Note: This is a partner post. MediaNama is proud to support the Hack4Change hackathon on Violence event in Delhi, being held on the 7th and 8th of December, and encourages its readers to participate. Click here for details.

By Shobha S V

To say violence against women (VAW) is a huge problem in India would be an understatement. This is sadly such an obvious fact that I don’t need to quote any studies to justify my claim. The only silver lining in this extremely bleak scenario is that we can see more women coming out and speaking about their experiences openly. A phenomenon, which was seldom spoken about, has now suddenly gotten a voice, post the horrific incident that happened on 16th December last year.

Given this backdrop, we at Breakthrough in association with Hacks/hackers Delhi, are planning to organise a thematic hackathon around women’s rights. More specifically, around VAW in India. This event is a small effort in trying to keep the conversations going around the issue. This event is one of the various activities organised as a part of the global 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence.

While we were ideating about this event, we were thinking of dabbling with open data and data visualisation. Open data is very important for a developing country like India since it democratises information. Data from government organisations that includes research studies conducted by various government departments (among many other things) is extremely hard to get. In the context of VAW in India, it is important to talk more about what the studies are trying to say because hidden within the statistics are trends and stories about the issue in India. We need to understand these trends to talk about the problem and thereby breaking the silence around the issue.

While we were wondering how to give shape to the idea of data visualisation using open data, a meeting with Anika Gupta, who leads Hacks/Hackers- New Delhi (a group of journalists and software developers interested in multimedia storytelling), gave an additional dimension to the event. With H/H on board as co-organisers, we decided to explore multimedia storytelling by incorporating different kinds of data viz. video files, audio files, tweets etc.

So, why technology? For starters, our organisation, Breakthrough has consistently used media, pop culture and technology in order to raise awareness about the issue of VAW. Technology can be a great catalyst for empowering women. However, several limitations influenced by sexist stereotypes prevail in the way technology is accessed. For instance, while we have more mobile phones than toilets in our country, it does not necessarily mean that women have indiscriminate access to the former (and the latter too!). Our studies in rural and semi-urban areas have repeatedly showed that women’s usage of mobile phones is limited and highly policed. Discrimination towards women using technology is not limited to rural areas alone. One can also witness the same in urban areas. Women in technology are a minority and the field of technology continues to be a male domain. Also, the skewed ratio of women editors in Wikipedia is a well-documented fact.

In my opinion, Internet is just like any other public space. Women face the same discrimination and harassment that they end up facing on the street. Virtual harassment will only lead to increasing marginalisation of women and we need to reclaim the space.

All this proves just one thing! We need more voices of women. Reclamation of virtual space can only happen if more women use the internet and by populating all mediums with more women’s voices. This event is a small step in that direction.

There are different activities planned for the hackathon. For instance, we have a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, where we plan to edit Wikipedia articles on the issues of gender-based violence. Articles about cases of sexual violence in India or about women who have been an integral part of women’s movement in India are either not many, or are incomplete or just don’t exist. This event is a way of populating the world’s biggest encyclopedia with stories related to violence against women from India.

So does this mean that the hackathon is only open to techies? No! We intend for this hackathon to open to all. There will be a lot of group work to do and we need people with diverse skillsets in order to achieve the desired output. Does it also mean that men can’t participate? Hell, no! While we want more women to take part, we also want more men to participate because we believe men are allies in the cause of VAW. So, if you are interested in gender issues and data visualisation and are in Delhi, please do come for our event. To know more, please go here.

Shobha is a multimedia manager at Breakthrough and tweets at @Shobha_SV