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The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that ... women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.
Louise Otto
Home  > Gender & ICT  > Women in FOSS > Article

Women and Free Software: are we strategic enough?
Christina Haralanova | 7 March 2005


There is no doubt: new technologies, and especially the use of Free Software are a challenge for the whole society. To be more powerful, women need to learn to use them as a tool in their work.


It is not just about pushing buttons, but about managing the situation. Women are not aware that there is digital freedom. They see technology as something separate, not as something that complements their main work: activism and the protection of rights," says milica gudovic [1], a feminist from Belgrade, working for Zene na Delu.

What concretely are the problems?

The problem of introducing new technologies, and free software in particular, in the everyday work of women has many dimensions: according to Christina Haralanova from Internet Rights Bulgaria Foundation (IRBF), “there is the fact that proprietary software makes its users lazy – they learn how to push the right buttons, but they have no idea about the logic of sending e-mails for example. Free software helps you think and build your knowledge in a logical fashion.” Additionally, there is the old fear that free software is too technical and difficult for women to use.

"We should be more strategic in our actions when introducing free software to women. Many years ago, there was the standard of open formats. Today, Microsoft is imposing its own standards for computer technologies, which have nothing to do with global standards. We should be aware of that and fight for the freedom to use software," answers Ivana Pavic from Oneworld – Mutimedia Institute, Croatia.

Made in Brazil

The activists from the Brazilian Women Free Software Project have found their own solution in introducing new technologies, based on free and open source software. For them it is the intersection between new technologies and a "solidarity economy" in their country. Their motto is that a solidarity economy provides social freedom to the citizens, while free software offers not just social, but also digital freedom. "Software should liberate, rather than produce more problems, costs and troubles to people."

The localisation of the software, the translation of the programs, based on free software, as well as the possibility for modification with respect to the user’s needs, will help a lot with the efforts to introduce these tools to the local women.

Political education

The problem raises other, even deeper, issues, and Natasa Stevanic from the Women’s Information Technologies Transfer (WiTT) offers a more global solution: “We should place a stress on education and more specialised ways to standardize our knowledge. The bureaucrats from the government would like to see a certificate from us when we suggest that they migrate to Linux. This is a way to prove our knowledge.”

Providing education on open standards and on free software and identifying the problems confronting us will give a good base for devising solutions in different countries. Defining strategy is our next task...




  • > Free Software and women: are we strategical enough?
    8 March 2005

    I just wanted to send you a link to one of our resources titled "How Nonprofit Organizations can use the Internet and Open Source Software." It’s a guide designed to help NGO’s (specifically women’s equality seeking organizations) develope an online presence.

    Cheers, cj

    How Nonprofit Organizations can use the Internet and Open Source Software


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