Recognising the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in transforming gender politics in the country, EMPOWER focuses on the promotion and defence of internet rights as a critical set of human rights which are needed to address gender inequalities, particularly for women who tend to have less resources and face many forms of restrictions to their voice and actions in the offline world.
However, the internet and technology remains a double-edged sword for many women and girls in Malaysia and globally. This is based on the very simple fact that technology and the internet are built, established and governed by the very same patriarchal values that create social and institutional hierarchies based on gender. The internet is no exception as a space where gender inequalities thrive–from incidents of gender based violence and sexual harassment to issues of access, affordability, and technical know-how, leading to what is understood as the gender digital divide.
EMPOWER has also conducted long-standing work on the intersection between ICT and violence against women by participating in the global campaign, Take Back the Tech. A lack of access to information and the abuse of ICT tools have long exacerbated the endemic violence in women’s lives and diminished choices for women. This ultimately maintains a status quo of gender inequality. We believe that women and youths have the right to make informed decisions about themselves and their lives.
EMPOWER began to embark more concretely into the interrelated issues of the Internet, technology and human rights when we became a project partner for the Association for Progressive Communication’s APC-IMPACT (India, Malaysia, Pakistan Advocacy for Change through Technology) project. The two other project partners are Bytes for All (Pakistan) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (India). The project aims to address restrictions on the internet by promoting and protecting internet rights. More specifically, the project aims to advance freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of assembly and association as enablers of human rights and democratization in these three countries.
The use of ICT for human rights documentation and the issues of digital security are integrated into the other two programmes of EMPOWER, Women’s Political Participation and Human Rights & State Accountability.