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Home  > ActiWITTies  > Local Trainings > Article

Bulgarian local training, February 2005: ICTs in the everyday work of women’s NGOs
Maria Velichkova | 29 April 2005

The Internet Rights Bulgaria Foundation (IRBF) conducted a second local training: "Information Technologies in the Work of Women’s Nongovernmental Organizations" from 19 to 22 February 2005 at Expert an educational center in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Ten women who are working mainly in the field of gender equality in Sofia and throughout thee country took part in the training.

"To become a hacker!", "to use information technologies without fear", "to learn more about free software" and "to make a website for our organization" - these were part of women’s expectations, articulated on the first day of the training. Were these aspirations realized during the four days of hard work?

The training started with a discussion on women’s work with information and sommunication technologies (ICT), facilitated by Joelle Palmieri, Les Penelopes, France. She gave lots of interesting examples from around the world, and participants shared their experience. "We have two computers at home, but I am the last person to get access to them after my husband and my two children, who are university students", shared Bozhura Pavlova, technical assistant at the Gender Education, Research and Technologies Foundation (GERT). "My experience is much better, I cannot complain: I am a student at university, where I have access to computers, to the Internet, etc", replied Svetlomira Eremicheva from Vella Center, Vratsa.

"The Internet is a great source of information, but it is often difficult to get to the useful information there", shared Svetlomira. "I often cannot find what I am looking for, because websites are organized in different ways", added Violeta Vlahova from "Gender Project in Bulgaria". There are lots of difficulties - viruses, misuse, language barriers, accessibility, addiction, lack of time for personal development, lack of money for upgrading computers or for PCs in general . "The problem is the passive use and mystification of ICTs", summed up Joelle. The solution is sharing experience and information and checking and saving information, according to Bozhura from GERT.

On the very first day, the participants got user names and passwords for the information portal "Social rights", which they started to use in order to practice what they were taught by Joelle Palmieri about writing effectively for the web. At the end of the second day, the trainer expressed her admiration: "Some women were afraid to speak English, and at the same time they wrote wonderful portraits of their colleagues in this language in a very short time."

On the third day Christina Haralanova went on with a presentation "How websites work" about the need for websites and their use. Demystification of concepts like domain, hosting and design, which do not have Bulgarian equivalents and sound quite frightening, accelerated a discussion on these topics. "Women have great potential but do not believe in their abilities. In ICT trainings, it is easy to see that the difference between those who can and those who do not believe in themselves is actually small. This is often a question of self-confidence or women’s fear to touch technology on their own.", said Christina.

The greater part of the day was devoted to activities, connected to publishing on social rights. Maria Velichkova talked to participants about the idea of the portal, its development, and editorial policies. "It is wonderful that this website exists: even if we do not have our own webpage, we can announce our activities", said Nina Todorova from the Orphan Foundation.

Various emotions and thoughts were provoked by the film Password: women, an initiative of the International Information Center and Archives for the Women’s Movement (IIAV). The film deals with the use of ICTs by women in countries as far apart from each other as Macedonia, Uganda and Costa Rica. "I got a little bit upset by the film", said Svetlomira, "On one hand, access to ICTs in Bulgaria is much easier than in many other countries, but their strategic power is not sufficiently realized. On the other hand, this accessibility is unequal even in such a small country - in many parts of Bulgaria the level of knowledge and usage is not so different from Uganda."

On the last day of the training the topic of free software was discussed, which was very interesting for everybody, even for the web master Maria Ruseva from Center Maria. Although the participants used Linux on the computers in the educational center, the women, who were not acquainted with this operational system, did not experience many difficulties. "Now I feel myself as one-third of a hacker as I know how to use Linux and I can mount the floppy. However, I have to read and learn much more to reach the level of experience with ICTs I need.", said Dima Spasova from Equilibrium, Ruse, at the end of the training.

The workshop on effectively searching for information with Google was also very useful, as well as the discussion on etiquette on the net (so-called Netiquette), where the most debated issue was the problem of using the Cyrillic alphabet.

The organizers of the training faced many difficulties because there was more demand for the training than capacity. For example, the selection of participants was not easy because of the great number of strong applications. However, the participants who were selected and took plart formed an excellent team and worked hard all four days of the session.

Participants’ evaluations were very positive: "friendly atmosphere and trainers", "applicable and accessible contents of the training", "I enriched my knowledge". There were ideas that it would be very useful, if the initiative was developed with further trainings regionally and that more organizations had to be included, so that skills and knowledge could be transmitted.

As a result of the training, three women expressed the desire to create and maintain their own websites. Nearly all of the activists were more enthusiastic about upgrading their own websites or publishing on social rights, so that their activities, campaigns and projects can become more visible in the country and abroad.

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