Tag Archives: women

International Girls in ICTs Day: April 24th

Started in 2010 by the International Technological Union (ITU), the International Girls in ICTs Day is centered around the idea of celebrating and promoting female involvement in the international technology sector. While ITU itself does not put on any events for the day, it encourages all ICT related organizations and stakeholders to be involved, stating on their website, “these are events where girls and university students are invited to spend the day at the office of ICT companies and government agencies so they better understand the opportunities the ICT sector holds for their future.” The website also provides various resources and promotional materials for general International Girls in ICTs Day events and profiles of female role models in the technology industry from around the world. Additionally, they provide archives of current and past events for the day to encourage groups around the world to become involved in the cause. 

One event put on last year in Swaziland brought two communications companies in the nation together with 160 high school girls from around Swaziland in the first annual Girls in ICT Communications Installations Tour. The groups visited national and regional communications stations and viewed presentations from sector female and male professionals among other things. 

While the gender gap in the ICT sector around the world is far from solved, events and celebratory days like this are crucial to encouraging and promoting the involvement of women and girls in ICTs. The growth of events like these and the idea that girls and women can and should have equal roles as men in the technology industries play a large role in the path towards gender equality, access, and education.

Technology contributing to VAW

All too often we view ICT4D projects as a means to empower women and minimize the gender divide, and overlook how technology can exacerbate gender issues, such as violence against women (VAW). While ICTs can decrease/stop VAW, it can also be seen as a facilitator, as technology can provide additional platforms for violent action. In order to understand how technology can exacerbate VAW, it must be understood that VAW does not simply include physical violence, but also psychological, economic, and sexual abuse. The MDG3: Take Back the Tech program, which was a project created in 2009 to strengthen women’s rights activists to use technology tools to prevent technology related VAW, categorizes technological violence into 5 broad categories including online harassment and cyberstalking, intimate partner violence, culturally justified violence against women, rape and sexual assault, and violence targeting communities. There are several ways in which violence is committed with the use of technology:

  • Mobile Text Messaging and calling
  • Intimate Photos and Blackmail
  • Mobile Phone Tracking
  • Manipulating Photographic Images
  • Use of Internet to Fake Recruit victims
  • Violation of Passwords
  • Listening and Recording Phone Conversations
  • Monitoring Web Browsing

According to a paper from the Association for Progressive Communications, men are misusing mobile phones to harass and threaten their partners, and even track their partner’s phone to know her location at all times. Technology has added another dimension to the issue of privacy, as men try to gain control of their partners by tracking and monitoring their every move. Additionally, in several developing countries husbands are using intimate/pornographic photos of their partners to blackmail them and gain control. Men have even been known to use fake advertisements to lure women into forced marriages, guess partner’s passwords, and disrespect their privacy by listening to phone conversations.

Technology related VAW is a dangerous and growing problem as technology enables violence by allowing anonymity, automation, affordability, action from a distance, and propagation. Technology does not only provide an affordable and detached way to harm women, but has also made it easier for the offender to remain anonymous, to stalk and monitor their partner, and to create damage that can follow their women around forever. While technology is a promising way to improve gender equality, I think we must not ignore the growing and serious issue of how technology can exacerbate VAW. After reading this paper, I question how we can protect women from technology related VAW.



Yesterday’s guest speaker got us all thinking about the different kinds of obstacles faced by younger women in the developing world. Young women have the potential to truly impact their communities in the long run provided they are given access to the appropriate tools. Information and Communication Technology can be used in unique ways by and for women to help them become more participatory members of their communities, to help them overcome gender-barriers, and be more able to take care of their families. However, policymakers and implementers must proceed with caution. As with all development projects, the framework and goals of the project must be aligned with the needs of the stakeholders. Policy discussion and implementation methods are vital to the success of a project. While researching ICT4D and women, I came acrossgenderITorg. This blog-style website was developed by theAssociation for Progressive Communications Women’s Rights Programme. According to the site its aims are:

*To develop an information resource/knowledge sharing site for gender and ICT advocates, civil society organizations and policy makers that wish to be active in gender and ICT policy.
* To raise awareness among civil society organisations, specifically in women’s movements, regarding gender and ICT policy issues.
* To empower women’s organisations and networks in collaboration with other civil society actors to take action on ICT policy issues and develop ICT policy that meets their needs. To encourage them to lobby for an information society that builds social justice and human rights, at the national, regional and global level.

It classifies, interprets, monitors, and analyzes the ICT policies of countries in Latin AmericaAsia-PacificCentral Eastern Europe, andAfrica. Users can find information by country, policy issue, or specific organization (most of the content is available in English and Spanish). The site also has a glossary of terms frequently used in ICT and gender discussions. While the site isn’t as flashy or smartly-arranged as some of the other development websites we’ve seen- the amount of information is staggering. Furthermore, the site allows for interaction between users to discuss policies and project ideas.

See their twitter feed here!

ICT access and Women’s Empowerment are Linked

We have spent a lot of time this year discussing the digital divide between rich and poor nations as well as rural and urban communities. While both of these issues are important to address in development work there exists another digital divide between men and women which occurs in both developed and developing nations. In 2000 the United Nations published this report focusing on empowering women through ICT use. The report offers several suggestions on how ICTs can be used to help empower women but also expressed concerns that unless special care is taken to include women in national ICT infrastructure and educations projects ICTs could develop into another area in which women are excluded. The report emphasizes the fact that technologies are “socially constructed” and will always affect men and women in different ways. While both men and women use ICTs for the same reason, information, connectivity, etc, women are less likely to own radios, mobile phones, and computers. This can exacerbate existing divides in society. A United Nations report found that “an evaluation of telecenters funded under the Acacia programme in Africa indicated that women consistently make up less than one-third of telecentre users.” The report suggested women-only training center or seminars be established to make women feel more comfortable but also warned that even when these resources are available women’s access to ICTs was not equal to men’s.

The same report found that when women are trained in ICT use, especially in the business sector, they reported gaining more respect in their local communities and felt more prepared to enter the job market. ICT use and women’s empowerment are linked. When women are granted access to ICTs it aids their empowerment in other areas but when women are denied access to ICTs it can intensify existing divides between men and women. As countries develop their ICT policies they must take precautions to ensure that women are not excluded from access to ICTs.

Using radio to promote safe motherhood: the Taru initiative

In our readings for this week, we learned about the power of a seemingly simple device: the radio. The Mary Myers article; “Why Radio Matters” made a case for the potential that the radio has to save lives and improve health outcomes by broadcasting health messages in form of radio soap operas. This may seem like a weird concept to us, but it has been proven successful in many developing countries around the world. I will share a case study from Bihar, India where a radio soap opera show was used to lower fertility rates, therefore decreasing maternal mortality.

Bihar is the poorest state in India and has the highest fertility rates. The average fertility rate in India is 2.6, yet the rate in Bihar remains above four. Only 34% of single females in Bihar reported using contraception of any kind, according to the 2001 Census in India. High fertility rates contribute greatly to maternal. A local NGO, Janani (which provides reproductive health care), a non-profit “Population Communication International,” and researchers from Ohio University paired up to address the dismal maternal health situation in Bihar. They produced and entertainment-education campaign targeting about 190 million men and women living in rural Bihar and three neighboring states. They reached their target audience through a radio program soap opera that aired once a week for a year. This 52- episode series was about the life of a fictional woman named Taru. As Vijaykumar (2008) states, the campaign sought to, “motivate listeners to take charge of their own health, seek health services, and better their living” (p. 182).

The campaign was a great success. Baseline vs. follow-up surveys of 1,500 households in Bihar showed that there was an increase in awareness family planning and an overall greater approval from people’s social networks about the use of family planning after the radio series. Utilization of family planning services also increased which portrays a great success; not only was this campaign able to educate and inform its audience, it actually caused behavior change which is not always an immediate outcome of mass media campaigns. In addition, condoms and other forms of contraception and pregnancy test sales increased “exponentially,” in several villages according to Vijaykumar (2008, p. 184). The study even found that there was an overall increase in gender equality beliefs among the respondents, which is a huge step in the right direction for maternal health because maternal mortality stems from the general lack of value placed on women’s lives in many developing countries. The fact that there were changes not only at the individual level, but also at the community and service-demand level highlights the extent of the success of this campaign. It was also able to influence social norms and behaviors, which is a huge barrier to public health movements and is especially important in a destitute area like Bihar where traditional cultural beliefs often persist and present themselves as barriers to modern public health campaigns. The only obvious downfall of this campaign in my opinion is that it only used one channel to attempt to reach a population of 190 million, but clearly, it still worked.

Radios can do more than you thought, huh?

Reference: Vijaykumar, S. (2008). Communicating safe motherhood: Strategic messaging in a globalized world. Marriage & Family Review, 44(2-3), 173-199. doi:10.1080/01494920802177378

IICD: Radio and the Empowerment of Women

IICD or the International Institute for Communication and Development is a nonprofit that uses technology as a development tool and a one of their recent videos shed light on a new way of using radio. This video from their YouTube page, showed the implementation of a very interesting and innovative project. It is still surprising to think that women are denied a role or voice in politics and this video was an eye opening watch as is utilized the medium or radio to help inform women and get their opinions on local political issues.  It is very innovative to think that the people would rebroadcast previous stories in order to reach more individuals and increase awareness of issues that effect them.The use of radio, or traditional media as IICD refers to it, in development it closely related to the topics we discusses in class. This project in particular adds to Mary Myers article, “Why Radio Matters: making the case for radio as a medium for development.”







Why Should We Empower Women in the Use of ICTs?

There is no escaping the fact that there exists a great divide in the use of ICTs between men and women. However, exactly how important is it to bridge this gap? Personally, I have always believed that morally this gap should definitely be closed but I was also pleased to discover that it is also common sense to do so as it can bring many advantages both to women and society as a whole. In the speech given by the UN-Women Deputy Executive Director Director Lakshmi Puri in April 2012 titled “Building Future Leaders and Decision-Makers in the ICT sectors” she argues why women should be given a central role not only in the use but also in the development of ICTs and outlines how this can be achieved.

According to Dr. Puri empowering women, particularly girls, in the use of ICTs provides “new avenues for learning, sharing knowledge, and education”. By teaching women how to use them they are offered new livelihood opportunities as well as a bigger role in political discourse and better productive capabilities. ICTs can be a way in which the gender gap is bridged in many areas enabling women to “build their future on a level-playing field with their male counterparts”. Finally, ICTs are also important as they can bring cultural changes particularly in relation to gender roles. By empowering both young men and women in their use, stereotypes and cultural preconceptions can be broken thus overcoming discriminatory attitudes.

Dr. Puri points out particular actions that must be taken in order to achieve this. First, she advocates enabling girls to start using technology at an earlier age as that makes them more likely for them to adopt their use. Additionally, girls should be able to access ICTs both inside and outside of school in safe and accessible spaces. Finally, women should also be part of the development of new technologies not only be their target demographic as this will lead to better technologies that address the needs of women.

Personally, I believe that the stance Dr. Puri takes in the spread of ICT usage and her work in prioritizing gender sensible ICT policies is not only right but also necessary step towards the development of underdeveloped populations.

A Case for Telecenters Empowering Rwandan Women

Allarfrica recently posted an article about how telecenters have actually been doing some good things for women in rural Rwandan communities. The Rwandan Telecentre Network (RTN) has launched an ICT literacy campaign, designed to help both urban and rural women improve their businesses. The idea behind this program is that RTN puts telecenters in rural villages, teaches women how to use computers, and then, consequentially, women will be able to digitally access market information and sell their goods at better prices. RTN also believes that telecenters are beneficial because they allow women to connect with other rural areas via social media and email. Some women in the program also aspire to start their own computer related businesses or pursue careers in ICTs. Paul Barera, the director of RTN is optimistic that ICTs will continue to rapidly spread but acknowledges that “illiteracy and poor purchasing power are the main challenges that hamper rural people from fully benefiting from ICTs opportunities.” These are both very valid issues and the article does not go into depth about how RTN is addressing them.

RTN has also partnered with Telecentre.org to help rural women improve their digital literacy.  Telecentre.org is partned with the UN Telecommunications Union and is an organization that seeks to empower women through ICTs. Its three main goals are:

-Wide-scale digital literacy training for grassroots women

-Enlistment of partners and supporters as champions for the cause

-Recognition of telecentre women-achievers.

These telecenters have definitely provided some success stories of women running more efficient business through the incorporation of computers and other ICTs. Furthermore, there are currently 30 telecenters in every one of Rwanda’s districts and the country and hopes to increase internet penetration by 15% in the next year. Rwanda is clearly a leader in effective ICT use in Africa and it seems that their telecenters may actually be producing some positive results. It will be interesting to see how things change for rural women who now have access to telecenters and if their successes are sustainable.

Women and ICTs: Mahyoro Rural Information Centre’s Campaign Against Gender Based Violence

When approaching development and the use of ICTs in development it is important to keep the reality of gender at the forefront of your activities. This process of gender mainstreaming, or the conscious inclusion of how development projects effect men and women differently and how men’s and women’s needs also differ, has been the topic of discussion this week in IDT4D and there is some interesting data and gender divides present in the use of ICTs. Through the discussion of a policy paper  we were confronted with the data that proved our hypothesis that there is indeed a gender divide present in the use of ICTs in development, and in particular in the use of mobile phones. For the most part women were less inclined to own a mobile phone and that when they do own them they are often gifted and that women do not use them as often, or in the same manner as men. With this information there are a number of organizations that are trying to bridge this divide and provide women with the means and skills to use mobile phones to empower themselves. There are four organizations featured in an article  that, in 2010, received grants to implement projects that will help women in rural areas of Uganda build awareness about and learn to report domestic violence through the use of ICTs. One organization, Mahyoro Rural Information Centre (MARIC), appears to be making great strides in enhancing women’s lives through ICTs.

MARIC appears to be project under the Women of Uganda Network and it works to enhance the exchange of information and experience of ICTs through out communities in Kitagwenda. They have implemented several ICT projects since its inception in 2006. These projects include the production of puppet shows that educate about the importance of women’s rights and the use of ICTs and the Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information project. The project that they received the funding for is a more gender based ICT campaign designed to combat violence against women using ICTs. This campaign trained 34 grassroots women’s organizations use ICTs to address violence against women and girls. The training included learning to set up hotlines and use mobile phones to spread messages about events. At the end of the training 21 Community Resource Persons were given phones to implement their ideas and spread information about their program as well as information about sexual health and resources available to victims.



(Community Resource Persons receiving training)

This project seems, in theory, to be very beneficial in educating women about their rights as well as the use of ICTs, but there are many questions left unanswered. After scouring the Internet for information about the success of the project I ended empty-handed. Other than the information on the Women of Uganda Network from November 22, 2011 there is nothing. There was not information about many of the women that the project was targeting had access to mobile phones to receive the information, based on the policy paper I assume that it is not many. The lack of monitoring, or information about the monitoring, taking place also makes me wonder how the 21 Community Resource Persons were able to reach out to the women of Kitagwenda.

Women 2000 and Beyond: Gender equality and empowerment of women through ICT

“Women 2000 and Beyond” is a publication series produced by the UN. In September of 2005 they published an issue titled “Gender equality and empowerment of women through ICT,” which I found to be a great supplement to our discussions and reading for this week. According to their website, Women 2000 and Beyond brings to light “issues which have not been given adequate attention in global policy-making processes or addresses the gender perspectives of issues currently at the centre of global attention.” It is a very interesting resource to explore if you are looking for more information about the role that gender plays in development, especially in areas of development that you may not have previously considered to be ‘gendered.’

The issue of particular interest for this class, “Gender equality and empowerment of women through ICT,” provides an overview of gender inequality related to ICTs, and, in turn, how we can use ICTs to address gender inequalities. The article is 40 pages long, but in summary, the it states that ICTs have the potential to empower women by:

1)   Increasing their access to health, nutrition, education, political participation, etc. Technology like SMS messaging definitely has the potential to improve maternal health, for example. The article highlights an example of a successful effort to decrease maternal mortality in Uganda where birthing attendants were equipped with high frequency radios and were alerted when women needed their assistance at home, or when the hospital needed them. In addition, with access to email and the Internet, women can more effectively fight for their rights by contacting local or national governments with their concerns.

2)   Offering them a private place for to communicate with each other outside of the presence of men, their children, elders etc

3)   Providing an outlet for ‘freedom of expression’ and the opportunity to address women’s rights and discuss issues relevant to women. For example, the issue mentions a radio station that was created by women in Uganda called “Mama FM” where women discussed, and the listeners learned about issues such as human rights, motherhood, governance, health etc

4)   Expanding their access to producers, traders, markets, and…

5)   Creating economic opportunities for women (especially in rural areas). Employment opportunities in the ICT sector itself would provide women with steady jobs in the formal labor force. In addition, having access to ICTs increases women’s abilities to maintain/ start small business endeavors/ entrepreneurship. With their own means of communication, women can often bypass a ‘middleman’ in business transactions and avoid exploitation.

The article goes on and on. But essentially, ICTs offer similar benefits to men and women, but many women in developing countries are currently being left behind, and are experiencing a poorer quality of life than men as a result. Just as there is concern that the digital divide may exacerbate the inequalities that exist between the rich and the poor, this article points to the risk that “ICT may exacerbate existing inequalities between women and men and create new forms of inequality” (p. 3). Luckily, great hope lies in the opportunity for ICTs to help women, as long as they are given the chance to use them effectively.