This post is guest authored by Bhuvana Meenakshi, MozFest Facilitator and Wrangler.

During these pandemic times, unemployment in tech for women and marginalised groups is very strenuous. The Women in Tech Collectives from India is a small community led by women tech enthusiasts from a small rural region in South India. The community helps in addressing the needs of employment for women and marginalised communities in this most needful time and supporting them to pursue careers in varied technology fields. The community is looking out for individuals or organisations who can offer any digital works/ projects opportunities to women.

Photo taken from the back of a classroom with white walls in which all the people are looking at the speaker standing at the front of the room.
Mozilla Global sprint with Mozilla Tamil Nadu community, Salem, 2019

The community formation and beginning

Before COVID, I used to visit many colleges in India and also some students in the rural sides of Tamil Nadu as part of my Mozilla Reps work where I campaigned about various works of Mozilla, Firefox, and about Open Internet in general. I also used to conduct sessions both offline and /online to share about my experiences at MozFest and encourage the community members to participate in the festival and similar Internet Health movements. As the members from these communities usually come from rural regions they are usually the first graduates in their families, and their access to the digital world is very limited. Also many women in the community also face a lot of gender bias in accessing technology and in pursuing their career in Information and Communication Technologies.

In India since February 2020 lockdowns and effects of the pandemic have been intense since the first wave of COVID hit the country, and now with the second and third waves, the country’s economy and people have been drastically affected. Although the nation and the government support systems are trying their best to provide good healthcare and other support, there is chaos among the employees in both organised (corporate) and freelance business environments.

Group of people standing in front of large cartoon fox sculputer
Mozilla Tamil Nadu community represented the works of the regional community at the Salem Developers’ Fest 2019, Salem | Photo provided by Bhuvana Meenakshi

The Self Help community was initiated in January 2021 when a team of technology geeks, mostly women from these rural regions, reported about their sudden unemployment issues in the course of the pandemic. They were working for some local companies in the region as their families never allowed them to travel far to work. This community had to face social stigma to pursue their careers in tech. The companies had gone bankrupt due to the pandemic and could not afford jobs even remotely. Many women anonymously reported their concerns, because their families depended on their salaries, and staying at home increased their daily chores, so they were in need of some kind of job that can satisfy their daily essentials and medical emergencies. That’s when we formed the team and started to send word by mouth and WhatsApp messages to gather around those who are facing these issues.

Through our close networks, we started to find work opportunities from businesses around India and began to work on small projects like building websites on WordPress and using React (MERN) webstack. Although the projects were not sufficient to make money for everyone (we were 20 in the team initially), they at least helped the ones who were in dire need of the money, and were self-supporting each other by sharing the costs from the projects.

Many in the local region came to know about our initiative and started to seek our services, so we formed a database of applicants and categorised them based on the priority of needs and their skill sets. This pool of applicants is growing quickly, and after some successful projects with local clients, we started to seek help from our friends outside India since we did not have enough local projects to support everyone. We are glad that our friends from overseas have understood the problems we are facing and have been kind enough to help, and do to the growing need, we are continuing to request that new work opportunities from businesses outside of India reach out to our community to fill project needs. Our goal is to help everyone in our applicant database to find work

In addition to being mentored by our team, we also assist women recent graduates and current students who are interested in technology to pursue certification or online courses. We are utilizing the money from these projects to help them buy materials for the courses.

What do Women in Tech collectives offer?

We as a team offer a variety of services, including but not limited to the following:

  1. We design, create, and build websites/mobile apps and offer maintenance too.
  2. Website technology: MERN, MEAN stack, Laravel PHP
  3. Mobile technology : core and hybrid (Android/iOS) (front end and back end)
  4. Technical content writing
  5. Translation and transcription in all Indian languages
  6. Video editing, creation, and animations
  7. Digital marketing

Women in Tech offers both hourly work and team management for larger projects.

How Can You Help?

Any leads or project offers would be of great help in making this community grow to support women in becoming self sustainable in the tech field in India, and to overcome career disruptions due to the pandemic. Leads or recommendations on course materials or certifications would also help our beginners.

For any queries or communication please write to: [email protected]

Bhuvana is a research and technology consultant at a non-profit organisation in India. She is passionate about taking the word of Open Internet and Health across indigineous language and cultures across her region. She has been a Mozilla Rep for 7 years and has been part of MozFest for the past 3 years. Her research project titled “Bridging the Gender GaIndian Language Wikimedia Communities” gives an overall view about how gender bias and gaps exist for women communities in India with respect to accessing technology and contributing to Open Knowledge Movements. Apart from this she is interested in creating accessible technologies to make an inclusive digital environment for Neurodiverse communities.

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