Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 01:10:34 +0000
From: cheekay cinco
Subject: Where are the Women in the WSIS Asian Regional Conference?: Some Observations

Where are the Women in the WSIS Asian Regional Conference?: Some Observations

Day 1 / 13 January 2003. Fresh off the Asia Pacific Gender Forum for WSIS,
where for a day and a half, women (and some men) from the region discussed the
most critical gender and ICT issues and collaborated on substantive
recommendations for the WSIS, it is easy to be positive about the Asian WSIS
PrepCom. But a day at this meeting, after attending three panel sessions and
listening to about twenty-one panelists, keeping positive gets tough.

Less than 20% of the panelists in the six panel sessions were women:

Panel I: 6 men, 0 women
Panel II: 5 men. 1 women
Panel III (1): 5 men, 2 women
Panel III (2): 5 men, 2 women
Panel IV: 8 men
Panel V (NGO Panel): 3 women, 4 men
[41 (number of panelists) / 8 (number of women panelists) x 100 = 19.51%]

Out of 11 Moderators, Chairs and Rapporteurs of the six panels, only 3 were
women (27%). Two out of these three were from the NGO panel. There were no
women moderators and chair, except the moderator AND chair of the NGO panel
(Ubonrat Siriyuvasak).

But more daunting and alarming than these numbers, is that there has hardly
been any mention of gender or women today in any of the panel sessions. It was
not substantively discussed in the two panel sessions I attended, and based on
feedback from other women, the same could be said about the parallel sessions.
The exception, of course, was the NGO-organised panel "Towards a More
Inclusive Information Society: Asian Perspectives", which provided ample and
equal space for gender issues.

[Anecdote: The first time I heard "gender issues' mentioned at a panel
discussion today was at 14:44 (I checked my watch as I heard it). It was by
Hamadoun Toure, during his presentation at the UNDP / ADB panel on e-
development. The next time was at 15:51, when a member of the audience
commented that women can benefit from e-development as ICTs would allow them
to work from home, raise children and earn an income.]

But most daunting and alarming, are recent developments in the overall process
of the regional meeting that threaten civil society participation and
intervention, and greatly minimise the transparency of the process. The role
NGOs and civil society have played in events like these has been to offer
alternative, critical and more progressive perspectives on the topic at hand
by representing the interests of those who have been marginalised. In the WSIS
process, in particular, NGO and civil society perspectives and participation
are important mostly because the other major stakeholders are in agreement
creating a market-driven, homogenous and gender-neutral Information Society.
If NGOs lose their place at the negotiating table of the Asian WSIS PrepCom,
gender issues and women will be more invisible in this gathering.

Submitted by: Cheekay Cinco (Gender Evaluation Methodology Regional
Coordinator, APCWNSP)