Digital Security for women human rights defenders (WHRD) as part of holistic and feminist practice in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

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Digital Security for women human rights defenders (WHRD) as part of holistic and feminist practice in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
Presenter(s) Alma Ugarte, Indira Cornelio, Marianne Díaz
Title(s) Digital Security for women human rights defenders (WHRD) as part of holistic and feminist practice in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
Organization(s) IWPR, Derechos Digitales
Project(s) SAWA
Country(ies) LAC
Social media
2017 theme Training & Best Practices

Digital security is just one part of holistic security and is an essential feminist practice, helping to secure and enhance women and LGBT activists’ work. In Latin America, women are particularly vulnerable to issues such as reduced access due to a digital and gender divide, as well as harassment, surveillance, and digital threats, which occasionally lead to physical violence. According to Frontline Defenders, Latin America is the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman human rights’ defender- in 2015, 16 of the 31 tributes by the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)  to those who had died fighting for women’s rights, were to women from Latin America. This workshop aims at sharing the insights from the feminist community, the concerns that we have and tactics that have been used successfully by digital security trainers in the LAC region to share and build more secure practices in our women’s collectives.

Format Workshop
Target Groups Security Trainers Advocacy Policy Professionals Front Line Activists Others: WHRD LGBTI Activists
Length 1
Skill Level Intermediate
Language Español

Session Outputs

We will share our expertise by answering and inviting other trainers, communicators and activists from this region to help us answer this question: what we have learnt, how can we improve our practice? The session started with a question to the audience, to name types of feminist practices, with the responses including:

Listen to yourself and to others, listen to learn, active listening To express myself freely Solidarity Open and comprehensive communication Equality and inclusion Community support Sisterhood Making spaces safe for others Non violent and open communication Concentration on a person's ability to chose Empowerment Sharing stories and knowledge of everyone equally Collective wisdom

Then IWPR went on to share some of its learnings from focus groups with women human rights defenders that have received training in the LAC region, including:

- Women sometimes can’t identify the types of online violence they have experienced. Receiving threats and attacks on their social media has been so normalized for them that many don’t even perceive it as violence. By making them aware, you can empower them to take a stand.

- Respect people’s choices and their autonomy: We don't want to obligate them. What we try to do is give them all the information they need to make their own choices. We don't need to install things that they don't want. We shouldn’t take their computers out of their hands to save time, and install an app without them understanding what we are doing to their devices. They can perceive that as a violation. They need to take the tool and download the apps they feel they need- and if you empower them to do it themselves, with the full understanding of why they are downloading it and what it will help them with, it is far more likely that they will use it.

- When we talk about DS we also need to talk about self care, and physical security. To talk about our minds and our bodies...This is what we call the triad. Digital threats are usually only a part of the threats women face, and they usually have emotional and physical repercussions on the individuals in any case.

- Even with major time constraints, don’t try to fit a full day’s worth of training into 15 minutes. Your pace should only be as fast as your trainees can learn. Do not provide masses of advice and information that will never be digested and never be used, just to tick the box that you completed the training. It will be totally counterproductive to your aim to empower women to use digital security tools.

- Female DS trainers need to beware of mansplaining and the tendency of men to think they know more about technologies than women.

The group then went on to share some of its recommendations for training with a feminist perspective:

1. Feminist approach should get rid of the idea that one size fits all. There is a lot of DS trainers who will just show the same presentation... but they need to dedicate time to gather experience of our trainees and adapt training to them 2. (From a trainee) We have to know the trainers... we can not just accept anyone, and to trust them. And we need to know have feminist perspective, and they won't make homophobic or racist comments 3. Assess group needs, tailor session with the group you work with. Group people as they prefer, no labels 4. Create safe spaces 5. Women can do it, stop! 6. Don't assume people are starting from zero 7. No self-effacing 8. Work towards empowering rather than scaring 9. There is no such thing as DS, but it is resilience and strategies that we are training 10. Don't touch trainee’s devices, let them make the changes. 11. Have trainees share their experiences 12. Create a code of conduct, to make sure the workshop is an inclusive and open space 13. Explain things to make them relevant to the context they work in... do a needs assessment. Do they even need the DS training? Make a toolkit for dummies, as many don't even understand a word of the basics. 14. Share stories in local spaces 15. Create a safe fun environment... A lot of people talk about creating safe spaces, but we need to define what that means... Let the participants self-identify what a safe space is for them! 16. Use appropriate and sustainable technologies 17. Understand local culture, and use local examples. 18. Pay attention! Active listening- trainers need to actively listen to others, don't assume because you are giving training you have power over people, or necessarily know more 19. Threat modeling: Listen to the others, give chance to understand the issue that is important to them. 20. Put some tech on your phone 21. Be aware about your bodies 22. You don't have to demonstrate yourself as an expert... the others also know a lot, so listen to them. 23. Listening to participants before - adapt tools and language. Be open to change what you do. After training be open to feedback, and even after the training make sure you follow up with them actively. 24. Be mindful of confidentiality 25. Also include strategies for all trainees to participate more equitably.

Next Steps

Strengthening knowledge, sharing results Delivery of a manual of digital security with gender perspective

Additional Notes

Relevant Resources

Level Up: Manual Zen: Security in a Box: Caja Antivigilancia: A DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity: C.O.A.C.H.


IWPR, Derechos Digitales