Originally posted at The Bachchao Project

The Bachchao Project conducted a training of trainers for women, trans* and queer individuals, and those belonging to the LGBTQIA+ spaces. The people for the training were chosen from a closed call spread in various underrepresented communities. Nine trainees were initially chosen, out of which six trainees completed their training. Five among them went on to do the Safe Sisters fellowship program with The Bachchao Project.

The Bachchao Project, in partnership with Safe Sisters, conducted the India Fellowship Program from August to November 2021. This cohort included 5 fellows, shortlisted for their diverse areas of work with at risk and/or underserved communities, who by the very virtue of their identities are exposed to many unique  risks.

An initial training period allowed the fellows to begin understanding and responding to security challenges they may face in their work and daily life. The aim of the program was to enable them to secure themselves, and pass on these learnings in the communities they work in. The focus was on holistic security practices rather than tool usage, and fellows underwent activites on needs assessment, risk assessment and threat modelling, before moving to possible interventions.Since the fellowship was based in India, the initial training was localised to the country, as far as possible. We also held a session with prior safe sisters fellows from other countries, to underline the feeling of community and support. As the fellows spoke to each other, common interests became apparent, and resources and advice was exchanged.

The common thread that bound everyone together was the sharing of stories of online harassment, lack of access to justice and the positive impact that fellows could see their work having, especially in under served communities.  Fellows also exchanged notes on challenges faced while training diverse stakeholders and underlined the importance of being mindful of our own biases and shortcomings as individuals that we may carry into the training space. This highlighted again that without being inter sectional in every aspect of our work -including how we speak, train and otherwise engage with different communities.

After the initial training period, we conducted additional trainings for fellows who wanted more information on certain topics. The fellows were encouraged to set up their trainings while keeping the fellowship trainers in the loop. We held follow up calls for all the fellows and discussed their plans for the communities they work with, and assisted them in the setting up of workshops, if they required help. All of the fellows successfully carried out needs assessments for their target groups, and were able to carry out trainings where required. They  can now take back this knowledge and skill to their communities.

AK:

“Given the current pandemic, when more and more people are online and internet is used in a variety of ways – I feel I have benefited immensely by the fellowship as it has not only made me understand how to be safe in the digital space but also empowered me to help others from more vulnerable communities and spaces. The fellowship helped me understand how to give support in a structured fashion and I am equipped to assist others in being equipped and safe in the digital world. While firefighting skills are necessary but its much better to take certain precautions from the beginning in-order to minimise risk.”

Arunima N:

“The module on online dating and gender-based violence was entirely new to me. I liked the   tools we were given to express ourselves in the context of dating while keeping parts of our digital identity safe from being mined by dating companies. I also like that conversations we had as a part of this module, particularly on communicating to a potential romantic partner why digital privacy is important to you, and to see if the other person respects this principle of ours. That was a personally illuminating conversation to witness, between the trainers […] and the participants”

Brindaalakshmi K:

“Most importantly, I’m grateful for the space that we had as fellows during the course of this fellowship to ask questions and ask for extra resources. It was a safe learning environment. Feeling safe in a learning environment is a high priority for me while learning anything. I appreciate the patience and the effort of the trainers in always holding space for the fellows. That made a huge difference to me especially while learning tools that are absolutely new. It made the process less intimidating”

“I have had many learnings from this fellowship, not one. But the most important lesson that I have learnt is that digital security and consciously practicing safer methods is a way of life and a lifestyle change. It is taking me time and I cannot expect the people that I do workshops for to change their habits overnight. Over time, I have known this even through my work. But this fellowship has made me realise that digital security doesn’t have to be a dark and bleak thing. We as individuals have more power than we realise even while using automated technology, which often feels larger than life to most people. Many generations of people are still adjusting to using technology. Safety rests in recognising this power that we hold and making conscious choices”

Ravalisri V:

“The 2 days program on using dating applications is one of the major learning. It provided a platform to share our experiences and all the safety measures to be taken while using them along with what is a necessary action to be taken when someone faces problems from others”.

Chinmayi Shrivastava :

“A fantastic experience!

In addition to all the insights I gained on digital security, I have also walked away with a newfound confidence for digital security challenges that I might face in the future in my work and daily life. Having practised the tools myself along with the training sessions conducted as part of the Safe Sisters fellowship, I definitely feel more secure online which is the first step for me to conduct my daily work related and personal activities online without being scared and anxious at the thought of losing my data or my data ending up in the wrong person’s hand.”