunities. If you made a mistake, remember that you are human after all. It is necessary to recognise your mistake and keep working.
    Here is an example of Codeando México’s work on preventative measures of gender violence in their community.
  • Promote and participate in diverse spaces that are not dominated by men — Publicly denounce events or conferences that have panels, workshops or spaces that are exclusively run by men. This will help prioritize diversity in civic tech events.
  • Listen to women and non binary gender people in your community — Listen and don’t look down on the problems that marginalised people bring to the table. If there are any conflicts, try to have a constructive discussion that seeks to solve them.
  • Transparency of processes of selection — For events that you organize, if you have scholarships to promote diversity and inclusion, remember to publish the selection process and have a diverse committee. Note that it is recommended to publish anonymised data of the applicants.

Gender violence is a systematic problem and we need to tackle it from different angles and sectors. The civic tech community represent a place where we meet to build and improve our environment. And, in turn, having communities that are free of violence will ensure positive impact for all.

Do you have question about building spaces where we can feel safe? Post it here! We want to hear your comments!

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