Working with women, queer persons and other marginalized communities from Madhesh from Feminist Tech Exchange helped us to understand, contextualize and broaden conversation around digital rights and digital presence. We had conversation with four participants from the workshop to understand their experiences on the internet and their learning of Feminist Tech Exchange.




Madhu Kumari Mahara – Internet Space and Madhesi Dalit Women

How is the relationship between dalit women and the internet in your society?

I am a Dalit woman living in a Dalit majority area. I am a homemaker and a daughter-in-law. I am not allowed to leave house that often. In this era of internet and technology, every individual needs a personal mobile phone to do the work of their own and the works of others. But in my community, Dalit teenage girls and Dalit women are not allowed to keep a phone with them. We can’t use it for our entertainment as well. We can’t even share our opinions and ideas with others. It’s completely restricted and society thinks that this will spoil us. If a girl carries a phone, then she is being greedy, wrongly accused and is responsible for bringing negative changes in the community. Society has created the norms, values, rules for women and girls itself.

As a Dalit woman from Madhesh, how has your experience with technology and internet been?

From a very young age I was very fond of teaching school children younger than me. Before getting married also I used to be the tutor for children and used to earn money. Now I have been teaching 15 to 16 teenage girls for free because they can learn and my knowledge will also be enhanced. While talking with them I feel very happy and those conversations usually touch my heart and I used to put that as content on the internet. I posted their pictures on Facebook. While doing so, the boys from the community and their parents complained and had a bad discussion/ debate. They also fought with me in this case. They warned me not to click their daughter’s picture and not to post it online. I became worried and sad by that incident and from that time, I am scared of clicking their pictures. I don’t even put my own photos on Facebook. Even my family members were against me and were restricting me to do anything. I had just started to use Facebook and immediately stopped it after the incident. All of my friends put their photos on Facebook and I also wanted to post photos on Facebook of visiting different places and those captured moments during festivals. But my family members don’t allow me to do so. Even my own brothers also give me threats. They only allow me to see some of the videos just for entertainment. My husband doesn’t let me use Facebook and asks what work I have there, why do you need to put a photo? I have a phone but it’s not of any use if I am not allowed to use the internet.

How do you mitigate the risks that you might face in the internet?

Women of my age have just started to keep mobile phones and those who haven’t got one have been suffering, not being able to get the benefit of technology. For me, the internet is a platform to let others know who you are (to identify oneself virtually) and a place to be renowned. For example, I am an educated woman and if I don’t go to an internet platform, other women can’t recognize me and my work. After participating in this workshop, I have changed my mind and I will use the internet regardless of whatever my family members think about me and even I am ready to go against them. This is the first-time involvement in a workshop where I learned a lot about privacy, digital security, data privacy, basic mobile settings etc. The knowledge and information that I have gained will be shared with my students, friends and other women.

There are so many stories that we used to hear about people who have ruined their lives because of misuse of the internet and mobile phone. I always hope not to be guilty for wrong practices that I am not responsible for. I used to ensure privacy while doing any work from mobile. Before going online or using the internet we have to keep a lot of things in our mind regarding our safety. It has been 9 months of using my mobile phone and I wasn’t able to set a password and asked my husband 10 times but he ignored me. Other family members ask me to open the screen so that they can use it. But now I want to make an agency over my device. I don’t want other people to use it. I became very happy to learn about password settings on the phone. I won’t share the password with my husband. I am capable of changing my password at any time I want. I also learned about setting while having video calls. I also learned to put screen lock and screen off timer. I hope to continue the digital security habit from now on.




Aashpati Kumari – Joy of Internet

As a Young Woman from Madhesh, how has your relationship with technology and internet been?

“We daughters are not allowed to access the internet much. Like I mentioned before, there are people who think that if they give their daughters phones, they will get spoiled. When I was young, i studied in the village without mobile phone, and even in Birgunj while studying in grade 11 and 12, I studied without phones. I went to a training with Samata Foundation. It had not been a lot since I started using a mobile phone. I only started using mobile since this Baishakh (April). In that meeting, I asked how to use Facebook. They started laughing. They said even if you are this years old, you say that you don’t know how to use Facebook. When I went to Samata Foundation, they gave a mobile phone and I started to slowly learn how to use Facebook and Zoom. During lockdowns, the meetings use to be in Zoom, and I didn’t know how to use Zoom. I used to get very tense because I didn’t know how to use it properly. A brother helped me and taught me to use.”

What has been the best part about learning to use technology and internet?

While attending the meeting in Zoom with all 32 of my friends along with all the ma’ams. I enjoyed it a lot. Also while attending the online classes, I could meet friends from very far places at the same time. I liked this a lot. 5 of our friends are from Parsa. So we created a group for all 5 of us. We were far from each other but when we talked, I realized that mobile phones have a lot of benefits.

How did you find our about Feminist Tech Exchange Madhesh and what has your journey here been like?

I got to know about the digital security workshop from my teacher and suggested applying for the workshop, saying it’s a great opportunity to learn about technology and digital space. I was struggling with opening the form for a week. By God’s grace, I was able to open it on the last day. Before filling in the form, I copied all the questions in my note copy and started writing at 5:00 pm. I finally finished it by 8:00 pm, filled up the form and then submitted.

How would you describe your experience at Feminist Tech Exchange Madhesh?

We liked this workshop a lot. Before the workshop, I didn’t know about different management settings on my phone, put a strong password on Facebook and use a screen lock. The workshop made me learn more about the use of Facebook, ensuring our safety, keeping our information private using privacy settings etc. It would be nice if programs like this came frequently. I think these kinds of programs are necessary for us, in fact for everyone.How to use Whatsapp, Facebook and how to use them safely.



Rekha Singh Mahato – Digital Experiences

As a Young Woman from Madhesh, how has your relationship with technology and internet been?

I belong to a Madhesi family and a part of Madheshi community. Even if the family is educated there is always a pressure for girls to not use the internet. They focus on negative aspects of the internet and control the girls’ access to the internet. Being an educated woman and currently pursuing bachelors in journalism, I use a mobile phone and am able to use the internet anytime. Poeple think that I am just wasting my time and as if it is not an important part of my life. In my community, the houses are nearby, 3-4 women gather together and they tell “Your daughter (me) uses phone 24 hours a day. What does she do? She is on the internet every time and will be spoiled.” This also pressures my family members to act in a protective way. Even if we try to change their thoughts positively over internet usage, their comments tend to take the effort in a negative way. Because if you listen to something repeatedly then it will set into the mind. Society is always into enforcing negative thoughts over any subject matter and how many times we try to convince them it will not work instead the negativity will be on the leading point. That’s why in our community they don’t know about these things and they are not using it. They don’t know about the digital hygiene or safety practices on the internet such as data privacy, protection etc.

Do you have any suggestions to amplify the reach of Feminist Tech Exchange Madhesh?

Today I have learnt that Facebook and other apps extract and use a lot of our data. That is something my friendsdefinitely don’t know. We had the workshop for different levels of people. I think these s hould be done focusing on the youth groups, as there were diverse age groups of women including adults and aged. Youth are the ones who are using and utilizing the internet, spending their time mostly on this. Burning issues related to identity hacking, creating fake accounts, sending unethical messages, posting photos without consent such as smoking cigarettes (forwarding to family members), no place for privacy, cases of blackmailing for putting the photos if not agreed to do the forced task. So, awareness regarding this should be given to the youth groups and is mostly important to youth.


Archana Darji – Digital Rights and Women Journalists in Madhesh

As a Young Woman from Madhesh, how has your relationship with technology and internet been?

I am a journalist and it has been almost 5 years being engaged in this sector. Reflecting on my own experience and that shared by my fellow women colleagues, it is for sure that we have to face more risk compared with that of the male companion, specially in Terai-Madhesh as conservative thought still prevails in Madhesh . While writing in different issues, raising voice and posting any material in online news portals related to women or even through our personal account, we often get threats and it seems like our right to speech and freedom of expression had been curtailed. Being engaged in this field as an unmarried I face so many problems but those who are married also get a certain level of threat and risk. Engaging in this profession, we have to be ready to take any risk that comes across from both internal (from our own family members) and external (victim’s family background, society, other authoritative bodies) environment which includes biasness, restriction, suppression, death threats and other risk factors while working in the field (reporting and advocacy). So, we have to prepare our mind to stay alert and act effectively while facing the risks. While discussing with women (clients), the experiences they shared touched me emotionally and even made me realize that they are more vulnerable groups than me. When we speak and advocate for the victim women or raise voice against patriarchal norm, we are tagged as feminist and toxic; even got biases from own work place.

Why is it necessary for women journalists to know about digital security?

There is still the conservative mindset among people such as being a woman you should obey your husband or male member in the family, you should remain silent and you can’t be rude, just be a good woman. Only a woman can understand a woman’s struggle and pain and such awareness has been increasing. ‘Pothi baseko suhaudaina’ is a proverb that is often used in a sarcastic way. Reporting about single women to those women who are in an authoritative body of government or any other office is not worth it as they are not supportive. This has impacted us mentally and we have to take time for 1 or 2 months before continuing our work. While going outside, if a person glares at me I feel uncomfortable and unsafe. But even facing all these risks and problems, female journalists (comparatively less in number) haven’t been stopping their work and are still dedicating themselves. I haven’t given up till now and have been working at my best. Due to the emotional attachment with women as a woman, only we can empathize with their problem and we can’t rely or be dependent on male journalists.

In most of the cases, the media house refuses to publish news around women issues and something that goes against the patriarchal norm. The workshop and training in digital security like this is important for women journalists like us because we have to face certain and uncertain risks at any time. The access to the internet, devices and social media platforms can be a medium to assure our security and we can utilize it to make our voice heard or reach out to a wider population. If I don’t have anyone to listen to then this can be a medium to express myself or the stories of others without causing any harm to the victim.



Jyoti Sah – Experiences of Online Violence


As a young woman from Madhesh, how has your relationship with technology and internet been?

“I am the only girl in the family who has access to the internet though I am unmarried. Because there is this belief that unmarried girls get spoiled if they use the internet. But I know how beneficial the internet has been for me. It has helped me to establish my identity as a girl working in the social sector and it creates various opportunities for me in which the internet is playing a major role.”

How has your experience while using the internet been?

“There are sometimes incidents that are demotivating but it is not because of me but because of people who try to misuse it. There was one incident where someone whom I knew started to harass me on my social media by posting abusive comments and sending abusive messages to me. I had disabled video download but he was able to using the downloaders app and posted my videos on his TikTok. Such an app made me feel insecure. I reported it and asked my friends to do the same and his account was blocked. But again he created a fake account from my fake name using the same details as my profile and started posting my pictures. He started chatting with many boys and also one of my friends and asked for money using that account. He also had promised the guy marriage using my name. That same friend mentioned the chat then I came to know about it. One of the guys started threatening me and following me but I went to the police with all the screenshots of his messages and the case was solved.”




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