Positioning women as leaders in the online space

Positioning women as leaders in the online space

Empowerment

When Sairee Chahal started to explore women and career opportunities in the online space, she could not find much in India. That is when she decided to start Sheroes.in, an initiative which curates work from home jobs in India, builds a community of working women and helps them find mentors and resources.

Sowmya Rao led a citizen effort during Chennai flood which provided real-time updates on flooded areas, weather forecast, train schedules, and disaster relief. As India’s first woman and youngest sarpanch of village Soda, 60 kms from Jaipur, Chavvi Rajawat highlights developments in rural India and seeks to bridge urban/digital divide.

Though their work and ventures are different, what connects them is their presence on the social media and how actively they use social networking site Twitter. But these are among the few women online, as a recent study by Statista, a statistics web portal mentions that women make up only 29 per cent of 375 million internet users in the country, and fewer are on social media platforms. In order to bridge the gap and make women users feel safe in the online space, Twitter recently launched #PositionOfStrength campaign in India after Australia and Ireland.

“Counter narratives are really powerful. We have heard from many women influencers who have used Twitter to drive awareness on gender pay gap, childcare, domestic violence, healthcare and flexible work. With the introduction of the campaign, we look to strengthen the women empowerment movement and encourage women to amplify their voices in a secure and confident manner,” says Mahima Kaul, public policy head, Twitter India.

As part of the movement, the portal and its partners will be hosting a series of closed-door round tables and workshops with women leaders, as well as, girls from educational institutes to discuss how to increase empowerment and safety for women in the physical and online world.

The first of the series of roundtables with India’s women influencers included Rao, Chahal and Rajawat who explained how the use of digital platforms has the potential to remove barriers, biases and other limitations. They also highlighted how it has the power to overcome mobility restrictions, and can provide a public voice and help develop personal brand. “As a woman on the internet, it’s not always easy or safe to speak out about issues that matter, or to even have an opinion. For this reason, I’m excited to be part of the initiative so that the online space remains a safe and respectful space for discussion and engagement. I also want more women to start discovering for themselves how much fun it can be to find your voice online,” Rao tells Metrolife.

Emphasising on safety as a core concern with tools like the ‘mute, block and report abusive behaviour’, Patricia Cartes, global safety outreach lead, Twitter Inc, mentions, “We need, and cherish women’s voices on our platform. We don’t want them to shy away from contributing because of trolls or those that seek to stifle their voices. Instead, we want women to animate the platform with their unique and compelling stories and to enrich the global discourse that evolves on the internet in real-time.”

On how the portal plans to cover and reach the interiors of the country, she adds, “More importantly, we recognise that it’s critical that we engage and educate women locally to use the platform safely and with confidence. While the ‘safety center’ in Hindi has been launched as of now to cater to Hindi-speaking belt, regional languages will soon be launched.”

The microblogging site has partnered with  FICCI Ladies Organisation, and Observer Research Foundation for the initiative and is also getting on board Delhi-based NGO Breakthrough and the Centre for Social Research.

“Bringing gender equality into vibrant digital spaces is one of the most important policy questions of our time. Technology is neutral, but initiatives like these help align them with progressive values,” says Arun Mohan Sukumar, head, cyber initiative, Observer Research Foundation.

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