In class today, we had a presentation on gender inequality by Keshet Bachan, a gender equality expert from Israel. Among her talking points, Bachan noted that there are many forms of violence against adolescent woman, including trafficking and prostitution, and that many women who come from poor backgrounds are vulnerable to this sort of violence.
In my country papers for this class, I researched the Francophone West African state of Côte d’Ivoire. Through this research and my interest in this nation, I have learned that it lags behind many of its neighbors in the different ICT sectors and that there is much gender inequality in the state. The government does not invest much money, if any at all, in women’s education or fertility. And along those lines and echoing Bachan’s presentation, female mutilation/cutting is a common practice. UNICEF defines female mutilation as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.” This is particularly a problem in Cote d’Ivoire where a national law was adopted in 1998 to criminalize the activity. It is a problem among people who do not have access to education, the Muslim population and the Voltaïques and Northern Monde ethnic groups, where over 70% of the women are mutilated. Genital mutilation is not only a problem for the obvious reasons of discriminating against and suppressing women, but it also leads to child mortality and makes it easier for adolescent women to contract HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire is a form of social integration and sometimes a required religious ritual of purification. Seeing that female mutilation was in direct conflict with four of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG 3: promoting gender equality & empowering women, MDG 4: reducing child mortality, MDG 5: improving maternal health, MDG 6: combatting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases) UNICEF has begun to take action to safeguard human rights in the country. Through advocacy for women’s rights, gender equality and access to education, UNICEF has been able to raise awareness about the issue and help curtail genital mutilation. They have also used nationwide technology campaigns on radio television and mobile phones to establish child protection networks and to empower adolescent and adult women. Between 2000 and 2006, national genital mutilation dropped in females from 44% to 36.4% in direct response to these radio and television campaigns. While we in the United States may scoff at the power that radio has to bring people together and raise awareness about issues, because we are so engulfed with social media and smartphones, radio is showing in Côte d’Ivoire that it is a reliable strategy to achieving gender equality in developing countries.
As an International Development major, I’ve been familiar with the Millennium Development Goals for quite some time. The United Nations’ MDGs have always seemed like a fairytale to me. The goals paint a glossy picture of what they (whoever decided on these outlandish goals) think the world should look like. They categorized the goals into eight wonderful boxes and asked the world to accept them.
Though it seems nice, we can not shove all of the world’s problems into eight boxes. Many of the problems are too complex and interconnected to be put in different categories. While the first category, “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” seems over simplified by placing these two problems together.
Hunger and poverty are absolutely intertwined, but they don’t necessarily have to be. As an avid gardener, I believe we can be rich in food even if we are poor by the rest of the world’s standards. Not everything has to be solved within the system we have now; not everything has to go through the economy. Not everything can be put into boxes.
Something interesting I came across while researching the MDGs was a map. The UN has created a map to monitor the progress of the goals. This map below shows the percentage of the population who are undernourished. Surprisingly, Canada and India are very close at 8.9% and 8.6%. The map also shows Spain at 24.0% and Côte d’Ivoire at 5.0%. Take a look and make conclusions for yourself by comparing the countries.
In the end, we like having everything in boxes and categories because it makes the problems seem less daunting and easily conceptualized. However, here lies the real issue. If we convince ourselves that these problems are less complex than they really are then there is no hope of solving them
While this past week we discussed the MDGs, I thought it would be particularly interesting to see the official United Nations report on its own shortcomings. Though the U.N. describes the Millennium Declaration as “visionary” and “powerful”, though it seems that the most the organization can pride itself on is “progress” and “inspiration” even though it cites the inconsistencies of this progress. What I found most striking was, all of a sudden, this progress became hard to measure, though it seems as though this is a way to shift focus off the lack of achievement of these MGDs.The perceived strengths include providing framework and raising awareness of these plaguing issues, as well as uniting forces to achieve common goals. However, the lack of “consideration” of different starting points and cultural enablers. What I found shocking was that they failed to consult more experts/ locals on how to implement goals. The document seems to imply that for the amount of consideration and planning put into the MDGs, respectable progress was made. However, I would’ve expected an organization like the U.N., to have put more thought into implementation and conceptualization before making such lofty goals.
As far as it’s connection to this class goes, it makes me wonder about the bond between ICT4D and the MDGs. How crucial are ICTs to MDGs, or is this a way of showing us that ICTs are not the solution to our development problems?
Source: ICTworks’ website
The United Nations’ Asian Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development provides and outstanding list of resources that explain how ICT can help us achieve the Millennium Development Goals – especially Goal 8. This page contains studies that address topics such a: the gender divide and technology, youth and ICT4D, ICTs and Democracy, ICTs and the environment, ICT and Human development, etc.
The page serves as a great resource for academics, practitioners and students seeking for rigorous analytical studies that provide meaningful insights on the potential of ICT to consciously accelerate the development process. The study titled “A Digital Shift: Youth and ICT for development” is one of the most interesting documents on the site. It is not a secret that youth are major consumers of new technologies and this study provides a fresh perspective on how the youth through ICT can contribute to the achievement of the MDGs.
Additionally, I also want to share an old but meaningful article published on ICTworks’ website. The title of the article is “5 ways ICT can support Millennium Development Goals.” This article also explains the importance of engaging youth in the development process. Ultimately the youth will be the biggest beneficiaries of our current and future development achievements; hence, making them active participants of the development process should be common sense.
On Oct. 2, the UN’s ITU (International Telecommunication Union) will hold a workshop in Bangkok that explores the role of ICT and e-Health.
This workshop is one of the many attempts to get developing countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations for 2015. As the closing year of the MDG program nears, UN agencies are doing what they can to help countries make the final push to reach the goals they had set a few years ago.
Millennium Development Goal 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women. This is very important because 50% of the world is women and they deserve to have the same power and opportunities as the men of the world. Empowering Women through ICT, a paper written by Stockholm University, discusses some ICT projects done in various countries throughout the world with the goal of empowering women. One project that I found particularly interesting was Casa de la Mujer. Casa de la Mujer is a consulting service for battered women in Bolivia. Because many women were too self-conscious to discuss their situations in person, Casa de la Mujer created an online component. This allowed women to anonymously share their stories without having to share them publicly or talk to authorities.
Casa de la Mujer created 6 telecenters in the Santa Cruz region. 100 women were trained in legal issues related to domestic violence in order to help with the site. This project allowed women to feel secure sharing their experiences. One woman even said “I have more knowledge on how to defend myself and to assert my rights as a person”.
Casa de la Mujer had some positives and negatives. First of all, the Internet can be beneficial and allow women to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics but it can also lead to cyber bullying and cyber stalking. In addition they realized that people who cannot read and write would have difficulty accessing the information. For this reason, they created audiovisual materials to integrate everyone.
I think this project was well thought out and an amazing idea. It is difficult for women in many countries to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics, especially when they are worried about being judged or ostracized in their community. In addition, even if women didn’t want to share their personal stories, they would have been able to read what other women were saying and know that they weren’t alone. However, while this project was using the Internet to provide help to a lot of women in an anonymous way, it was not allowing more women to access the Internet. Therefore, many women in Bolivia who may have needed the help the most may not have even seen this site at all. Since the site was such a success and funding was extended in Bolivia, I believe that other countries should start using a similar program to empower women in their communities as well.