From Techphobe to Tech-realist: Technology As an Ally of Human Rights

By Iris Garcia

I am not what they call an early adapter when it comes to technology; I joined Facebook a few months ago, use a desktop at home, and my mobile phone can be considered a fossil. My political perspective on technology: the world’s problems will not be solved by technological innovation alone, and that many benefits of technological advancements have an associated negative cost, be it environmental, social, or economic.

So when I discovered that the theme of the July 2010 International Human Rights Funders Group conference was “Human Rights in the Digital Age”, I brought my skepticism along with an open mind. After the conference, I must admit I am very impressed and hopeful that technology in the hands of activists is a powerful tool for social justice. The forum featured presentations from many human rights organizations using media and technology in innovative ways, including groups like Access, Digital Democracy and Witness. I was particularly struck by the creative use of technology by Breakthrough, a former grantee of GFW, to address violence against women in India.

Based in India and the US, Breakthrough uses popular culture to expand public dialogue on human rights and social justice issues. At IHRFG, Breakthrough presented its Bell Bajao campaign, which addresses domestic violence in India. To raise nation-wide awareness, Breakthrough partnered with a leading advertisement firm that offered its pro-bono services to develop a series of clever and impactful videos urging men and boys to take a stand on domestic violence. Bell Bajao garnered much public attention and won awards.

bb2Building on this interest, Breakthrough encourages the public to upload their own videos of standing up against domestic violence onto their website. Video vans with rights advocates go to rural communities, where they screen these videos and work with young women in the community to organize theatrical puppet shows that demonstrate the impact of domestic violence.

In addition, Breakthrough’s website features a map of services available to women survivors of violence to increase access to these resources. From national television to rural villages, Breakthrough is using media and technology to create normative change. Even a neo-Luddite like myself can get behind that.

Iris Garcia is part of the Program Team at the Global Fund for Women

Watch more videos:
Bell Bajao on YouTube:


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