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Category Archives: Gender and ICT

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

Feminist Practice of Technology (FPT)

Feminist Practice of Technology is a growing idea that gives perspectives on technology. It poses questions and defines issues relating to technology from feminist perspectives, taking into account various women’s realities, women’s relationships with technologies, women’s participation in technology development and policy-making, power dynamics in technologies and feminist analysis of the social effects of technologies.

It is also an approach to training that defines the core values that comprise feminist technology training. It is based on the experiences of women and feminists in and with technology training.

What has technology got to do with it?

Online spaces reflect real life situations right from how technology is made- programming to using the device.  Women still have no control over the use of technologies and there is need for them to take up the spaces. Given the great role of ICTs in transmitting essential information for development, and offering new opportunities; use cell phones to send messages.  There is need to think about the actual design of the tech, language etc and take up these spaces just as on the streets.

What’s gender got to do with it?

Online spaces reflect real life aspects of inequality

  • Technology has resulted in new issues for women and in new permutations of women’s issues
  • New avenues for abuse, entrenching inequalities and marginalizing already silenced voices
  • Technology provides new solutions and approaches to addressing women’s issues;
  • Asks how women’s realities influence how technologies are developed, used, appropriated and benefited from
  • Asks how technologies are changing women’s realities
  • Assessing how they can be developed and appropriated to support and facilitate women’s rights agendas

To View the video Click Here

Source: WOUGNET Feminist eXchange Training

The Need to Integrate Gender in ICT Policy Processes

Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) is a broad concept that encompasses a wide range of ICTs such as computers, mobile phones, radios, CD Roms etc. Uganda’s ICT Policy defines ICTs as technologies that provide an enabling environment for physical infrastructural and services development for generation, transmission, processing, storing and disseminating information in all forms including voice, text, data, graphics and video. The policy has three areas of focus, namely, information as a resource for development, mechanisms for accessing information, and ICT as an industry, including e-business, software development and manufacturing.

In essence, the ICT policy framework defines the operations of ICT related activities and provides broad guidelines for operation in mainly three areas; telecommunication, broadcasting and Internet.  Indeed, a well developed ICT policy would provide significant opportunities for all citizens including poor men and women to access information that is relevant to enhancement of their socioeconomic and political lives.

 

ICTs are widely recognised as key tools that can enable the participation of poor women and men in economic and civic life and help them to move out of poverty. Eighty-seven percent of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas and ICTs have a great role to play in providing rural populations with education and training, job opportunities, access to markets, social services and other information relevant to their economic enhancement and effective participation in political processes.

 Why Engender ICTs?

Gender is a social construct specifying the socially and culturally prescribed roles that men and women are to follow in a given society. Therefore gender determines the social roles, responsibilities and relationships and privileges between men and women in a given society. In this case, gender determines access, utilization and application of ICT among men and women. Much of the benefits and potential of ICTs remains untapped especially for groups experiencing time constraints, social isolation, lack of access to knowledge and productive resources and women in developing countries have been identified among the most affected groups. 

In Uganda, women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men and their access to ICTs is constrained by;

  • Inadequate technological infrastructure in rural areas
  • Social and cultural bias
  • Low levels of education and skills
  • Lack of disposable income to purchase technology services
  • Limitation of the media.
  • Lack of Gender Disaggregated Data (GDD)

Available evidence indicates that without explicit articulation of gender in policies, gender issues and concerns are not likely to be considered during implementation.  Moreover, policy making in technological fields had been noted to ignore the needs, requirements and aspirations of women unless gender analysis is included. As such, without specific attention and action, there would be no equitable distribution of benefits for men and women, with women often disadvantaged.

Whereas the draft national ICT policy framework recognizes gender mainstreaming as one of its objectives, it is important to understand that gender is a cross cutting issue that should not be addressed in isolation. As such, deliberate efforts should be undertaken to mainstream gender in all the strategies.  It is also important to note that to achieve the desired results, gender concerns should be explicitly addressed in all policy processes including policy elaboration, implementation and evaluation. This calls for the development of gender-monitoring indicators to measure impact from the gender perspective. Gender and development policy makers also need to develop a dialogue with IT policy makers to ensure that the proposed strategies are implemented.

‘e- Agriculture an emerging field to help women fight poverty’

Women remain the main contributors to agricultural production, and in many societies they are responsible for ensuring that food for their families is on the table. Providing women with relevant information on agriculture is a very important strategy to improving productivity and livelihoods.

“e-Agriculture” is an emerging field comprising the enhancement of agriculture and rural development through improved information exchange, communication and learning processes, based on the use of internet and other digital technologies by actors in agriculture locally, regionally and worldwide.

Civil society organisations have embarked on using ICTs to enable women/rural communities to access information on how to improve on the quality of their products, acquire improved seeds and crop varieties, source of inputs, diseases and pests control, soil management and conservation and how to improve their production skills. In Uganda they include among others WOUGNET that has an information centre in Northern Uganda, BROSDI- CELAC project based in Mayuge, CEEWA Uganda – Wires project with beneficiaries in Nakaseke, Buwama and other areas. RANET-Uganda and ARENET are other initiatives that make use ICTs to promote agricultural production.

Radio programmes, use of SMS as well as audiotapes, video tapes and CD-ROMs are used to disseminate/share agricultural related information to farmers. Websites are also increasingly being used to disseminate information on market prices, trade support services, business and entrepreneurship tips, best practices in Agriculture etc.

The Radio and Internet Program (RANET) provides information on weather, water, and climate to rural and remote populations in the form of environmental forecasts, observations, and warnings in the hope of promoting sustainable development and reducing disaster losses. In Uganda the RANET programme is implemented by the meteorological department.

E-Agriculture presents an opportunity of increasing income and reducing poverty among rural communities and women; there is need for more e-agriculture projects to be set up in rural areas given that they depend largely on agriculture.

Can ICTs further marginalize women’s status in society?

It is widely acknowledged that ICT presents unique and timely opportunities for women and girls. It promises better economic prospects, fuller political participation, communication with the outside world, easy access to information, and an enhanced ability to acquire education and skills and to transcend social restrictions. ICT is especially important to poor women because it can provide increased access to resources, the absence of which defines poverty. Hence, ICTs are tools that facilitate access to a variety of development resources.

However, uneven distribution of ICT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a “digital divide” between those who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’s access to ICTs is relatively low compared to that of men leading to a gender digital divide. In Uganda women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men (2006 ResearchICT Africa!).

A gendered division of labor is evident in the ICT sector and has resulted in women being mainly end users, taking up low skilled IT jobs, a small percentage of women engaging in maintenance and design of networks, operating systems or software development.

Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science and mathematics, largely contribute to the gender dimensions of digital divide. Women’s lower degree of economic security than men and gender-related constraints on their time and mobility also limit their access, use and participation in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts.

This calls for deliberate efforts to enable women benefit from ICTs, these include creating awareness about the benefits and opportunities offered by ICTs among women, building women/girls’ capacity in ICT use, setting up projects or initiatives aimed at increasing women’s access and use of ICTs, encouraging girls to take up science and IT courses as well as eliminating gender stereotypes and factors that prevent women taking up ICT opportunities.