The Women’s P2P Network was founded by Rachel Leventhal, a documentary journalist, whose 20 years of empowering women and girls to tell their stories was crystallized in a single moment:
“I was in Monrovia in 2005 covering the Liberian election. I witnessed women – many of whom where illiterate and poor – perform a historic feat:
In a grassroots effort, they mobilized using basic, local technology such as radio and the human networks they had formed in refugee camps during the war and working in the markets, to elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first women president.
They accomplished this, what years of outside peacekeepers and NGOs could not, by building on the simple tools they already use, and connecting to each other.”
From Monrovia to Silicon Valley
Rachel began attending "Technology for Good" conferences, exploring ways to help women come together for social good on a global scale. In contrast to what she witnessed in Liberia, Rachel discovered there were virtually no women represented in the development of technology for good – so the resulting products were inaccessible and inapplicable to the women who needed it most. In conversations about problems and solutions, there were rarely any local women (in country) included in the discussions, nor was their involvement sought for feedback.
Haiti Earthquake Response – Where are the Women?
After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, Rachel attended a “hackathon,” which was organized to develop technology solutions for humanitarian response. Rachel’s idea was to create an early warning system to protect women in refugee camps from the gender-based violence that would soon follow:
“Because there were almost no women in the room, no one who understood how this disaster would uniquely impact women in Haiti.
I asked if there were some Haitian technical women we could work with and was told: ‘There aren’t any’.”
The early warning system did not get built, and rape quickly became an epidemic.
Of course, there are technical women in Haiti, just as there are in every country in the world, eager to support local humanitarian efforts.
Rachel connected with entrepreneur and professor of Computer Science at the University of Haiti, Tayana Etienne. Our first meeting of the Women’s Peer-to-Peer Network in Port au Prince was attended by over 20 women (students from multiple Haitian universities), eager to use their skills to rebuild their country, and be part of a wider global community of technical women.
Our Accomplishments (to Date!)
A year after writing our first line of code in Haiti, we have achieved some major milestones:
- Two cross-border hackathons, with local, in-country participants and coders from global tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and Amazon
- Completed our first Haitian summer internship program, with our partner Fonkoze (Haiti’s largest microfinance organization and Grameen Bank partner) to connect 55,000 of Haiti's market women
- Delivered a TED Talk to an audience of Silicon Valley Women Entrepreneurs
- For the Grace Hopper Conference in October 2012, a member of our Haiti Team received a Google Scholarship to attend the Women in Computing conference (the largest gathering of technical women in the world)
- Organized a broad coalition of partners for on-the-ground implementation and collaboration
Beyond Haiti – Elections in Kenya and Building a Global Movement
Around the world, young women are beginning to create “sister communities,” comprised of university students and young professionals, to work on cross-border collaborations and women's connectivity projects. This network is moving the needle on the issues that impact women the most.
Based on our successes in Haiti, The Women’s P2P Network plans to expand its programs to Kenya to drive women's participation in the upcoming election, and India to address the privacy and safety barriers women in many parts of the world face when using technology.
In one year, we have tapped a deep collective need, and grown from an idea to a pan-regional, global movement. With your support, there is no limit to what we can accomplish!