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Community Voices: The Bachchao Project fights for gender rights online

The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective working at the intersection of technology and gender rights.Chinmayi S K, a computer science engineer by training, is the founder of the project, which she started in recognition of her own experiences developing and using technologies that do not reflect the needs of women and queer individuals online.

“There has always been a gap between those who produce technology and those who use it,” says Chinmayi. When that gap exists, and technological innovations do not represent or consult users, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, they risk coding existing discriminatory biases into tools that do not serve everyone.

The India-based organization works with what they call “both ends of the spectrum”: technologists and users. Both groups, Chinmayi acknowledges, struggle. Technologists face difficulties understanding the on-the-ground reality of user groups, while users new to technology lack the support needed to navigate these innovations. The Bachchao Project seeks to bridge the two, under the overarching mission of equal rights for women, gender minorities, and LGBTQIA persons.

Since the team is made up of both technologists and human rights defenders, they’re able to deconstruct technological concepts while simultaneously understanding the needs of different communities. They also rely on concerned individuals to build circles of trust within their communities and pave the way for impactful interventions.

Despite this, they face ongoing challenges in the work they do. The tendency for organizations to work in silos makes it difficult for them to get buy-in for an approach that seeks to promote collaboration. In some cases, it can be difficult to get organizations not only to consider seriously principles of diversity and inclusion, but also to integrate them in their work and tools.

For the Bachchao Project, RightsCon is an opportunity to confront those challenges head-on, in a space that thrives because of engagement and strategy building across sectors and disciplines. At RightsCon Toronto, the team released its latest publication, Of Sieges and Shutdowns, a report detailing how unreliable mobile networks and intentional internet shutdowns affect women activists and entrepreneurs in the economically underdeveloped and conflict-ridden state of Manipur, India. The project is a starting point for understanding the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by women in the region.

Learn more about the Bachchao Project on their website or follow them on Twitter, and get in touch directly if you are interested in volunteering or collaborating with The Bachchao Project on one of their initiatives.

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