Blog Archives

All Posts in Women & ICTs

April 5, 2017 - Comments Off on DRF Submits Reponses for the UN Secretary-General Report on the Safety of Journalists

DRF Submits Reponses for the UN Secretary-General Report on the Safety of Journalists

Digital Rights Foundation made its submission to the UN Secretary General report on the safety of journalists on the issue of impunity. In the responses, DRF pointed out that female journalists are susceptible to discrimination and gender-based obstacles both from within their professional spaces and outside it. Female journalists in Pakistan face a double-bind because of their gender: at one level they face the same level of threats and surveillance that journalists face in Pakistan (the fourth most dangerous country for journalist according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)), and the secondly the gender-specific obstacles stemming from being a female journalist in Pakistan. Their reporting on so-called sensitive topics such as civil-military relationships, blasphemy laws, and stories contradicting the state narrative make them more susceptible to state and social surveillance.

Within Pakistan, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 protects female journalists from discrimination and harassment within the workplace. The impact of this law is not as clear-cut. Journalists who have the lodged sexual harassment complaints within media houses have faced a backlash at times.

In terms of international humanitarian law violations, journalists are quite susceptible to conflict driven violence and attacks from terrorists, sectarian groups and armed operations. Many journalists have lost their lives while covering events that have been attacked. Compensation in these cases takes place as per labour and social security laws. There have been several proposal for the protection and welfare of journalists but nothing concrete has been passed.

Through our research “Surveillance of Female Journalists in Pakistan”, we have learnt that media houses are far from perfect when it comes to addressing rampant sexism within the organization. The respondents in our research told us that these organizations are not equipped to support women when they file cases of sexual harassment. Furthermore, female journalists posit that line managers and editors tend not to take online abuse and digital surveillance as seriously, especially when it hasn’t translated into physical threats. This puts female journalists at a huge disadvantage because they are more likely to receive physiological threats and surveillance.

Digital Rights Foundation conducts workshops and training sessions for female journalists. Often times digital security and self care is a neglected aspect of security for journalists and a facet that is often ignored in mainstream discussions. For this reason DRF sees itself as addressing a real gap in terms of safety of journalists. These sessions are being held in conjunction with press clubs to deliver basic anti-harassment and digital security training to reporters, editors and web-based journalists. A digital security handbook (living document) for journalists has also been developed as part of our training program with basic security guidelines and tips for female journalists.

April 5, 2017 - Comments Off on DRF’s Submission to UN Human Rights Commission For The Report To Bridge Gender Digital Divide

DRF’s Submission to UN Human Rights Commission For The Report To Bridge Gender Digital Divide

Digital Rights Foundation submitted responses to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to prepare a report on ways to bridge gender digital divide from a human rights perspective. In its submission, DRF identified the dire need to address the digital divide promoted by gender, and that women are particularly disadvantaged in terms of their position in society, workplace and even in relation to their own families with the same wage bracket. For these reasons barrier to digital technologies and digital life are more enhanced for women.

Political reasons also act as barriers to access to digital technologies. For instance, the internet has been shut down in FATA for security reasons, as well as to silence political dissent. While this might seem like gender-neutral factor, our research has found that women are more impacted by such politically motivated shutdowns given that they cannot travel to internet cafes that have sprung up in the region.

Digital Rights Foundation has also been critical of applications geared towards women. Several smart-phone applications are emerging that are aimed specifically at women, both by the state and the private sector, and there is a need to critically analyse the claims that these apps make regarding increased security for women. Furthermore, as space opens up in Pakistan for web-based delivery of services, DRF is engaging in research that aims to highlight the privacy violations as well the impact on the women who use these services. This is precisely why DRF is working towards privacy and data protection legislation that will ensure more rights for users and protect vulnerable groups, such as women, from surveillance and discrimination.

The recommendations that DRF proposed to bridge digital gender divide emphasized on the importance to make the industry stakeholders aware of their responsibility to ensure better privacy policies when it comes to the personal data of users. Data breaches and violations of privacy can have serious consequences for women. In Pakistan, with the absence of data protection laws and obligations, it is even more important to engage with the industry and communicate their responsibility in protecting users’ data and right to privacy.

The tech community should take measures to ensure the promotion of more women to leadership positions and to have more representation from women and marginalized communities. This representation is important because the presence of women will mean more gender-sensitive policies and a better understanding of the issues that women face. it is important to ensure that the companies working towards gender issues and on gender empowerment engage with these themes meaningfully rather than superficial efforts or as marketing ploys. Many tech companies own social media platforms which are the primary site of online harassment, bullying, blackmail and violence. These companies need to have contextually-sensitive policies for protecting the privacy, dignity and personal integrity of women in online spaces. Tech companies also need to ensure that efforts to ensure accessibility should be done in the principle of net neutrality and the principle of free access should be upheld in efforts to improve coverage and accessibility.

April 4, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation Submits Universal Periodic Review 2017 Report for Pakistan

Digital Rights Foundation Submits Universal Periodic Review 2017 Report for Pakistan

Digital Rights Foundation made a submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Pakistan 2017 on the topic of “Gender Rights in Pakistan: Online violence, Free Speech and Access to Information”. The aim of this submission was to advocate for the digital-specific rights for the citizens of Pakistan. The report incorporated the issues of gendered digital violence, digital rights, freedom of expression (FOE), privacy, violence against women and surveillance.

The report highlighted the issues of digital rights and violence with regards to women and sexual minorities, including the right to speech in online spaces, right to privacy, freedom from digital surveillance, electronic violence against women (eVAW), and access to digital technologies and spaces. The submission refers to the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular Freedom of Expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice”.

The report addresses the need to apply a gendered perspective to digital rights, and recommendations need to be injected into the UPR process that specifically address eVAW and the digital gender divide. It outlines the major incidents and advancements around access to digital technology, including the lowest internet usage density in Pakistan, the suspension of telecom and internet services, and the gender gap in usage and ownership of mobile phones in Pakistan. It also highlights that women, especially women journalists, women human rights defenders and activists, experience internet different from men. They are denied access to spaces due to gender disparity, stereotypical and cultural expectations on how women should behave online, cyber harassment, sexualised threats and violence stemming from online activities-impeding women’s right to free speech online, political participation, information and association.

The submission report states that since the last UPR submission process, Pakistan’s situation of free speech has declined both online and offline due to a concerted effort on part of the GOP to regulate online spaces. With the passage of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA), the government has been granted sweeping powers on the online content. Whereas, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance 2002 allows PEMRA to regulate speech and programming on electronic media. It also mentions the patterns of censorship by the Government of Pakistan on multiple occasions without prior notices and further explanations.

Lastly, the report puts forward the recommendations to ensure the gender based digital rights in Pakistan. These recommendations include campaigns specifically for women to increase digital literacy in rural areas, ensuring affordable and unhindered access to the internet and electronic devices, providing cheaper and subsidized internet access to women along with special discounts to promote the ownership of internet connections among women, amending or repealing legislation that violates Pakistan’s international obligations regarding freedom of expression, setting up dedicated departments for online violence against women in FIA's Cyber Crime Wing (Nr3C) and other law enforcing agencies (LEAs) with increased female staff and properly gender-sensitized officers, legislating data protection law in line with international human rights principles, and awareness campaigns around online harassment, digital security, and the mechanisms in place to address it.

September 22, 2013 - Comments Off on Call for Participation: Digital Security Workshop in Lahore

Call for Participation: Digital Security Workshop in Lahore


Digital Rights Foundation is pleased to announce a day long digital security training being organized in partnership with Shirkat Gah and Bolobhi. Journalists, bloggers, writers, human rights defenders and students in Lahore are invited to apply for this workshop. The training sessions will be conducted on Thursday, September 26, 2013.

This workshop aims at equipping the participants with the skills and techniques necessary for staying safe online. One of the purposes of this training is to enable the participants carry out similar workshops within their organizations and share the experience gained through their networks.

If you meet the eligibility criteria and would like to participate in this training, please submit a statement of interest along with a brief bio outlining your work to In the statement of purpose, demonstrate your interest by clarifying how the experience gained through this training program will help you in pursuing your goals personally and professionally. You may also indicate how this program relates to your future aspirations regarding digital security.

Further information regarding the event will be shared with the selected participants. The applicants must send their applications by September 24th, 2013. Late submissions will not be considered.

August 22, 2013 - Comments Off on [Training] Digital Rights Foundation Reaches Out to the Young Women Activists of KPK

[Training] Digital Rights Foundation Reaches Out to the Young Women Activists of KPK

Technology acts as a powerful tool for freedom of expression. It often provides the marginalized groups of society with alternate mediums to get their message across. Story telling is a transformative art that can be applied in diverse settings. By integrating technology with the centuries-old tradition of story telling, new milestones have been reached in the field of communications. With the rapid growth of social media, digital storytelling has emerged as a very effective technique for social advocacy.

Digital Rights Foundation as a feminist organization remains committed to the use of ICTs for women empowerment. DRF regularly conducts training for women activists, writers, bloggers, human rights defenders and journalists to enhance their technical skills. Besides offering support for staying safe on the internet, we also conduct digital storytelling workshops. The key objective of these storytelling sessions is to help women speak out for themselves by teaching them to narrate their experiences in a persuasive manner.

This month, Aware Girls from Peshawar partnered with Digital Rights Foundation to organize a 4days hands-on digital storytelling workshop in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.  The training sessions commenced on August 16, 2013 and continued till August 19, 2013. After a careful assessment, twenty five participants had been selected to participate in the session. The theme for this particular program was creating awareness regarding gender-based violence.

DRF storytelling session

During the course of workshop, women activists were trained to develop their own stories using a wide array of digital tools. Participants were familiarized with a range of photography, videography, editing and post-production techniques. Four days of intensive coaching enabled the women create and share their unique perspectives on gender based violence. The participants were provided one-on-one assistance to help them customize their projects and generate focused messages in short presentations. Through digital stories, the feelings and thoughts of women activists were brought into action. On the final day, a special story screening event was arranged. Participants were guided to carry out self-evaluation of their work. To mark the successful completion of the training, certificates were awarded to the participants.

Digital Rights Foundation plans to document and disseminate the stories on various digital platforms. DRF also aims to launch more  such projects in future that involve the use of digital media for addressing gender-based violence and violence against women. In that context, DRF seeks to develop interactive training manuals so that participants would be able to carry out similar workshops within their organizations.

To keep up with DRF's news and updates, like us on Facebook!

December 17, 2012 - Comments Off on Talking about our bodies: a tale of Eiynah, the taboo-breaker!

Talking about our bodies: a tale of Eiynah, the taboo-breaker!

Team-DRF tried to gather some stories from Pakistanis for the international Take Back the Tech! 16Days campaign. Here is the story of Eiynah who writes on sexual issues on her blog Nice Mangoes

"I am a Pakistani-Canadian female blogger/artist and I write/draw about desi sexuality. A topic that many wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, I've chosen to confront, dissect and discuss. Some call it bold and some call it insane... because obviously, being a Pakistani woman and talking openly about the body and its nooks & crannies comes with its disadvantages, its threats and of course its hate mail.

I anticipated that though... so getting lewd comments and anonymous sexually explicit messages doesn't phase me. We are from a sexually repressed society and any mention of sex coming from a woman is thought to be an open invitation for such remarks, by many.

My aim is to pass on some very basic facts, and open the channel of communication for things that so many people are confused about in our culture. I want to create awareness about things like equality in the bedroom, and Child Sex Abuse... And when I get harassed about raising my voice regarding these things... this is when I'm surprised. I mean, who in their right minds would be against talking about these issues? Who would send me threats about keeping my mouth shut about Child Sex Abuse? Who on earth are these sick minded Pakistanis that view this as me 'airing Pakistan's dirty laundry in public' ? Honestly you'd be surprised at how many comments and angry emails/tweets I receive... telling me to keep our country's darker side hidden, because apparently speaking about such ills will only bring shame upon us. What a twisted way to view our reality...

This is exactly the kind of mentality that inspires my blog. Despite me being called a devil-worshipper, wannabe atheist, slut, etc... I am motivated to keep writing about such things because I can see it making a difference. I get emails every week from people regarding their stories of abuse. Some of them wish to share on the blog and some don't. But sharing at all is a huge first step, some have come forward saying that they have never had the courage to speak out before they read others stories on my blog.

So these things definitely outweigh the negative.

I am a woman, a Pakistani woman - And I WILL keep speaking about how Pakistanis from different walks of life, different genders, different orientations are treated unjustly because of their sexuality. It doesn't matter how many cowards I piss off. Go ahead and leave me your empty words.

Now I'm no sex expert, and never have I claimed to be. I'm just someone with an interest in getting some basic information across - especially to women and the men in their lives....


November 10, 2012 - Comments Off on Women of Azerbaijan on Internet: an Interview with Arzu Geybullayeva

Women of Azerbaijan on Internet: an Interview with Arzu Geybullayeva

Nighat Dad spoke to Arzu Geybullayeva - a regional analyst and blogger from Azerbaijan - during Internet Governance Forum 2012 at Baku. Arzu here shares the key regional issues faced by women in the country and discusses how people harass women rights defenders online.


November 1, 2012 - Comments Off on Acid Prevention Bill Consultation

Acid Prevention Bill Consultation

Organized by ASF (Acid Survivors Foundation), a committee was invited to discuss and propose the Acid Prevention Bill to the government in 2010.

It was quite a historic moment in December, 2011 when the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill were passed in parliament along with The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill.

The Acid Control & Acid Crime Prevention bill recommends 14-year to lifetime imprisonment sentences to the perpetrators and fines up to Rs. 1 million.


October 31, 2012 - Comments Off on Attack on Pakistani Youth Activist Will Not Shake Women's Rights Activists

Attack on Pakistani Youth Activist Will Not Shake Women's Rights Activists

Malala Yousafzai is also a strong advocate for communication rights and is a keen supporter and promoter of APC’s local Take Back the Tech! Campaign in Pakistan after attending workshops in Swat and Peshawar.

An exceedingly sad, insensate and astounded feeling comes to mind while writing this piece about an innocent 14 year-old activist Malala Yousafzai shot in Swat, Pakistan earlier today. This young girl who exemplifies active participation in the Take Back the Tech! campaign in Pakistan.
Across the globe, countless women and human rights defenders risk harassment, torture, family kidnapping and even death threats. Women activists keep breaking cultural taboos and make efforts to lead an exemplary life – not only so their own lives can be better, but also to help other women have an independent and inspiring life.

Malala, our young activist was attacked while she was going home from school with other girls in a school van in the country’s northwest, a region of the country that is known for its political unrest. The unknown assailants shot several bullets to her vehicle, injuring her and the other two school girls. Malala received two bullets to the head and neck, and is currently in critical condition in a hospital in Peshawar.

She started receiving death threats soon after her identity went public as the author of the BBC’s Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl, in which she denounced the atrocities that took place during Taliban rule under the pen name Gul Makai. In March 2012, shortly after Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced that she, and another social worker (Shad Beghum) where on the militant’s hit list, she was provided with unarmed security by her school.
Hailing from Mingora Swat, this 14 year-old girl fought to restore peace and promote girls’education in Swat during the stronghold of Taliban in 2008. She was awarded National Peace Award by the former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani for her outstanding and ardent efforts under extremely hostile conditions. She was also bestowed with Sitara-e-Jurrat by the Government of Pakistan acknowledging her courageous services to promote peace. She was the first Pakistani to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by children’s advocacy group Kids Rights Foundation.

Like many other girls, Malala is a victim of the ban imposed by Taliban on girls’ education during their stronghold of Swat in 2008. The teenager kept encouraging her fellow students to continue with their schoolwork despite of militants’ threats before the Pakistan Military launched an operation and flushed out the militants.

The attack on a children rights activist is an unmistakable indication that the Taliban is not a group that is willing to negotiate girls’ education and women’s rights.

It is not the first case of attacking human rights defenders (and particularly women’s rights activists) in Pakistan. The famous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been getting such threats for years. The daring lawyer, Asma Jahangir, is also one of the many who keep receiving threats from miscreants. Adding to this, women’s rights defender Farida Afridi was ambushed and shot dead outside her house on 4th July in Hayatabad, in the tribal agency of Khyber.

Be it in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the efforts and contributions of these activists has been under constant attack by the Taliban. The need of the hour is for the international community to force the State to be responsible and take appropriate measures to protect women and children rights defenders in hostile regions. Activists’ spirit will not wear falter from such attacks, but it will surely affect the peace process in the region.

It is the State’s responsibility to take the activists along the road of peace and make policies, programmes in a closer collaboration and consultation with the human rights defenders. They are the ones who are suffering and helping the victims and survivors on the ground. Designing policies in conflict zones will only be successful and bear long term fruits, when governments take women human rights defenders together in the peace process.


Originally published at Association for Progressive Communications.