Patricia Boshe reflects on creating equal communities




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On the occasion of International Women’s Day and its 2023 theme #EmbraceEquity, the Datasphere Initiative spoke to a range of policy professionals in the Datasphere Initiative’s global network, to ask them: why equity should be a core goal in policy and technical approaches to responsibly unlocking the value of data?

Dr Patricia Boshe Data Protection Consultant, Researcher, and Trainer at the University of Passau shared her perspectives and identified specific actions that can be taken.

Read more about the campaign and other contributions here

Celebrating women’s day is a reminder of how delicate the society and (we) feel about ourselves. It is also a day for women across the globe to come together to encourage each other and demand, not just equality against their counterparts, but also identify challenges in attaining equality.

Personally, the 8th of March, which coincidentally is also my wedding anniversary, reminds me of the power that is within us, despite our delicacy. The key word is the power within us.

My message to all women out there is to use the power within you to change the narrative. Use that power to create a world you are content to live and raise a girl child in. My favorite inspiration is the infamous author Anaïs Nin. She used her talent – writing – to bring out a woman’s perspective against the world’s narrative. She used ‘a pen’ as her tool to counteract bias and gender stereotypes in society. She used herself as the central figure of her storytelling. Stories that at the time –  in the 1930’s – were a taboo, especially being told by a woman. Stories about forbidden sexual entangles are told from a woman’s point of view. She represented a woman’s voice, feelings, and opinions that were unconventional and different from that portrayed in the community.

The story of Anaïs Nin portrays not only a woman’s struggle in demanding gender equality, but also emphasizes on the active role of a woman in attaining it. In one of her writings she said, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”.  Gender equality is not what we do or accomplish on the surface such as demanding 50-50 in hiring, or diverse content and services. Gender equality is deeper than what is projected in front of us. It is embedded into the culture, norms, and ideas that inform our systems and technologies. In the era of big data and the internet of things, it is the data fed and algorithm on Artificial Intelligence tech. Those are the things that guide our perception of the world and a place of a woman. What is ‘gender equal’ is what women see as equal, not what the norms, culture, or the society says. 

The norms, culture, and the society are built upon long-standing biases and gender stereotypes. To begin with, our systems are designed to discourage girls and women to dream and pursue equal career aspirations as boys and men. To follow logic, to attain gender equality means, change should look beyond the surface; it should aim to reconstruct traditional mindsets and systems. It should be taken as a social engineering process rather than an attempt to gratify women on the surface.  Women should be an integral part of this social engineering. Rather than looking into gender gap statistics and complaints, a practical approach should be for women to work together with men to create equal communities.

Dr. Patricia Boshe is a data privacy trainer and consultant. She is a co-founder and co-director of the African Law and Technology Institute (AFRILTI); a research institute focusing on the interrelation between law, technology and society from an interdisciplinary perspective. She is also a senior researcher at the Research Centre for Law and Digitalisation at the University of Passau in Germany, and a senior expert for international digital cooperation – data protection and data flow in Africa at the European Commission.

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