“Issko ABC hi aati nahi, yeh computer kya seekh paayegi??” Ranted the overprotective brother of Tarannum (name changed) to Aisha (field assistant and resource person) on the first day of computer training. The brother went on to ask Aisha to send Tarannum (17 years) back, insisting we are wasting time and resources on her. When we asked Tarannum what she wanted to do, she was determined to learn computers. However, her brother’s phone call had shaken her up. She was now nervous.
As an icebreaker, we asked the girls who had come to the ICT training to reflect on their first experience with technology. Many shared their experiences with cellphones and how they couldnt figure out how to pick up a call. Some shared how they taught themselves how to use the cellphone by using it secretly without their fathers and brothers knowing. Others shared how they are still terrified of using or even touching technology: be it computers, cellphones or even the TV. ” Kuch kharab ho gaya toh?”
However, everyone agreed that they could confidently use most kitchen appliances with ease. And most of their brothers and fathers could not. That said, it was noted that it was still the father or the brother who went to get the mixy fixed or buy a new one. It is here that we questioned why women and girls are expected/allowed to use certain appliances that perpetuate gender roles assigned to them and systematically kept away from using certain others.
The use of technology is directly connected to power structures in society as it is the powerful who have access to it and keep others from accessing it. For instance, in a patriarchal society, the realm of technology like many other realms is male- dominated. Gendered myths such as women cannot handle technology or that they are instinctively ‘unskillful’ at it socialize women to keep away from using technology.
This socialisation is the reason why an ICT training is incomplete without addressing the fears and attitudes of young women towards technology. A certain level of self esteem is fostered when a young woman can move a mouse confidently over a blank ‘page’, ‘painting’ bold strokes that form kites, flags, mountains and rivers.
I’d really like Tarannum’s brother to come to one of our practise sessions and watch his sister type, paint, search for Salman Khan’s images, and look up the number of seats in the Lok Sabha with slow, sometimes faltering, but increasingly confident steps. And its been only 3 weeks since our first computer training! I’d really like to see the look on his face while he eats his words and says, ” accha.. Tarannum yeh sab bhi kar leti hai??” That day will come soon. 🙂