NGO GSWG at the Commission on the Status of Women....


Statement from the African Women's Caucus on African Women and Information and Communication Techonologies (ICTs)

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson. My name is Nish-Muthoni Matenjwa. I work for ABANTU for Development, an African NGO with an international presence and also represent the African Women's Caucus for the CSW.

Despite efforts to review ICT international regulations, African women's perspectives have not always been taken into consideration. The potential for ICTs to contribute to human development in Africa is negatively impacted by the uneven spread of ICTs and the differential effects that their diffusion produces in economic and social structures. In addition, African women face cultural, economic and social challenges tht limit their access to, use of and benefits from ICTs.

During the African Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Bamako, Mali in July 2002, the following concerns about African women and ICTs were identified.

The marginalisation of Africa is characterised by increased poverty, lack of infrastructure, deepening rural/urban disparaties and high illiteracy. African women represent the majority of the poor and illiterate.

The few complete ICT and telecommunications policies in Africa are not gender-responsive. African women continue to be seen as passive receivers of information rather than actors able to contribute to decision and policy-making.

The use of the Internet to perpetuate violence against women and as a platform for hate speech is of concern. The impact of the Internet on the proliferation of pornography must be addressed. There is also an awareness of the dillema of calling for government action against this. Proposing control on these areas could enable censorship to be extended to limit freedom of expression in other areas.

Privacy, security and Internet rights are also issues of concern for African women. Having secure on-line spaces where women, free from harassment can enjoy freedom of expression have also recently been threatened by the events of 9/11/2001.

Engagement on the regulation of ICTs is thus critical for African women.

But the level of awareness about ICTs is still low. Most African countries lack the infrastructure to engage in the Information Society. The high cost of ICT training further aggravates the problem as few African women can afford training in the new technologies.

The weakness in representation of African concerns in interational regulatory processess is also very low. The number of African women's organisations involved is even lower.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Bamako meeting for the WSIS urged African states "to ensure better gender balance in ICT use while instituting specific programmes that address the needs of women, particularly those aimed at rural and disenfrenchised areas.

Considering the critical role that women play in society and their potential contribution to developing the Information Society, the Gender Caucus, during the Bamako meeting, urged the UN system and agencies including the ITU, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO and UNIFEM to ensure the following:

1. Continue working towards ratifying treaties and protocols that recognise women's human rights, including the right to communication and include provisions for supporting implementation of these in all action plans including those arising from the WSIS process.

2. Develop gender-dissagregated data on women' participation in the Information Society and to caryy out research to identify impacts of exclusion and opportunties for increased participation.

3. Apply gender analysis frameworks in the development of national, regional and international policies and strategies.

4. Ensure that there is gender equality in education, specifically by providing opporunties for women and girls to access fair and equitable participation in science and technology education at all levels.

5. Support capacity-building and training to raise awareness of the gendered nature of the Information Society.

6. Strengthen co-operation among UN agencies working on gender and ICTs including support for the working relationship established between the ITU, UNDP and UNIFEM.

7. Reform decision-making processes to ensure good governance and greater accountablity to all stakeholders.

8. Ensure licensing for women's intellectual property rights.

9. Apply gender-analysis frameworks in the development of national, regional and international policies and strategies.

We urge that these recommednations are taken into account during this meeting as they are key and integral to African women's advancement.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.