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“More Women in Internet Governance”: An Interview with Jenifer López

Under the theme “More Women in Internet Governance: What is the Internet we want?”, the first edition of the IGFem Panama – Online was held in May. 

The initiative was organized by the Internet Society Panama Chapter, the Panamanian Institute on Law and New Technologies (IPANDETEC) and the Internet Society Women SIG; with the support of Agiles Panama and Women in Agile, sponsored by the Authority for Government Innovation (AIG), NIC Panama and the Internet Addresses Registry for Latin America and Caribbean (LACNIC).

The IGFem Panama offered two online activities, both with great acceptance and participation from the public: a dialogue with Candy Rodriguez (Acoso.Online) on “Gender Violence Online and Pandemic – what you should know in times of lockdown”; and a panel of experts from civil society, the public and private sectors titled “What is the Internet we want”, featuring Jenifer López (NIC Panama), Yaniselli Jaén (Women in Agile), Silvia Batista (CSIRT Panama) and Jimena Londoño (Women in Agile).

We interviewed Jenifer Lopez, one of the speakers on the panel, to find out more about the initiative. Jenifer is the manager of NIC Panama, one of the sponsoring organizations of the IGFem Panama and member of LACTLD.

—How did the IGFem Panama come about and what are its key objectives?

—The IGFem was created by and for women as a forum for learning, sharing and discussing how women can develop and be safe on the Internet and in the digital ecosystem. The main objective is that more women come together to share their experiences and promote leadership not only in technology but also in any other field, thus encouraging the creation and expansion of supportive networks.

—How was the planning process?

—The process began in December, as the event was to take place on March 19. It was originally designed to be a face-to-face event, aimed mainly at students, journalists, members of civil society organizations, activists, government and private sector representatives. After modifications due to the pandemic, it was decided to hold the online events instead.

—Why is it important to promote women’s participation in Internet governance processes? 

—Currently, there is considerable male predominance in technical fields. Encouraging diversity in these forums is important because it allows girls to realize that they can also be interested in technical careers and become the women who lead positions within the technological field, thus helping to close the gender gap. This can only be achieved by encouraging greater participation of women in all aspects of Internet development.

—What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for women interested in participating in governance processes?

—I think the main challenge is to ensure that we are perceived as equally capable as men and that this imaginary line between what a man can do and what a woman can do disappears. This is achieved by empowering and training more women, giving value to their voice and opinions and encouraging them to participate, without the fear of being ignored. If we as women lack training in technology, it will be more difficult for us to be recognized in the arenas where Internet governance is discussed and developed. There are many opportunities. By achieving greater involvement of women in governance processes, we will improve our position in the strategic scenarios needed to participate directly in the development of the Internet. In this vein, it is important to preach by example, not let ourselves be defeated by the challenges posed by technological developments and support gender parity initiatives that promote the participation of more women in STEM careers. 

—How do you see the participation of women in Internet governance forums in Panama and in the Latin American and Caribbean region?

—The participation of women in these forums is lower when compared to the participation of men. However, I have noticed that it is gradually increasing. In the forums and debates, we are now seeing more women as speakers than before, revealing the success stories of those women who have managed to break through in this field.

—Do you have any additional comments?

—I would like to make a call for action and participation of women in governance processes. We must tackle the difficulties −including women’s unequal and almost exclusive responsibility for household work, imposed by gender roles and by custom− as well as gender-based violence. Supporting initiatives such as IGFem, aimed at creating safe spaces that promote women’s participation, is essential. Furthermore, it is necessary that we not only recognize the equality of both genders in the different areas of development, but that we use the differences as a basis in the joint effort to remove the barriers imposed by tradition.