On the occasion of International women’s day on March 8, 2023, students from Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of Hyderabad were invited to a live panel discussion on All India Radio Hyderabad. The discussion, which was aired live from 11.15 am to 12 noon by AIR FM Rainbow 101.9.

Six students from the first and final years of MA Gender Studies programme discussed on the theme “Innovation and technology for Gender Equality.” The discussion was moderated by Ms. Abhiruchi Chatterjee, and the other discussants were Ms. Anuhya Prasad, Mr. Rupam Hazarika, Ms. Naitikata Roy, Ms. Sayoni Saha and Ms. Lasya S. Nair. Students from St. Ann’s college, Hyderabad were present during the discussion.  Abhiruchi set the context by highlighting that the theme of discussion is drawn from this year’s 67th UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” She commenced the discussion with unpacking the need for an emphasis on gender equality in conversations around innovation and technology, amidst the hopes of technological determinism during the onset of the century. The discussants spoke about a diverse spectrum of themes within innovation and technology. Anuhya spoke about women and work, the sexual division of labour, feminization of poverty and the replacement of women’s jobs with technology in the unorganized sector. While on the one hand Sayoni, brought out illustrations of how innovative technology has been creatively used to address gender based violence, with innovative applications such as Safetipin, made in India and global best practices such as in Serbia SOS app for calling for help in situations of domestic violence. The discussion also moved towards how technology has been leveraged for augmenting surveillance over women and girls. She also underscored the importance of inclusion in the design and usage of technology, including of persons with disabilities and trans and  non-binary communities.

Naitikata discussed how human bias and male gaze has percolated in medical technology, how innovations in technology, particularly medical technology, can be leveraged to provide inclusive healthcare. Drawing on the works of feminist philosopher Sandra Harding, who called for feminist interventions in science to promote gender equality and who challenged the objective rationality and value neutrality of science, Naitikata spoke about the historical burden of contraception on women’s bodies, and technological innovations as double edged swords that have been beneficial to some and a curse to others depending on the power dynamics in between, such as the case of sex-change surgeries on the one hand as empowering and on the other, the use of technology to assign gender binaries to intersex children.

The discussion then shifted towards technology in education and the digital gender gap. Rupam spoke about the impact of pandemic in revolutionizing edtech while also marginalizing sections of the society such as girls, creating further barriers in accessing education. Lasya, on the other hand, spoke about leveraging algorithms to promote gender equality, rather than reinforcing gender inequality. She highlighted the need for more women in STEM so that they can be a part of the design process of algorithms and not just consumers, and called for transparency and accountability in big tech.

The session concluded with each of the participants sharing their vision of a society where innovation and technology is used to achieve gender equality.

After the session, the discussants were felicitated by the AIR team and the Programme Head, AIR Hyderabad.

– Written by Abhiruchi Chatterjee