On 26th October 2017, WOUGNET hosted a half-day National Local Level Conversation using the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs). The second of its kind since the inception of a UNFGE funded project on “Increasing women's decision making and influence in Internet Governance and ICT policy for the realization of women's rights in Africa”, this particular activity was unique in design and content sharing. Most notable was the methodology used to relate the need for a feminist internet to the findings in a World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) commissioned research and report on Women’s Rights Online: Translating Access into Empowerment - a research carried out and finalized in 2015 and which WOUGNET took part as the host organization in Uganda, representing one of ten select cities for the research.
Reflections made in the 2015 Women’s Rights Online (WRO) Report suggest that the SDGs (4, 5 & 9) on universal internet access and empowerment of women through ICTs can only be achieved if technology (ICT) policy is specifically designed to tackle and overcome the steep inequalities of gender, education, and income outlined in the study. A 2016 policy brief published by WOUGNET listed a five-point action plan derived from recommendations made in the 2015 WRO report and a 2016 WRO gender audit report card on Uganda. It pointed out the need to close the digital gender gap and suggested a five-point action plan that included the need to; focus on digital skilling and empowerment of women, improved access and affordability, protection of women’s digital rights, combating online and offline violence against women, and prioritizing relevant online content.
The Feminist Principles of the Internet are a set of principles that work towards empowering more women and other marginalized peoples in all their diversities and different realities to fully enjoy the internet. In what is now the second phase of the WRO project, the relation between the recommendations in the WRO report and the 5-point action plan, with the FPIs manifests even more strongly as is seen in the project goal. The major goal of this project phase is to engage with policymakers within government MDAs, and other stakeholders to raise awareness and instigate policy conversations in closing the gender gap online. Most notable throughout the two project phases is the relation to FPIs 1,2,3,6,8,12,13,15,17. These key principles that directly relate to recommendations and project activities presented in the first and second phases of the WRO project and more specifically to the 5- point action plan in a WOUGNET policy brief.
The 2016 WRO country report card points out that women’s exclusion from the digital revolution is primarily due to policy failure, and further suggests that policy failure can be reversed. The action points laid out in the WOUGNET policy brief are brought out in both the WRO report and the FPIs, both works strongly point out the need for women to use available online platforms to express their views and the need to engage women in decision making and particularly decisions that are meant to shape the internet that is best for them (see FPI 6, WRO report, pg. 31 and WOUGNET Policy Brief, pg. 8). The strongest relationship between the two works by far is on decision making. When women are not given the same opportunities to participate in the formulation of processes that shape and govern innovations, their needs are not catered for. The Feminist Principles of the Internet, recommendations made in the 2015 WRO report, activities designed for the second phase of the WRO project, and the key recommendations and 5-point action plan laid out in the WOUGNET policy brief, are a strong reflection of those needs and should be given the utmost urgent attention.
Compiled by H. Susan Atim
Program Assistant, Information Sharing, and Networking.