Digital Trainers Summit 3 - Circumvention Tech Festival, Spain
From Gender and Tech Resources
It was an honour for me to be invited to join Circumvention Tech Festival and the first Trainers Summit in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain on March 1 – 6, 2015. This is a report back on how my week spent there.
1. Valencia was sunny the day the Circumvention Tech Festival (CTFestival) started on the 1st of March. Sunny but pretty chilly for someone who came from a tropical country as myself. But it didn’t hinder me from getting so excited to join more than 400 people from all over the world. CTFestival aimed to bring together activists fighting censorship and surveillance for a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons and social gatherings. Its goal was to provide a space for the community to pool resources, share knowledge, skills and experience, as well as build network. What made it more interesting was that developers were also present, which gave us, the on-the-ground activists who use tools they create, the opportunity to interact with them.
The CTFestival was opened with Circumvention Tech Summit (CTS), a one day unconference designed to kick off the festival, where participants got to know each other and the festival, as well as to explore topics of conversation that will take place on the following week. After a lightening speed of introduction for each participants and explanation of the event and its (strict) rules, a skills share session opened with tens of topics to choose from. Topic ranged from countries experience sharing on censorship and surveillance situation, to how to conduct, digital security training, to understanding tools (Enigmail, TOR, TAILS, mobile security tools, etc), to how to get organizational buy-ins and many other topics. The first day was ended with an opening reception.
2. The second day was for everyone to go to the event where they came to the Festival for. As for myself I joined the Trainers Summit organized by Internews, TOR Project and IREX. The summit was attended by more than 100 participants from all over the world with all regions being represented. The first half of the first day of the summit was opened for public and started with a speedgeeking session featuring 11 organizations presenting the work of their organization. I was one of the eleven. I presented our work at EngageMedia and Video4Change, a global network of organizations using video to affect social change where we are a part of.
The rest of the summit was private only for participants who have registered prior to the festival. For the next 4 days, participants were talking about everything about digital security training. We started out with mapping out regions and countries where participants conduct digital security trainings and whom do we train. It was such an amazing feeling to see a wide range of countries and communities everyone was working in and with. It gave an idea how digital security is being spread throughout the world. The summit also tried to map out what digital security trainers around the world need, be it knowledge/skills wise, tools wise or even other resources that will help them do their work on the ground. The best part of it (to me) was the break-out sessions where we plan a training based on (mostly) real life cases. The sessions provided us with a lot of insights and experience from different places. I personally think the session was very fruitful to me to learn about best practices, what I think I can try to apply in my trainings and whatnot from other trainers. It also tried to formulate a way to shift the focus of digital security trainings from tools to human.
The last day of the training, we had the chance to have small group discussions on tools and talked to some of the developers. It was a good opportunity to get insights about the tools and receive new updates on the development of the tools.
3. Gender and sexuality was a major intersectional issues that was discussed a lot during the summit, both built-in in the sessions and by itself. Some of the highlights was the discussion on how to work with communities of women and especially LGBTIQ on issues of privacy, surveillance and digital security as well as conversation on whether it is a good idea to mix women and LGBTIQ in general training, and if it is possible to do, what are the appropriate strategies to conduct inclusive trainings as such. The whole conversations on gender and sexuality really gave us a realization of how we need more women trainers and/or trainers who understand issues of gender and sexuality (at least to have more trainers who are gender-sensitive).
All and all, the CTFestival was a huge success and the Trainers Summit was a fruitful event. I didn’t learn much of new skills in term of the use of tools as I expected before, but I guess the summit was not designed for that. It was designed to be a space to share experience and a little bit of skills in delivering trainings and it successfully fulfilled that goal. And it was proven to be invaluable! I hope that the summit would not stop there, since it would be great to have everything documented and shared widely, not only those who were discussed or shared during the summit but also any development, progress, experiment, and best practices afterwards. And I believe that level-up would be a great collaborative platform to do so.
Highlights: There were not much new things to learn from the trainer summit, but it was a great space of sharing experience and knowledge between people who do digital security training. I like that! There was still a challenge from participant about having women issues to be put as separate sector rather than integrated issues in all sessions. I personally disagree with this view. While it is true that women and LGBTIQ should be an intersectional issues, a specific caucus on the issues is very urgently needed since there is lack of gender-sensitive perspective amongst digital security trainers, let alone a good gender and sexuality perspective. What’s to be done is to have specific discussion on gender and sexuality that also tackle the issues of sexism and misogynistic perspective of many digital security trainers as well as finding the right strategies to conduct inclusive digital security trainings I encountered sexism and misogynies with one of the participants during personal dinner with 3 other people. I was getting into a heated argument with a male participant and he ended up making a statement that to me was personal attack on me and the other female participant who was also in the argument. I didn’t really address this issue to the organizers but made a statement during the closing that made people actually asked me why I made that statement With that, we really need to empower and train more women and LGBTIQ persons to be actively involve in the community fighting for censorship and surveillance as well as digital security There are few possibility of doing collaborative projects with some people and would look for more possibility to work with other (especially people who work with women and LGBTIQ in the country). I am also looking forward of doing a joint global campaign on the issues of women, sexuality and tech. Another great experience I gained from the Festival was meeting people who do and create things that matter!