The global conversation on the need to close the gender gap in science and technology has been gaining strength in recent years. However, the issue is still lagging behind in India where it is widely accepted that women and technology belong in different worlds.
Women and girls in rural areas or those from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds are often treated as intellectually inferior to men. It’s a commonly held belief that boys are naturally better than girls at maths and that engineering is a male domain. This long-held bias fuels a social attitude where girls are taught to focus on learning domestic skills in preparation for marriage and motherhood.
Repeated often enough, the idea that technology is not for women becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, in many parts of India, women and girls feel intimidated by new technologies.
In addition to societal attitudes, economic barriers prevent girls from accessing education. With limited resources, families are more likely to send their sons to school rather than their daughters. This creates more challenges for girls who are trying to overcome the social pressure to remain in stereotypically female roles.
Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) was established in 2007 to promote the inclusion of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It conducts training sessions and workshops and advocates for girls in STEM. FAT envisages a world where the use, creation, access and innovation of technology is gender neutral.
The organisation’s flagship project, the Tech Centre, offers technology classes to women and girls. These are combined with workshops on women’s rights, feminism and sexuality.
FAT also works to create a girl-friendly technology environment through girl-led advocacy campaigns. It engages with a range of different community stakeholders to promote girls’ rights and leadership.
The organisation works with schoolgirls, college students and girls who have left the formal education system. It provides counselling to girls and young women and works with parents and community members to gain support for girls’ rights and their inclusion in STEM.
FAT has had a strong impact on its beneficiaries, many of whom have gone on to enrol in higher education and apply for jobs in the tech field. Over the years, FAT has seen a tremendous change in attitudes at the individual, family and community levels with respect to girls’ rights.