STORIES FROM THE FIELD – Examples of using ICTs for women’s development in
for the paper
The Role of Information and Communication
Technologies in the Development of African Women
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
There are many examples of how women are using ICTs for development on the continent. Here we profile only a few in order to highlight how ICTs can be used for gender justice and social change. All the examples indicate that ICTs are tools and need to be used in conjunction with other methods of empowerment. New technologies need to be applied in ways, which are sustainable and take into account local issues and dynamics.
'Rural Women in Africa: Ideas for Earning Money'? A Uganda-based CD-Rom project
This CD ROM is a response to the dire need for women in Uganda to be able to access information in order to improve their productivity and socio-economic status. Why the title, 'Rural Women in Africa: Ideas for Earning Money'?
The subject of economic empowerment was something rural women in Uganda wanted to know about. It was the information most relevant to their needs. The target audience for the project was largely uneducated, and only spoke their local language, therefore the ICT-based learning material was developed around simple, step-by-step instructions on how to establish a business, as well as providing information on the basics of marketing and management.
The CD ROM consists of an introductory section and three content sections. The introductory section is a guide to using the computer and the CD ROM. Section one, entitled, 'Starting with what we have', emphasizes the need to identify assets that we have and that we can build on. Section two is about making money from a product or service and section three is about expanding business opportunities.
The CD ROM has proven to be a useful tool for rural women to access information relevant to their daily lives. It has also helped to demystify the concept of technology and has given them confidence and hope to face the future.
It is inspiring to see how much excitement and determination the women show when they use the CD Rom: excitement to learn a new technology that actually talks to them in their local language, and determination to acquire the knowledge that will make a change in their lives.
But amidst all the gratitude being offered there are still unanswered questions about issues such as access to credit, the few access centres, limited education, problems with language, and their restrictive gender roles for women in rural
Read more information
To view the English copy of the CD ROM
To view the Luganda copy
Development Through Radio, Sierra Leone
The DTR concept has been used on the African continent for close to 10 years. Formerly known as radio listening clubs, the concept has evolved from people merely listening to educational programs into a more complex interaction between
1 From an article written by Rita Mijumbi for PULA No:1, February 2002. http://www.apcafricawomen.org/pula1.html
rural women and policy makers. The objective is to give women a voice through access to radio and to engage with relevant actors in community development through weekly broadcasts.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)In Sierra Leone, the DTR comprises of survivors of the decade-long civil war in which tens of thousands lost their lives or endured the kind of trauma only war can bring. Over the years DTR members had increased from 3 to 30. The ICT infrastructure in Sierra Leone is far from ideal. Radio, however, is widely available. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service enjoys national coverage, and there are more than eight independent and private radio stations, including community radio. As in many African countries, access to the Internet is limited, and the country finds itself struggling to provide access through the services of only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) -- Sierratel. This limited access, available mainly in telecenters, is both slow and costly to the majority of interested users.
Meetings were held with the 13 DTR women's where women recounted their struggles during the war and articulated their concerns about the reconstruction phase. They also talked about how instrumental the DTR project has been to them. Hearing their own voices on radio gives them a sense of empowerment - they feel heard. They also reported a number of interventions that have been made to address their concerns. Some women had traveled for three days on foot to attend the meetings we held with them.
The "War-Affected Girls and Adults" (WAGA), a group that is a member of the DTR project has a rudimentary set-up that takes in former sex-slaves and offers counseling and training skills such as tie-dyeing, soap making, and sewing. The stories are of hardship and resilience and the search for a future that would provide women with the skills needed to make enough money to take their children to school and put food on the table.
DTR has the potential for many spin-offs, including a future e-commerce possibility to support the WAGA income-generating aspirations. DTR is a work in progress built through regular consultations. Some of the women leaders have had a look at the Web site that will host their broadcasts and testimonies to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and they are pleased with the results. They want to be heard far and wide -- by the whole world. The Internet offers this possibility.
The site is dedicated to the victims of the war, and honours the life of Reuters journalist, Kurt Schork who was killed in an ambush while covering the war in
2Sierra Leone. Visit http:///www.dtronline.org for more information..
Regional outreach and networking: The Flamme/Flame initiative
In March 1999, a global electronic networking meeting held at the 43rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) discussed ways of shaping strategies for using electronic networking as part of the Beijing+5 review process. The meeting focussed on mapping out how women could use new technologies to achieve their mandates at regional and global levels. ICTs were again recognized as tools that, if effectively employed, could facilitate information sharing about advocacy and accountability efforts and strategies by women activists worldwide.
3Out of this initiative grew WomenAction, a global information, communication and
media network that enables NGOs to actively engage in the Beijing+5 review
2 Taken from an article written by Mercy Wambui for PULA No:2, August 2003. http://www.apcafricawomen.org/pula2.htm
process with the long-term goal of women's empowerment, with a special focus on
women and media. This network successfully developed a communications network
and information-sharing strategy that allows women in every world region to
participate in and impact on the 5-year review of the implementation of the 1995 Association for Progressive Communications (APC)Beijing Platform for Action.
One of the strengths of WomenAction is the focus on regional activities that feed
into the global network. In Africa through a partnership between APC-Africa-Women
and FEMNET, a Beijing+5 in Africa initiative saw the emergence of Flamme.
Flamme is a network of online African sisters, committed to strengthening the
capacity of Africa women, through the use of ICTs, to lobby, advocate and
participate in the Beijing+5 review process at both the regional and global levels.
The mission was to serve as an electronic forum where women could exchange
ideas, strategies, information, and present issues of concern to take account of in
an assessment of the implementation of the Dakar and Beijing platforms for action. 4
The project also wanted to see the strategic use of ICTs for the achievement of the
project goal. Various activities were carried out where women were either
encouraged to use new technologies or trained in the use of ICTs. Activities
? A workshop involving African women’s NGOs active in the review of the
Beijing Platform for Action, to design and build the Flamme/Flame website
as an interactive online clearinghouse. The methodology of building a web
site collaboratively was pioneered in the establishment of Women’sNet in
1997. This methodology facilitates the collective design and production of a
useful product, and builds a team working towards a common objective.
? The creation of an on-line discussion group, called the Flamme – African
Women's Online Meeting Space. Its aim was to gather experiences and
views, to promote networking and action through electronic discussion
around the issue: "How Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
can and will help us to implement the recommendations of the Dakar and
Beijing Platforms for Action". The Flamme list started as a meeting place for
about 80 members at its inception and had grown to over 200 members at
the time of its closing.
? Research on the use of ICTs by women in Africa. This research was
published as Net Gains: African Women Take Stock of Information and
Encouraging innovative usage of ICTs: The APC’s Hafkin Prize and Betinho Prizes
The Association for Progressive Communications has two communications prizes
aimed at encouraging and rewarding the innovative use of ICTs to advance social
justice: The Betinho Communications Prize and the Hafkin Communications Prize.
5The Hafkin Communications Prize was specifically launched to encourage and
3 http//www.womenaction.org 4 The list was launched at the 6th African Regional Conference on Women (Addis Ababa, November 1999) and was closed after the UN General Assembly Special Session for the Mid-Term Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (New York, 4-9 June 2000). 5 Established in honour of Dr. Nancy J. Hafkin, a true pioneer of networking, and development information and communications in Africa.
recognise outstanding examples of African initiatives in ICTs for development and social justice.
In 2001, the first APC Africa Hafkin Communications Prize in recognition of
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)outstanding and creative uses of information and communication technologies was awarded to the Bayanloco Community Learning Centre in Kaduna State, Nigeria, an initiative of the Fantsuam Foundation, and led by Kazanka Comfort.
Kazanka Comfort's work on a women-led peace initiative in the villages, where women act as detectors of potential flash-points of communal violence and as peace brokers, made her realize that fast communication among the rural women could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. The project founder and leader was herself no "techie", but a woman from Nigeria who realized the potential of ICTs to help rural women meet their basic needs and save lives in times of emergency and communal strife. Her employer, the Fantsuam Foundation as well as the villagers recognised the potential impact that having an email address and access to computers in each village could make. So, the Foundation decided to support community-based, community-sustained computer centres as part of their micro-credit and poverty alleviation scheme. This project has grown, amongst much else, the enthusiasm of local communities for ICT training, which is already producing profound spin-offs for the community and the women.
The 2001 APC Betinho Communications Prize went to another African project in recognition of its socially meaningful use of ICTs, namely the Women’s Voices project in Nairobi, Kenya. Women's Voices is a video initiative that gives women living in poverty a voice in public policy making in Nairobi, Kenya, and a project of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG). It set out to talk to the
6women living in their neighbourhoods to ask them how they felt they could most
effectively get involved in the public policy debate on poverty; an area where women's voices were seldom heard. They came up with an unexpected use of technology. Raising funds to purchase their own digital video equipment, including old and borrowed Betamax cameras, the women learnt scripting, shooting and editing and how to present their communities by showing rough-cuts and recording opinions and asking for contributions to the story and the narratives.
These are just two recent examples of how African women are ensuring the relevance of technologies to changing their lives and the conditions of their communities.
Evaluating the impact of ICTs on women’s lives – Gender Evaluation
As ICT use is increasing everywhere the need to evaluate and surface issues around how ICTs are changing the lives of women also grows in importance. Women are using ICTs to strengthen their organization and movement building at the local, regional and global levels. ICTs, however, can also pose a potential threat to women in that it can be used in ways that replicate gender stereotypes and biases, and produce unintended negative impacts. The APC Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) developed GEM to facilitate the process of learning about the gender dynamics of using ICTs, and draw lessons that will advance gender and social justice. Gender evaluation methodologies can be used to investigate whether
6 The neighbourhoods where Women’s Voices work are two huge slums surrounding Nairobi. Poorly constructed mud, carton and rusting iron sheet shelters crowd together along twisted narrow lanes, which serve as open drains. Water and electricity are scarce. Residents are seriously affected by violent crime, illegal drugs and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS, and unemployment.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
ICTs are being used in ways that change gender biases and roles rather than
reproduce existing inequalities. GEM aims to strengthen and sustain gender
accountability in global, regional and national ICT networking initiatives by
developing evaluation methodologies, generating research on the gender
dimensions of ICT development, and catalysing a process of resource sharing and
tools-building in gender evaluation through collaboration.
Women’s Electronic Network Training – WENT Africa 2003
WENT Africa 2003 was organized and hosted by APC-Africa-Women and held in
Cape Town, South Africa. A total of 24 women participated in the WENT Africa 2003
workshop and trained by an experienced team of eight women.
The use of ICTs by African women’s NGOs is steadily increasing. Not only are there
more users, there are more women and organizations that see the important
contribution ICTs can make to their efforts. While this is an encouraging trend,
there is also a need for training in the effective and strategic use of computers and
the Internet. APC-Africa-Women also recognises the need for a safe, women-led
environment that enables women to engage with the technologies.
The WENT Africa 2003 training workshop aimed to build the capacities of women
and their organisations to utilize new Information and Communication Technologies
in social development work and policy advocacy. WENT Africa 2003 was open to all
women whose organisations play or will play a significant role in promoting the use
of Information and Communication Technology to enhance women's roles and
capacity in social and policy advocacy, as well as to strengthen women's
organisations and networks in Africa. WENT Africa 2003 used the Asia and Pacific
Women's Electronic Network Training Workshop as a model and methodology. Asian
WENT has proved to be a highly popular and successful methodology and
workshops have been held annually since 1999.
National women’s networking initiatives aimed at empowering African
women to utilise ICTs for gender empowerment.
Women'sNet, formed in 1997, is a vibrant and innovative networking
support program designed to enable South African women to use the
Internet to find the people, issues, resources and tools needed for women's
social activism. Women'sNet aims to empower South African women to use
information and communications technologies (ICTs) towards advancing
women's equality. It is a dynamic source of locally generated information
and discussion on gender issues. This is achieved through:
? Making this technology accessible to women, particularly those who have
been historically disadvantaged
? Providing responsive gender-sensitive training and support
? Linking projects, people, tools and resources
? Creating a platform for women's voices and issues
? Facilitating the dissemination of information in formats accessible to women
who are not directly linked to the Internet."
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Breaking down barriers to information inequality with a strong emphasis on women
Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is a non-governmental organisation initiated in May 2000 by several women's organisations in Uganda to develop the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) among women as tools to share information and address issues collectively.
WOUGNET's mission is to promote and support the use of ICTs by women and women organisations in Uganda, so that they can take advantage of the opportunities presented by ICTs in order to effectively address national and local problems of sustainable development. The new ICTs, in particular, email and the Internet facilitate communication with each other and the international community. Indeed, access to information about best practices, appropriate technologies, ideas and problems of other groups working on similar concerns have been identified as critical information and communication needs of women organisations in Africa.
While WOUGNET emphasizes Internet technologies, they are also interested in how these technologies can be integrated with traditional means of information exchange and dissemination including radio, video, television and print media. The goal of WOUGNET is to improve conditions of life for women by enhancing their capacities and opportunities for exchange, collaboration and information sharing.