Highlighting the importance of digital skilling rural youth for development.

TOPIC: Youth, Women, ICT. Internet, RCDF

The 12th of August was selected as the commemoration day for youth by the United Nations through a resolution passed in 1999. Commemorated annually since the year 2000, it is a day that has been set aside to highlight various issues that affect the youth globally. Since its first commemoration in 2000, the day has attracted worldwide attention. It has brought to light some serious issues for governments and other development players to pay attention to while aligning their proposed initiatives to global, regional and national development agendas; policy formulation, consultation and implementation processes, among others, but especially the current and future needs of youth

Capturing goal 4 of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, this year’s global theme was “Transforming education”. According to the UN Department of economic and social affairs for youth, the theme was designed to examine how governments among other stakeholders have transformed education hence contributing to achieving agenda 2030 among other development agendas. Globally, the day attracts a series of pre and post events, with the actual commemoration date taking the largest chunk of activities that highlight youth issues in alignment with the global theme.

Countries across the world tend to align their national themes to the global one or even at times choose to use the same. This year Uganda’s national theme in commemoration of the day was “Transforming Education for responsible citizenship and employment creation”. Uganda has one of the youngest populations worldwide coupled with an unemployment rate of 2.59% according to 2018 estimates by ILO. The levels of unemployment continue to rise despite an increase in entrepreneurship training offered by government and other stakeholders. Rural youth are at an even greater advantage as major economic earners like agriculture are becoming less popular due to various reasons including; poor farming methods, land fragmentation & ownership, climate change among others.

One identifiable gap amidst all these challenges is the lack of digital skills. Coupled with various interventions, digital skilling could be the solution to addressing these challenges and more so present more opportunities and career options for rural youth.

In a twitter chat held on 12th August, WOUGNET sought to highlight the importance of digital skilling rural youth as a percentage of the large young Ugandan population that faces unique challenges compared to their urban counterparts and youth from more developed parts of the world.

Some of the highlights from this discussion arose from responses on questions around government education programs, online participation and policy initiatives to connect rural Uganda, in particular, the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF).

In response to whether rural youth are likely to be competent with the introduction of education programs like UPE and USE - @Karlvoo responded - The rural youth would definitely be competent but to a very small extent not as competent as the urban youth, the gov't and other stakeholders need to first address the big digital gap between the rural and urban areas @MoICT_Ug @UCC_Official #InternationalYouthDay2019” As to whether the RCDF has been effective in addressing issues of access to the internet for rural youth and citizens at large - @hatimsusan responded - The gov’t of Ug thru @UCC_Official, set up the RCDF in 2009, so far & to the best of my knowledge most govt offices in most of rural Uganda have been connected to the internet thru the extension of the national broadband infrastructure project …… Not that I can say, except for the programs to connect teaching colleges in select rural towns - there is no evidence to indicate that the rest of the rural youth population have benefited from this @NITAUganda1 @UCC_Official @MoICT_Ug @moes_ug #IYD2019 #IYDUg2019” On how one would relate digital skilling to online participation or freedom of expression - @princesaito responded - “Digital skilling helps give an individual courage and strength to do something freely and easily - without digital skill some of us wouldn't be where we are today but because we know what we know digitally we can stand and speak. @UCC_Official @MoICT_Ug @NITAUganda1 #IYD2019

Key priority areas recommended from this conversation for government to take into consideration if rural youth are to benefit from the opportunities ICTs and the internet have offered revolved around improving education quality and developing more inclusive ICT access/connectivity policies. Some recommendations made include; More access to digital platforms in rural areas and more effective digital training conducted for youth; Ministry of education needs to introduce and improve on already existing ICT related subjects at primary and secondary school; Offer digital training for all youth who are in and out of school at new and existing community centers at no cost; URA and the Ministry of finance needs to Get rid of tax on ICT tools and internet data; and UCC needs to provide for digital skilling initiatives for youth as key in the next RCDF (if any) and national development agendas. This conversation continued on the WOUGNET and ICT4DY facebook pages.

While there are still countless issues the youth of the world continue to face, education and particularly the education of rural youth in Sub-Saharan Africa should be one of the solutions to addressing these challenges. Even more importantly, digital skilling must be made a critical part of education and any other youth development initiatives if we are reaping the benefits that ICTs have to offer and ultimately to progress as a nation and a continent.

Article by

H. Susan Atim

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

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Translating Access into Empowerment: WOUGNET Tweet Chat #WROUganda

As a way to prepare for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) which is an annual commemoration, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) conducted a twitter chat on 24th November 2017 under the theme “Translating Access into Empowerment”. This was to reflect on the organization’s work in phase II of the Women’s Rights Online (WRO) project as different Women’s Rights Organizations (WRO), activists and interested individuals in Uganda prepare to join the rest of the world for the 16 Days of Activism against GBV celebrations. The project is implemented by WOUGNET with World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) and UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.

With the hashtag #WROUganda, WOUGNET staff and all her partners planned on various issues to be discussed during the twitter chat including internet access, policies or laws that protect women’s rights online and promote women’s empowerment and among others. The twitter chat started at 2:00 pm EAT with all WOUGNET staff who were in and out of office tweeting to the hashtag. Eleven questions were being prepared and asked to guide the conversations. Responses generally showed that women’s access to the internet is improving. Some women are now able to access relevant information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Education opportunities, acquire knowledge and increased opportunities to access avenues that can improve their livelihoods through education, finances, legal empowerment, and support. During the chat, different participants responded to the question of how access to the internet has empowered women and enabled them to realize their potential differently. Some of the response was; the Internet is a platform which enables women to air out their views, interact and connect with like-minded individuals, organizations and ultimately create change and dialogue about the plight of women.

This is because the Internet has freedom of speech and has made women to gain a voice and speak with confidence online since is a safer platform for women. Women are now better informed of the laws and policies in Uganda and women’s networks have expanded beyond existing boundaries. Even though some women have access to the internet, others are still not able to because of high cost for internet bundles, overwhelming household responsibilities, connectivity issues, lack of local and relevant content online, lack of enough online safety and no electricity to power their mobile phones to access the internet and yet the role of government such as the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has full control of the internet. Participants had diverse answers on what needs to be done to improve women’s access to the internet.

They suggested that there is a need to combat harassment of women online and have collaboration between the private and public sector. The need for women to be involved when policies are being shaped, do away with patriarchal systems that have for so long forced women to be afraid of reporting online and offline violence and has made some women think it is okay to go through violence. Participants also mentioned that the Internet should be made more accessible and affordable, the need to identify the main obstacles facing women in exercising their rights on the internet through research, share unpaid care work to enable women create time to surf the internet, encourage female involvement in ICT-related subjects at early stages schools, provide digital literacy training for women. They urged the need for awareness done in regards to laws that protect women against insecurity online, support implementation of policies & strategies that advance the status of women, design specific tech policy to tackle and overcome the steep inequalities of gender, education and income, focus on digital empowerment training for women entrepreneurs and review policy processes to make them more gender-inclusive. During the chat, top posts were on Women’s Rights Online report on how access can be translated into empowerment, improve access & affordability, the focus on digital empowerment training for women entrepreneurs, prioritizing relevant online content for citizen participation, protection of women's digital rights, bringing to an end gender-based violence online and offline.

Related topics had 16 Days of Activism, Women’s Rights Online, ICT for all, #women, #Uganda and #digisecug. “The benefits that the internet avails us are enormous. If all women had access to the internet then women would be able to be more involved in the economic, political and social development of their communities”, Zimba Women By the end of the twitter chat, WOUGNET was glad to have made 412,026 impressions, 73,995 reaches, 45.5% shared original posts, 35.1% retweets and 19.4% replies albeit participants were from different parts of the world. Sentiments were 27.6% positive, 4.5% negative and 67.9% neutral. The posts made in that day were 134 by 27 users with demographics of 82.4% women and 17.6% men. The top sources were 50% desktop/web, 38.1% android, 6% mobile web, 5.2% iPhone and 0.7% safari. The top sites were twitter.com and webfoundation.org. WOUGNET has and is still doing a lot to ensure that women access the internet and remain safe online. The organization recognized Web Foundation for their work in women’s access to the internet and thanked all her esteemed partners in providing and campaigning for Internet Access and Women’s Rights Online in diverse fields. Gratitude was shown to CIPESA, Web Foundation, Zimba Women, BarefootLaw Uganda, the entire WOUGNET team and all participants. WOUGNET wished all the Ugandan women and men a fruitful 16 Days of Activism against GBV deliberations aimed at achieving goal 5 of the SDGs on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

By Sandra Aceng

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Women’s venture in Business: Paving Sustainability for their families

On arrival to Apac town last year in July 2018, majority of the people had closed their businesses by 9:30 pm in order to have enough rest and for safety reasons given most attacks take place in the night. Apac district is located in the Northern region of Uganda with a population of 368,626. The major economic activities carried out in the district are agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism.   Albeit, Over 80% earn their livelihood from agriculture and the major crops farmed include coffee, bananas, sunflower, millet, sorghum, rice, beans, peas, groundnuts, sesame, cassava, potatoes, cotton, cabbage, and maize. They also farm horticulture crops, rear livestock and keep Apiary for income-generating purposes.

In the morning, women are usually up early to hit the snooze button and develop the right attitude for work by accomplishing their home chores before they can leave for their businesses as Paul Valery, a French Poet said: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up”. One can truly admit the multitasking skill every woman possesses from the women in the region. Women have to for instance purchase foodstuffs for sale, carry out gardening, perform duties in their restaurants, roast maize and do others businesses to earn income that can sustain their families and pay school fees for their children. Majority of the men engage in business activities such as selling meat, chicken business attached with the money value of which proceed made from the sales are many times not shared.

At dusk, women’s labor is not valued, regarded as unemployed and treated with no respect by their husbands yet they spend most of their time doing unpaid labor and a few women who engage in businesses use their money for family maintenance and paying school fees or they sometimes do not have power over profits made after a long day hustle. They are regarded as visitors at their marital home who do not own and control resources and may be asked to leave any time.

The patriarchal system punishes women in the informal sector and the stereotypes which say that a good woman should perform unpaid work. Capitalism doesn’t recognize women’s labor and says that women should work more. These create a wage and make it look like the formal sectors are better than the informal sector.

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) established an information center called Kubere Information Center (KIC) based in Apac established in 2005 with support from the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA)  to help farmers especially women farmers access information that can help the women and the entire community improve their agricultural productivities. According to Betty Okot, one of the female farmers and project beneficiaries under the Food and Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) project on Enhancing Rice Green gram productivity in Northern Uganda with different consortiums such as Makerere University, SNV Netherlands, NARO- NaSARRI and among others, She noted that seeds cannot be enough for all farmers in the district. This leaves some women and men unable to benefit from this project and venture into businesses to sustain their family needs.

Based on the MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) 2017 report, Uganda was reported with the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs of 34.8 percent businesses in Uganda owned by women making the East African nation the top-performing country in Africa in terms of women entrepreneurship.

Every year, WOUGNET participates in Month of Woman Entrepreneur (MOWE) which is annual commemoration that happens in November organized by Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) to celebrate women entrepreneurs especially in the rural areas that are doing entrepreneurship from farming and other forms of businesses. In the year 2017, WOUGNET brought a few female entrepreneurs under the SIPER project entitled Strengthening effective and efficient use in ICTs and women socio-economic empowerment to promote accountability and transparency for improved service delivery in Eastern and Northern Uganda and also WOUGNET’s partner, St. Bruno Doll making Group (SBDMG) exhibit their products and network to pave way for global markets as one of the events UWEAL partner called  Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) organized during the MOWE at Golden Tulip Hotel which WOUGNET and other organizations participated.

Also, Under the ARF project spearheaded by WOUGNET, different farmers’ group were trained to adopt farming as a business in the districts of Apac, Kole, and Lira with a total of 15 selected farmer groups trained on all aspect of farming as a business in the 3 districts.  A total of 103 participants were trained (45 male and 62 female).

The government should, therefore, make the informal sector better for women by working with trade movements to unlearn certain stereotypes about women entrepreneurs in the informal sector and empower them since entrepreneurship is neither an art nor a science but a practice.

By Sandra Aceng, Gender and ICT Program

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Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Civic-Engagement: Relevant Tips for Social Media Activism

On 25th June 2019, WOUGNET participated at the 5th annual social media conference at Xanadu Collection hotel organized Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Uganda. The theme of this year’s conference was Social Media and the Prospects for Digital Politics in Africa. The conference was attended by journalists, activists, media experts, bloggers, and social media influencers, representatives from government, political leaders, civil society organizations and representatives from the academia. The purpose of the conference was to facilitate a constructive exchange on the impact of social media on the state and the society, highlighting both opportunities and challenges.

The morning parallel workshop sessions had a session on Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Civic-Engagement hosted by Nanjala Nyabola an Author and Internet Activist from Kenya which WOUGNET was privileged to participate in. Nanjala identified the challenges on social media, general ethics of using images and key social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, telegram, medium/ tumbler). She explored some tips for activism such as not being boring online by learning from the popular culture, humanizing your account and include personal stories, remembering the value of interaction, responding to people to especially amplify positive reviews but avoiding unnecessary confrontation, live-tweeting on what is good using best approaches, keeping your eye on the prize whether short, medium and long term goals and not to forfeit long term victories for short term gains. 

Social media is really a great platform because it can be used to create and maintain positive social change, for instance, the Hashtag movements such as #MeToo, which was started by activist Tarana Burke and later amplified online, have long-lasting consequences. The #MeToo hashtag has been used by several movements to amplify voices of women who have faced sexual assaults and harassment in the private and public spaces. Recently in Uganda, the women’s movement with Chapter Four Uganda plus other female activists and women’s rights organizations have been advocating for justice for Samantha Mwesigye (Ministry of Justice) using the hashtag #Justice4Samantha and the #MeToo hashtag. Women’s movement press conference was also held to demand an end to sexual harassment at the workplace. This showed that online conversations can persuade people to seek help offline.

There has been several Hashtags running on the social media platforms in Uganda such as #FreeStellaNyanzi, #FreeBobiWine and #SaveRuth which are campaigns aimed at seeking justice and fundraise to create a cause. Different countries also joined in using the Hashtags to help these voices reach out to the people in charge of a cause to prevail.

Social media is a great platform to spread awareness and get other people excited about a cause. At Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), different social media platforms especially on twitter @wougnet and Facebook platforms have been used to create awareness and conduct advocacy on issues of women’s rights online, ICT for agricultural productivity, tech-related violence against women and girls, ICT and women-related policies, entrepreneurship, Governance and accountability using Hashtags and twitter handle. Information is also spread using blogs on current issues that affect women in the ICT space on WOUGNET website www.wougnet.org and social media pages.

During the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence, WOUGNET uses the social media platforms to hold campaigns such as Take back the Tech which is an initiative in collaboration with APC to encourage women and girls to take control of technology to end violence against women. Social media has also helped WOUGNET to hold SMS campaigns that are sent out daily on 16Days of activism against GBV to encourage organizations and individuals to stand up, speak out and commit to ending offline and online violence against women and girls.

Social media is a great platform for activism because it is accessible, affordable, brings people’s voices of diverse backgrounds together to advocate for a cause and it is from this simple action that the world gets to know the issues that still exist and people get to act on it. The fact that anyone can easily share the message anytime, the world stays informed.

It also amplifies the work that you see other activists are doing. Although you may not take part in it, you may share it to somebody else who would love to donate or fundraise for the cause or connect you to a community who may be of help.

Despite the importance of social media platforms for activism, according to Nanjala during her session at the 2019 Uganda social media conference that happened in Kampala, she pointed out that social media can also be used to drive people to another message and cited an example of WhatsApp which is now very hard to regulate. She advised activists to protect the vulnerable people as they advocate not engendering their exploitations, respect people’s privacy and dignity and not to rely on shock or breaking news but rather focus on showing commonality and challenge manipulated images.

Therefore, It is important to note that Social media works: (1) when you understand your cause (2) when you understand your objective (3) when you understand your medium (4) when you understand your audience (5) when you have the resources to sustain your action and (6) when your online work is supported by your offline actions/connections.

By Sandra Aceng, Gender and ICT Program

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Women of Uganda Network innovatively empowering women to use ICTs for social change

In the same way some one may just pick a phone and make a call; it’s the same way social services can be provided by leaders to the citizens. Mobile phones help us to share jokes with friends and families, entertain and keep us informed, pay daily utilities and make us more organized but at a cost. For the case of service delivery, If citizens do not engage with leaders to demand for accountability and transparency in public service delivery, poverty levels will increase, more women will be illiterate, in addition to facing all forms of  injustices and political elites will continue suppressing the voices of PWDs, vulnerable women, children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS  because they have very little access to information on performance of their leaders.

WOMEN OF UGANDA NETWORK(WOUGNET) with support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) works with m-Omulimisa, a mobile technology company to offer the opportunity to community especially women in eastern Uganda to exercise their power and sovereignty to improve service delivery.

Promoting effective use of ICTs for citizen engagement with leaders to improve accountability and transparency in public service delivery in Uganda under SIDA,ICT4DEMOCRACY in East Africa campaign emanated from this principle that fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals are inherent and not given by the  state because all power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with the 1995 constitution of the republic of Uganda under article 1(1) to use available avenues to demand for accountability from their leaders.

The innovation is highly  effective and reliable, and all you need to do is register on the SMS platform through the message menu by dialing the district name, sub-county name and send the message to 8228.This enables you to send your concern of poor service delivery to WOUGNET SMS platform and get feedback from duty bearers. WOUGNET then instantly forwards the messages to the leaders in order to gather feedback for the information to be disseminated and discussed in different fora, including VSACS meetings, community engagements meetings, district engagement meetings and the radio talk-show to increase access to information and the chances of having the issues addressed.

Among the things that the project has achieved include, a cattle slaughter slab constructed at Magola sub-county, Osia-Kidera bridge at  Rubongi Sub County completed, hygiene and sanitation improved in schools and surrounding communities, a total of forty community boreholes drilled at a costs of one hundred and fifty million shillings, three new latrines at St.Agnes primary school constructed and poor performing schools had their teachers transferred.

Innovatively embracing and applying ICT empowers women, media and other civic groups to use ICTs to effectively access and share information, advocate and raise awareness on service delivery, equality, right to information and freedom to express opinion and engage with leaders through a mix of ICTs and traditional media segments.

Written by Amuku Isaac, WOUGNET

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