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Feminist portal taking message to web-friendly Slovaks

WOMEN'S issues activists say their daily work has become unthinkable without the use of Internet technologies.
The recently launched feminist portal feminet.sk, the country's first, has found an immediate audience and has attracted Internet users from beyond the closed circle of women's activists to embrace "everyone interested in the women's agenda beyond just recipes, diets or cosmetic tips," said Oľga Pietruchová from the pro-choice organisation Možnosť voľby.
Until now Slovakia has had only a few women's issues web sites, which were rarely visited by 'outsiders'. But with feminet.sk, which is connected to the popular changenet.sk portal, the community has opened up to the wider public.


THE HOME page of www.feminet.sk
photo: Taken from the Internet

WOMEN'S issues activists say their daily work has become unthinkable without the use of Internet technologies.

The recently launched feminist portal feminet.sk, the country's first, has found an immediate audience and has attracted Internet users from beyond the closed circle of women's activists to embrace "everyone interested in the women's agenda beyond just recipes, diets or cosmetic tips," said Oľga Pietruchová from the pro-choice organisation Možnosť voľby.

Until now Slovakia has had only a few women's issues web sites, which were rarely visited by 'outsiders'. But with feminet.sk, which is connected to the popular changenet.sk portal, the community has opened up to the wider public.

Feminet.sk was launched on January 17, 2002 and is hosted by changenet.sk, a website specialising in non-governmental sector (NGO) activities and uniting some 160 NGOs. Feminet's creators say their site has been visited by over 2,000 guests.

Slovakia's women still face many professional and private barriers reinforced by sexual stereotypes, say the site's backers. Breaking these stereotypes and offering a platform for women's issues activists in Slovakia and the Czech Republic was the main idea behind feminet.sk, they say.

Katarína Bartovičová, feminet's editor-in-chief, said that feminet wanted to help activists, the majority of whom use the Internet regularly, to share ideas and co-ordinate their steps.

Although the site does not yet have an English version, Bartovičová said it was in the works.

She said the content was updated almost every day, depending on campaigns at home or abroad, by two full-time staff.

Much of the page consists of announcements and shared information.

"We want to help promote the activities of women's organisations, and support the sharing and spreading of information on women's issues and protection of human rights in general," Bartovičová said.

Some activists say they have already become so accustomed to feminet.sk that they could not imagine working without clicking on the site at least once a day.

"I look at new articles, event calendars and contributions to discussions every day," Pietruchová said.

Feminet's 'diskusná kaviareň', or discussion cafe, is by far the liveliest part of the site. People from various NGOs chat with each other, and as their email addresses are accessible from their contributions, the site is becoming a valuable source of contacts for journalists and the public.

Activists believe that feminet.sk, after the print Aspekt magazine, is the second most important medium dealing with feminist, human rights and NGO issues in Slovakia.

There are few other Slovak websites that deal with women's issues. Bartovičová of feminet.sk thought those worthwhile visiting included aspekt.sk, a site which has German and English versions and which represents the Aspekt feminist association.

Another website is zenskyparlament.sk, which also has an English version, and the pro-choice organisation moznostvolby.host.sk which welcomes its visitors with the following anonymous quote:

"Once upon a time, strong, independent women were called witches and were burned at the stake. Today they're called feminists; they publish web pages, get blasted by email and are blamed for most of society's problems. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than the stake."

Pietruchová said: "I hope that with the growing accessibility of the Internet to the wider public feminet.sk will help destroy the pall hanging over feminism in Slovakia and will help to promote it. Very few people realise that without feminism women wouldn't have the right to vote or to be educated."

According to research by audit agency Taylor Nelson Sofres, Slovakia's Internet penetration rate hit 25 percent at the end of 2001, up from 9 per cent in May 2000.

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