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Monthly Archives: March 2011

New Social Media the way to go! Where are the women?

New social media refers to digital technologies that are both collaborative and dynamic, allowing users to access and direct information to others over the internet or through mobile devices. Examples include social networking sites – facebook, twitter, Blogs, Wikis, new mobile phone technologies, online broadcasting sites like You Tube, Websites etc

Rather than using the Internet as a passive tool for viewing content, new media technologies enable users to take an active and collaborative role in communication and information exchange. Users/audiences do not simply read information with a new technology; they access, interact, create and often promote the news.

The strength of social media lies in altering the meaning of geographic distance, allowing for a huge increase in the volume of communication, providing the possibility of increasing the speed of communication – real time communication, opportunities for interactive communication/feed back, creative participation and community formation around content, on demand access to content any time and allowing forms of communication that were previously separate to overlap and interconnect.

Gender gaps in using new media

Women play a critical role in the development, however, newly established ventures in developing economies fade out with out women effectively utilising them. There is an information gap -fewer  women  than  men regularly  get  news  and information from  a  range  of  available  sources; TVs,  radios, new papers, brochures, SMS etc. This gender gap extends to information gathered via new media – cell phones and the internet. Women are less likely to use internet to get news and information compared to men. Women also lag behind in the use of SMS services for the same purpose. Women are less likely to use computer-based new media than men (AudienceScape 2009; African Development Research Brief).

There are access issues both in terms of ownership and use patterns- more men than women are likely to own a phone. While ownership is not a prerequisite for cell phone use since many people can and often use borrowed or rented phones, use patterns between owners and non owners are starkly different.

Women are also said to use telephones in a different manner from men — making and receiving more calls, spending more time on calls and using telephones primarily for ‘relationship maintenance’ purposes. Gender gaps persist for every non voice phone functions – sending and receiving SMS messages to listening to the radio, to accessing the internet.

Other constraints to women’s access & use of new media and information technologies include; lower  education  or  literacy, Education and skills – literacy, language, computer skills especially for rural women, social and cultural  reasons (that generally influence women’s use of ICTs – multiple roles and heavy domestic  responsibilities, limited mobility),more anxiety about using computers that is linked in part to “technophobia” and  most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas – majority  of the women live in the  rural areas.

It is important to ensure that women have the same opportunity as men to own phones not merely access them, and its is critical  to  raise  their  awareness  of  the  internet  and  develop women’s  web  skills. Mobile  phones  have  indeed  exploded  onto  the  scene  but  not yet become a key source of news and information.

To fully benefit from opportunities that new media provides women need to go beyond access to new media and use associated functions and services which empower them in their individual ventures and contribute to sustaining their livelihoods. This capability to function starts from exposure, educating and training in the use of new media.

It is also important to note that there is a growing increase use of new media by especially young women – in doing so challenging some of the stereotypes about the way that women relate to media technology. Young women are less concerned about the problems that new media might create and more optimistic about the purposes that it might serve. The number of ICT related initiatives being established in rural areas is also increasing and social media are becoming part and parcel of our daily lives and citizens in urban and rural areas are in position to have their voices heard!


Women most affected by poverty

Poverty can be defined not only as the lack of incomes but also the lack of means to satisfy basic social needs as well as feeling powerless to break out of the cycle of poverty, insecurity of a person and property. Poverty has faces and is caused by factors including among others inadequacies in access to natural resources, human factors, financial assets, social capital and physical infrastructure

Uganda remains one of the poorest countries of the world. Poverty level was recorded at 31.1% in 2006according to the UNDP 2006,  Uganda Human Development Report ranking. In terms of numbers, over 7 million people live in chronic poverty according to a research on chronic poverty. Poverty is also mainly a rural phenomenon with 48% of the rural population living below the absolute poverty line compared to 16% of the urban dwellers.

It is important to note that the greatest percentage of the rural population is composed of women. Women are said to be the poorest of the poor. This highlights the significance of addressing gender dimensions of poverty and the fact that poverty has increasingly become feminised. However, poverty cannot be universalised and has different dimensions. In Uganda the principle dimensions of poverty include gender, livelihood, location and seasonality.

Gender disparities exist in education, mortality rates, health and other social and economic indicators and are greatest within poorer income groups. Gender inequalities impose large costs on the well-being and health of the poor, diminishing productivity and the potential to reduce poverty and ensure economic growth. In most societies women have more limited opportunities to improve economic conditions and access services than men do. Usually women and girls bear the brunt of gender inequalities

In regard to division of labour, women provide 70% of agricultural labour force and are responsible for 80% of food production and all production processes and like else where in the world, women in Uganda have limited access to land and other resources, little control of the existing resources or of the income realised from the sale of these products including surplus from sale of food crops where labour input is highest. Women’s dependence reduces their contribution to the reduction of household poverty.

Women also lag behind in terms of education levels and participation in community development activities due to lack of mobilisation, time and failure to see the benefits of participation. Approaches to poverty therefore need to take into account the different needs of women and men and involve women as subjects in economic initiatives and in planning and implementation of development initiatives for drastic changes to be realised in poverty eradication.

Violence against women; what role does ICTs Play?

Violence against women continues to be widespread and socially tolerated despite the fact that it’s a human rights violation. Domestic violence disempowers women and negatively affects women’s health and productivity sometimes resulting into death. In addition, the cost to women, their children, families and communities is a significant obstacle to reducing poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring a peaceful transition for post-conflict societies.

Violence against women has as its root in the structural inequalities between men and women that result in the persistence of power differentials between the sexes. Women’s subordinate status to men in many societies, coupled with a general acceptance of interpersonal violence as a means of resolving conflict, renders women disproportionately vulnerable to violence from all levels of society: individual men, within the family and community, and by the state (ACGSD 2009[1]).

In Uganda many women and girls in Uganda suffer from sexual and gender-based violence committed by state actors, military services and rebel armies, as well as non-state actors within the family and the community. The persistence of patriarchal patterns of behaviour and the existence of stereotypes relating to the role of women perpetuate the discrimination of women within Ugandan society. The difficulties women face are not only due to intimidation, hostility and ridicule from the community, but also due to the states inaction in ensuring redress.

ICTs can play a major role in combating VAW and a number of women’s organisations are making use of ICTs such as the internet, TV, radio, news papers and other print media to highlight VAW including rape, victimisation and harassment.

The Internet can be a useful tool to get information about gender based violence as well as raise awareness around such issues to the general public and global community. Mobile phones provide women with an opportunity to avoid being domesticated by opening links with the outside world for business, social networking and reporting or obtaining support in abusive relationships. Internet and email can be also be instrumental in mobilising to advocate against violation of collective and individual rights.

On the other hand ICTs have been can perpetrate violence against women e.g. through spousal control of the mobile telephone, fights, invasion of privacy, monitoring and control, etc

[1] ACGSD (2009), Draft Situational Analysis  in Gender Based Violence