Five Ways to Make Participation in the 2018 OGP Global Summit Feminist

In one way or another,  Open Heroines is evolving with every Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit.  We first gathered as a group at the 2015 OGP Summit in Mexico City, where we  discussed our work and our experience as women in open government in a safe space.  A year later, at the 2016 Summit in Paris, we shared our stories publicly in our Open Gender Monologues session. This year, at the 2018 Summit in Tbilisi, we will participate in a panel about gender and open government.

It is great to see the evolution of gender and open government from a topic discussed in the back rooms, to one gaining the spotlight and attention.  We are thrilled to see the Feminist Open Government Initiative (FOGO) underway, and glad that OGP is having an honest and transparent discussion about its own practices. Many of us at Open Heroines are a part of FOGO, and we see it as a great step forward.

However, the work does not end here. There are still many steps to take to make the open government space  -including the 2018 OGP Summit - fully inclusive of women and gender queer people. If we want to have truly open governments, we have to practice what we preach - be transparent, be meaningfully participatory, and be accountable and responsive to everyone of all genders.

We each - collectively, through our organizations, and individually, can help make this happen:

For civil society space - the community needs to take the lead and show how easy it is to be inclusive by design. Civil society needs to embed “Radical Transparency” in our work spaces. For example, organizations can implement a diversity dashboard. Companies like Monozo and Buffer use this type of dashboard to monitor how inclusive they are, as well as the Open Data Institute and Mozilla who is working on diversity indicators in the free and open space software community.

For government, this is time to commit to gender through meaningful participation, focus and commitment of resources. Presently, there are very few gender-focused OGP Action Plan (AP) commitments. Furthermore, the existing commitments are not bold enough.  We recommend that governments use APs to think of impactful commitments that will help us attain gender equity in participation and governance.  Women need access to information, technology, and education. There is still a lot of policy work to do to ensure that government is open for all genders, and not just an old boys’ club.

We can start some of this right away by proactively making the 2018 OGP Summit in Tbilisi a feminist one! Here are our five tips for organizers and attendees on how to be a feminist at conferences:

  1. Diversity in panels. Are you on a #manel (all-male panel)? OGP has put in a lot of effort to make the conference gender balanced, but sometimes manels happen last minute because of unexpected absences. This can be prevented by having more than one woman on a panel. If all else fails, ask the room if a woman would like to come and take your spot. Remember: it’s not the job of women alone to ensure diversity!
  2. Make space for women’s voices  - don’t cut women’s words (and speak up when it happens!). This often happens to women without noticing. If you did it, don’t worry, just acknowledge that you have done so and make space for the woman to continue. If you witness a woman being interrupted, interject on behalf of your women colleagues. It’s as easy as saying “Hey, can you let her finish?” Let women ask the first question in Q&As, and try out other amplification techniques.
  3. Try out a gender lens.  Advocate for adding a gender perspective to your work, discussions you have, and the work of others. If you see statistics, papers, conclusions, or recommendations, ask “how does this affect men and women differently?” and “does this include [incorrect] assumptions about equality of genders?”
  4. Ask questions. Being a feminist, no matter your gender, means that we can always learn from the voices of others. Inclusive feminism also means that we may not always find a solution right away. Asking questions and acknowledging that we don’t always have the answers is one step forward towards actually finding a solution. There will also be a number of Open Heroines attending OGP 2018 - don’t be afraid to ask us questions!
  5. Don’t be a bystander   Speak up and get involved! Did you see or hear something that made you upset? Speak about it. We need to start and discuss topics that, up until now, have not been at the heart of open government, such as sexual harassment, domestic violence, or gender bias. We need more people, especially men, to discuss these topics publicly and online. We cannot sweep these topics under the carpet, especially if they happen within our organizations and professional communities.   
Authors: Open Heroines