CITIGEN Think Piece: Gender and information society in Central America- Between the immediate and the strategic scenario

Dear all,

We're happy to present you the think piece written by Margarita Salas 'Gender and information society in Central America- Between the immediate and the strategic scenario'. You can access it at :

Please feel free to share and disseminate the paper widely. We would be happy to hear your thoughts on the think piece. Margarita is also on the group, to make clarifications and to take discussions further.

Margarita Salas is a social psychologist with interest and experience in the areas of applied social research, facilitation and capacity building in ICTs, social economy and knowledge management. She is a feminist activist and works closely with the women's and feminist movement in Latin America and the Caribbean. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Social Communication and Political Science at the University of Costa Rica and works as an independent consultant in these topics with international organisations and civil society.

Abstract: The paper provides an overview of the feminist struggles and their engagement with ICTs, embedded in the political and economic realities of the Central American region. In particular, Margarita focuses on struggles in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Through her paper, she examines the interaction between the global, national and the community contexts and studies the need for and the depth of engagement with ICTs required by feminist movements in the region.

Table of contents:

1.Central America: A small region with large disparities
2.Feminist movements: Strong in ICT use, weak on information society policies
3.Examples from the region
    A)Honduras: Resistance against the military coup
    B)Nicaragua: Government control of media
    C)El Salvador: Real Equality Law
    D)Costa Rica: “Don't label me”
4.A feminist perspective on the information society

Some excerpts:

"The origins of the women's movement in each country are distinct, although in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua it is a very grassroots oriented movement because of close ties with the revolutionary movements and resistance groups. In Costa Rica, given the existence of democratic conditions, there was room for more political organisation, hence the women's movement is more institutionalised, a characteristic that the movement struggles with even today. In Panama, the origins of the feminist movement were predominantly urban and linked to the academic sector" (Salas, 2011: 7).

"Although there are several social organisations that conduct research and build build on information society issues, the subject is not seen as a major concern for any social movement,and is therefore addressed from a rather operational and functional perspective. Even though there are initiatives to develop the capacity of ICT use of marginalised groups (women, indigenous population, rural population) and there are information society observatories in universities and research projects in NGOs or think tanks, advocacy initiatives are scarce" (Salas, 2011: 8).

"As new generations of female digital natives join the feminist movement, strategic uses of ICTs for campaigns, networking and public advocacy become more frequent. This is one of the ways in which the movement has begun closing the digital gap. However, this still does not translate into an analysis of the political implications of the use of these tools, not even at the most immediate level of privacy and online security. This is worrisome because, on one hand the older feminist generation that was much more aware of security issues given the heavy state persecution it dealt with, does not have enough technological knowledge to grasp the implications of this new practice. On the other hand, the newer generations have shown a tendency to make a less critical analysis of the uptake of the tools, since they have grown up with them. Hence they are also unaware that by use of ICT tools and network to handle information they are also opening up new channels for State surveillance and control" (Salas, 2011: 10).