Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT), India
“I began to ask myself, why is it that girls always get the best marks but boys always get the best jobs?” Gayatri Buragohain said, reflecting on her time in engineering college. “It’s because boys have experience doing. They have freedom.”
As India’s local government elders called the Khap Panchayat ban women from using mobile phones and restrict their movements, girls slowly lose enthusiasm for STEM. “These girls don’t even have the right role models to dream of a career in STEM,” Gayatri says. “A girl in Delhi sees everything happen around her, but she can’t access it.”
It was when Gayatri first began to question her own experiences as a woman in a STEM field that she got angry. But then she got a good idea. She founded Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) to ensure that girls can access technology as users, designers, and decision makers. “FAT is not just a science program,” Gayatri says. “It’s a feminist science program.”
The MATCH Fund is supporting FAT’s pilot after-school tech lab for 25 economically disadvantaged middle school girls. If you pop in, you’ll see girls learning basic carpentry and electrical programming. You’ll see a film on the solar system and you’ll hear from successful Indian women who are already working in STEM careers. If you haven’t already, you might just fall in love with STEM. But you’ll definitely fall in love with FAT.
Women Awareness Centre Nepal, Nepal
In 1998, The MATCH Fund supported one tiny savings cooperative for the fledgling Women’s Awareness Centre (WACN). Since that time, WACN has grown to 41 women’s cooperatives in five rural districts of Nepal. Truly an example of how one small grant can have a big impact on a grassroots women’s organization, WACN now provides 35,000 Nepalese women with banking tools for economic independence.
But April’s earthquake changed everything. (Well, almost everything.) From the minute the first earthquake struck, WACN staff were in the field, patching together information from women in the hardest hit areas. Through WACN’s established connections to women-led households, they were able to pivot quickly and provide building materials to those whose homes had been destroyed.
What has never changed is WACN’s dedication to placing women at the centre of decision-making and resource generation. It will be a long road to recovery after a devastating season of earthquakes and monsoons. But WACN has clearly demonstrated that when women support each other, even the longest roads lead home.
Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), South Africa
Nondumiso Nsibande didn’t major in women’s rights at university. She didn’t major in law either. Instead, the now Executive Director of TLAC studied theatre. She was eager to act and eager to be on stage. So, of course, when a professor asked her to be in a production about domestic violence, Nondumiso was in. To prepare, she volunteered with TLAC helping victims of domestic violence. What started as one acting gig soon became the role of a lifetime. “I haven’t left TLAC since,” she says. “And I haven’t even considered leaving.”
Nondumiso will tell you: violence against women in South Africa is not an act. It is very, very real. South Africa is, in fact, one of the most dangerous places to be a woman. Every 8 hours, a woman is killed by her intimate partner, and 30% of girls are raped by the time they are 18. How can this be in a country with such strong laws protecting women and girls?
TLAC knows that it’s not just about laws; it’s about law enforcement, advocacy, and monitoring. The MATCH Fund is supporting TLAC to write a shadow report as part of their “Different Conversations Project.” This report will expose the realities of gender-based violence in South Africa and will engage members of the very sectors it aims to influence: the government, civil society, and the private sector. From breakfast chats hosted by the national cell phone company to consultations with women in the townships, these conversations go in-depth and off script. That’s how TLAC makes change. That’s how they turn laws into actions.