In the thick of struggle – The Kerala team at the 'Women in Politics' conference

Binitha V. Thampi and J. Devika from the CITIGEN network attended the 2011 Women in Politics conference that was held in Dili, East Timor between 29 September – 1 October. Titled 'Amplifying the Voices of Women in Politics: The Second Asia-Pacific Conference on Women in Politics and Governance', the conference provided an opportunity for feminists from the region to collaboratively ideate on the issues and challenges that women's participation in politics has thrown up.

Binitha and Devika focussed on deployment of technology for feminist ends – the inherent possibilities and the attendant problems. The workshop was divided in three parts and in each part collective reflection by the participants followed the team's presentation. In the first part, the need for feminists to engage with technology and the political significance of the same was discussed. This shared understanding provided the ground for the next part, where the practical difficulties in persuading women to use technology and its networking possibilities was discussed. Here, a variety of challenges, emanating from the difference in the socio-political contexts of the different experiences were outlined. It was concluded from the discussion that the possible solutions to these challenges lay in a mediation that is primarily feminist. The Gramamukhya experience of the Kerala team, where they were able to transcend the unequal trainer-trainee relationship motif and forged a more equal relationship as feminists, found resonance in the participants' concerns about governmentalisation of feminism and reduction of feminist struggles to gender mainstreaming expertise.

The third part was devoted to sharing the experience of setting-up the website and related details like the structure and design of the website, the rationale of the contents on the website and their development. Many women, for example women MPs of Timor Leste, shared with the team that such platforms would be useful for their own struggles. Such links, forged with feminists working in different contexts, made the conference an enriching experience for the Kerala team. One of the central ideas of CITIGEN – ways and means of actualising citizenship for women in the emerging information society – was conveyed by the Kerala team in their intervention at the Women in Politics conference.