FSCONS: Free software Examples from the Women Social Movements

My first presentation at FSCONS, taking place tomorrow from 15h15 has this crypted title "NGO Women". It is part of the Serengeti track on social movement examples on Free Software appropriation.

So, in brief, I am going to give several examples on how feminist movements around the world use free software as their approach to software and Internet technology: ways of appropriation, challenges, strategies. Some of the projects took place in Eastern Europe like the Women's Information Technologies Transfer, a network of ICT trainers for the women's movements, which bases its principles on open platform and freedom of technology. Others are taken from France, Canada and other parts of the world.

I will also like to discuss a statement, which I hear more and more often on feminist forums, that "There is nothing more feminist on the Internet than the Free Software". This is in similarity to another, more global view that Free Software movements and solidarity movements, in general, often have a common agenda.

Another example that I will give is the Studio XX, a feminist center for artists in Montreal, Canada whose ICT approach was also to provide free software tools to artists, to assist them financially and ideologically into their multimedia activities. Software like Blender and Pure Data, Drupal, The Gimp, and GNU/Linux are presented into trainings, but also provide tech support and personal assistance. Artists, especially the ones who work on classic art (no multimedia or visual ones), do not have ICT appropriation in their agenda, but sooner or later get to know a bit more and find interesting solutions for their development. This is where Studio XX can give them a hand, and providing a Free Software solution in the very beginning of the learning process, helps a lot. A research they did recently showed that also majority of these artists become very receptive to Open Content and Open Standards philosophy, once they get to know it better.

The third example is the Automasites, a group of women who decided to provide a website solution to women's groups. The automasite is a website creation tool, which groups can use to create their own website with a few clicks. It is free and limited in its use, but it also provides documentation, training and tech support for these movements. The Automasites was created when it became clear that because of women's movements around the world do work often away from technology (fighting domestic violence, traficking of people, lobbying, etc.), and being composed, in their majority by women-only staff, they tend to surround technology and not know how to start up with.