CGCS Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Emad Khazraee discusses his research project with Alison Novak on socio-political activism and women’s rights in Iran, featuring My Stealthy Freedom as a case study. Emad and Alison presented their project at the ICA on May 25, 2015.
It is likely most Facebook users have come across a Facebook page supporting a socio-political cause. The popularity of these pages reinforces the need to better understand their affordances for socio-political activism. In an effort to address this issue, a recent research project I undertook with Alison Novak studied campaign pages on Facebook advocating for women’s rights in relation to the dress code in Iran. One of the pages we analyzed, My Stealthy Freedom, acts as a strong case study. My Stealthy Freedom’s (MSF) page was created in April 2014 by Masih Alinejad, an expat Iranian journalist based in the United Kingdom. In an effort to digitally protest hijab laws that restrict women’s right to choose their own cover, Alinejad first shared a photograph of herself online, riding in a convertible without hijab, and then encouraged women inside Iran to share pictures of their own “stealthy freedom.” Soon women from inside Iran shared their own photos taken in a public space without hijab. These photos were often accompanied by a message providing the background stories, grievances, or opinions of the user. In the weeks that followed, MSF became an internationally recognized page and was followed by 500,000 users on Facebook, resulting in reactions both outside and inside Iran.
At this workshop, a variety of social scientists, historians, policy researchers and development practitioners examined the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world. Participants considered the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face.
An interesting outcome of these eclectic discussions was the need to disentangle the terms “legal identity,” “citizenship,” “identification,” “registration” and “ID documentation.” This will not only allow the international community to properly understand the development problems we are seeking to address, but also help to better identify the ways to achieve them.
Indeed, in some limited respects, people possess a legal identity whether or not they are registered — for example, a criminal suspect’s right to get a lawyer or to remain silent. Registration, in turn, may not be an entitlement to citizenship. Many countries still see citizenship as based on local or clan-based knowledge and personal attestation.
The number of people with indeterminate citizenship in Africa is probably far larger than the number of stateless people now identified. Sophisticated ID programs cannot resolve such questions and may exacerbate the difficulties of those excluded. They need to be preceded by political dialogue and, where necessary, legal reforms to reduce the risk of exclusion. An understanding that legal identity exists in many forms encourages us to first ask which legal identity/identities we are seeking to advance and for what developmental ends .
I was honored to be invited to speak on the role of identification in the post-2015 development agenda and the World Bank Group's Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. There was great deal of excitement in the audience hearing about this global agenda.
The questions raised by the attendants touched upon ways of helping the least-developed, conflict-affected countries in the world, where the rates of birth registration and identification are amongst the lowest in the world (e.g. Liberia), to leapfrog to digital ID systems. Would the World Bank Group support such countries build their identification systems basically from scratch?
In this regard, it was interesting to hear the perspectives brought by a fellow panelist at the conference – Tariq Malik, the former chairman and the architect behind the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan. Starting almost from scratch, NADRA has massively enrolled the traditionally underregistered communities, including tribal groups, transgender populations and women, becoming a central player in a number of program areas. Under Tariq Malik’s leadership, NADRA has pioneered applications of biometric technology, successfully administering smart card programs for disaster relief programs and financial inclusion schemes for the underserved.
For its tenth anniversary, the Mobile World Congress had more than 2,100 companies showcasing their innovations in front of record-breaking audiences: over 93,000 attendees from 200 countries.
The GSM Association (GSMA) also hosted a seminar program to educate conference participants on industry initiatives such as Connected Women programme: a timely undertaking that promotes gender diversity in the telecommunications sector.
Mobile identity offers a means of extending access to a vast array of services, such as mobile banking and mobile health, to everyone, particularly those who have been previously marginalized, including women and those living in poverty. The ability to get an identity that is verifiable online is a transformational capability that can grant access to banking, mobile payments and healthcare, as well as transportation and other advanced identity-based digital services.
At the most fundamental level, the planning and delivery of economic and social support programs relies on the government’s knowledge of its citizens: who they are, where they live, their social and economic circumstances, and so on. Utilizing mobile devices to register and validate an identity offers a compelling opportunity for governments and businesses to authenticate and then provide access to a broad range of digital services.
This week, the World Bank is hosting the Data2X and the Gender Data Revolution event to draw attention to some of the most disturbing issues in development. Too many people are still uncounted. Too much data is out of date, unreliable or simply not available. Too many people are not able to access and use the data they need to make informed decisions and hold others accountable.
Lack of data on women and girls has hindered efforts to advance gender equality and design evidence-based policies that can lift the multiple constraints holding them back – and shed light on many aspects of their work, health, economic status, financial inclusion, ownership of and control of assets, access to services, voice, and agency. In many countries, particularly in the developing world, these data simply do not exist.
Created by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,Data2X is an exciting initiative that aims to build new partnerships to improve data collection and demonstrate how better data on the status of women and girls can guide policy, leverage investments and inform global development priorities.
All over the world, women are denied basic services and protection of their rights because of deficient civil registration and national identification (ID) systems. Lacking records of their birth and civil status, they are excluded from health coverage, schooling, social protection programs, and humanitarian response in emergencies and conflicts.
The proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target #16.9 puts the spotlight on the role of identification in development:
In our earlier research, we’ve explored how achieving this goal can facilitate the realization of many other SDG targets. The recognition of legal identity – together with its associated rights – is becoming a priority for governments around the world. But how should progress towards this goal be measured?
The SDG process is led by United Nations (UN) member states with broad participation from other stakeholders. Currently, an inter-agency group is establishing the list of quantitative indicators for monitoring progress towards the SDG goals. The final list of core indicators, developed using specific criteria, is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to take into account the country setting and the views of stakeholders in preparing country-level reports.
Several criteria are guiding this effort to determine which core indicators should be retained: they should be relevant, methodologically sound, measurable and easy to understand and communicate. Both the World Bank and the Center for Global Development have been contributing to the discussions on the core indicators to measure progress on SDG goals.
The core of the difficult challenge to migration policy making is replete with a fear of loss of national, cultural and personal identity. So much so that some authors have compared unabsorbed diasporas to the level of unsafe carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (see here). So I have started reading about identity and human diversity, starting with Amartya Sen’s “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny” to now Richard Lewontin’s “Human Diversity”. I was struck by Sen’s observation that everyone has multiple identities and should have the choice, and responsibility, to prioritize those identities. I am even more struck by Lewontin’s finding that racial classification (Caucasian, African, Mongoloid, South Asian Aborigines, Amerinds, Oceanians, and, Australian Aborigines) has very little correlation with genetic variations between humans, that majority of genetic variation is found within (rather than between) populations.
Because major players in the on-line world like Google+ and Facebook are insisting that people should use their real names (that is, reveal their true identities) there is a debate going on in the emerging global public sphere on the role of pseudonyms. In what follows, I attempt to sum up the arguments for and against – as I understand them.
Social networks matter.