Younger Women Continue to Face Increasing Online Threats

Over the years, the internet has become a fundamental tool used in our everyday lives and it maintains a high impact presence in our community as a whole. The internet is used for social networking, communication, booking flights and accommodation, online banking, e-payments, watching online news, marketing, sharing content that matters and carrying out our daily tasks. With the internet life has become much easier; a number of applications such as safe bodasafe bangle e.t.c have been invented to simplify life. At this everyday life, the internet has probably become a staple for many or even most users with access to a connection at home or at work.

However due to the emerging use of technology for development in different fields, most women and girls remain excluded from the benefits of the internet and they face increasing marginalization. Due to the gender gaps in Information communication and Technologies (ICTs) and the internet perpetuated by a number of factors such as lack of women’s empowerment, affordability of ICT services especially broadband connectivity, lack of digital skills as well as women’s safety online. A UNESCO report indicates that three major challenges women face are poverty, violence and lack of access to information.  The digital gender gap has even widen more due to the recent imposed Over The Top (OTT) taxes on Uganda citizen for instance In June 2018, a month before the introduction of the tax by the Ugandan government, the internet penetration rate in Uganda stood at 47.4% (18.5 million internet users) but three months later, it had fallen to 35% (13.5million users) of which the most affected are women and girls. This government move has stifled expression online and for most of the internet users who wanted to continue accessing the internet resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which not all VPNs are considered safe and trusted.

According to the Online E-safety Educational Toolkit for young people in Uganda aged 5-20 years designed by Internet Society of Uganda (ISOC) cited that the internet is used for many positive activities. However there are some severe risks also associated with it such as online predatory, cyber bullying and consequences from revealing and sharing a lot of privacy concerns. Children unfortunately encounter these risks during their day to day activities like socializing with friends or during their school research.

A recent study report released by WOUGNET investigating Tech Related Violence against women (such as pornography, cyber stalking and sexual harassment) in perurban areas of Uganda shows that women still remain at a greater risks of not being safe online. Victims are said to respond in various ways such as shying away from the public and in some cases physical violence which will not curve the vice. The study cites that more than half of the remaining respondents (22%) claimed that they are not adequately informed over where to report and 11% said they don’t know even where to report such crimes. Tech crimes continue to increase every day, minute. According to an Article on Technology Facilitated Domestic and Family violence: Women Experiences by Bridget Harris et la drawing interviews undertaken with 55 domestic and family violence survivors in Bribane, Australia  indicated that the frequency and nature of abusive behaviors described by the women suggest that this is a key form of abuse deserving more significant attention.

Young women aged 18-30years are more likely to experience tech related violence. A recent study by Pollicy on Uganda Women Online indicates that women are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber violence with growing access to internet across the world, which could in turn detrimentally impede uptake of broadband services by girls and women worldwide.

For instance on the 2ndFebruary,2019 a female programmer was insulted, intimidated and threatened to be killed while forced to fix an error code a male client badly configured database connection and he messed it up. Threats that limit online freedom including privacy and data protection, surveillance on citizens and harassment online threatens the potential of internet as a safe platform for online communications.

WOUGNET which serves as a secretariat of a caucus called Women ICT Advocacy Group (WIAG) continues to advocate for safe, affordable internet access for all and  raise awareness on tech related issues using the various social media platforms, writing policy briefs, analyzing policies, frameworks, reports, e.t.c. spreading key messages using digital flyers, SMS campaigns, holding tweet chats, writing articles and carrying out trainings on online safety tips especially among university students to create a better internet for all.

It is vital for key stakeholders in the internet space to continue supporting non-governmental and governmental agencies assisting victims/survivors of tech crimes and there is need for Uganda to innovate devices that women and girls can use to protect them online for instance Australia have an eSafety Office and eSafetyWomen tool designed by the government to empower and help women to manage technology related risks and abuse to enable them to be confident and safe online.

Young people especially women should continue to access and use the internet safely in order to demand for their rights.

Compiled by Sandra Aceng

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UCC Study Reveals Low Access and Usage of Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) by Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)

ICTs have the potential to significantly increase the socio-economic livelihood of communities in Uganda including persons with disabilities (PWDs). However, there is a growing outcry from the public and key stakeholders that PWDs are increasingly becoming isolated from accessing and using ICTs.

Basing on the recent study commissioned by the UCC on access and usage of ICT by PWDs, it showed that only 5% of the PWDs participants knew about assistive technologies and 69.40% owned a mobile phone, 70.10% owned radio, only 12% of PWDs used computers where majority were accessing it from schools and 43% used computers at least once a week. Majority of the PWDs respondents were using feature phones and the most used network on SIM cards was MTN. Only 15% mentioned that they were able to access the internet and 25% didn’t know about the internet. 10% of PWDs used social media using mobile phones for networking whilst more male PWDs (6.2%) accessed it than their female counterparts (4%). Some respondents also mentioned that they don’t watch television because they can’t afford and there is no electricity. Some study respondents also said that they do not listen to the radio because of the nature of the disability they have although majority were not aware of assistive technologies and to some that accessed it was in schools. 55% used mobile money and 45% didn’t.

Drawing findings from the study, it showed poverty as one of the major factors limiting access and use of ICTs by PWDs coupled with the recent imposed Over the Top (OTT) and Mobile money taxes which has cut Ugandan internet users by five million, penetration down from 47% to 35% in three months. This has had great impact on the lives of PWDs especially in access to information considering the fact that majority are unemployed because of the stigma against them for instance with reference to institutions, 38% of PWDs mentioned that their major source of funding were donors accounting for the institutions, 29% from government while benefactors and church organizations accounted for 5% and 4% respectively.

According to the study, there is still a huge gap in access and use of ICTs by PWDs majorly caused by high prices of ICT assistive technologies in relation to their incomes, ignorance and limited educational opportunities, lack of affirmative action and waiver of policies on PWDs, awareness of location to access the devices, no suitable technologies for PWDs, lack of awareness and information on ICT for PWDs.

Stakeholders drawn from different Public Institutions; Development partners, PWD organizations, Private sector, academia and civil society organizations raised numeral concerns during the questions and answers session.  These included; less involvement of PWDs in startups and most applications are being imported from outside Uganda, disaggregate PWD in categories based on their specific needs, electoral commission should provide voting machines without PWDs being assisted, have ATM machines and innovate traffic lights that favor PWDs.

The Director Corporate Affairs- UCC, Mr.Fred Otunu speaking at the dissemination workshop which took place at the Communication House in Bugolobi on the 29th January 2019, informed the audience that issues of sensitization shall be solved. He added that the commission will include PWDs and the media in its periodic consumer and digital literacy awareness at the village level to promote further and enhancive ICTs awareness. He also mentioned that the commission will support innovation on ICT to promote access to PWDs, provide computers in schools and have assistive technologies and support training of sign languages although the commission need support from CSOs, academia.etc to carry out the recommendations to be included in the research report.

Mr. Geoffrey Mutabazi the Executive Director-UCC while giving opening remarks during the workshop mentioned that the study was conducted to promote development and transform the life of consumers, promote inclusion in the ICT sector and also inform the interventions of all stakeholders in promoting access and usage of ICTs by PWDs. He informed the meeting that access and use of ICT by PWDs is still below the national standards and called upon all stakeholders to ensure technology usage is increased in Uganda.

In a nutshell, UCC and other stakeholders should promote projects that economically empower the PWDs in order to reduce on the poverty level so as to promote increased access and usage of ICT among them.

Compiled by: Sandra Aceng

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Improving livelihood of rural women farmers through gender responsive Innovative solutions based on Climate Smart Agriculture.

Resilient African Network (RAN) and Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) under Climate Change Agriculture Food Security project have taken lead in ensuring that innovative solutions based on climate smart agriculture are made gender responsive and reach the women farmers in the rural areas of Apac, Lira, Kole and Oyam. CCAFS is research initiative seeking to overcome the threats to agriculture and food security in a changing climate. CCAFS invests in research to address the crucial trade-offs between climate change, agriculture, and food security and works to promote more adaptable and resilient agriculture and food systems in five focus regions: South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Africa, East Africa and Latin America.

A key contribution that WOUGNET and RAN intend to make is to generate evidence based gender responsive innovations refined to address  the real local social, economic and environmental conditions in Uganda with both men and women farmers taking lead in utilizing the local innovations to transform social attitudes and perceptions about irrigation as a means to increase crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa, enable regular growth of  mushrooms  through-out the year unlike in the past when cotton seed-hulls were scarce and to improve farmers’ access to extension services as well as their (extension services) efficiency and effectiveness.

Many innovations today are targeting commercial pathways for scaling and more work is needed to address the range of barriers that currently hinder women’s equitable participation in the private sector in many countries and the urgent strategy to scale innovations is to better think about finances to support women as a pathway for gender equitable change, (IDIA 2018).

The purpose of engaging women farmers in the study was to assess the gender responsiveness of the three RAN innovations which include M-Omulimisa, Low cost solar irrigation pump and mushroom for mushrooming livelihoods. According to FAO (2016), CSA model is an approach that seeks for practical and better ways of supporting Countries in securing the necessary policies as well as technical and financial conditions to enable an increase in agricultural productivity and incomes, build resilience and capacity of agriculture food system to adopt to climate change and forge ways of eliminating the emission of green house gas into the atmosphere while gender responsiveness in the perspective of world bank  means that the particular needs, priorities, and realities of men and women  are  recognized and adequately addressed in the design and application of CSA so that both men and women can equally benefit (World Bank,FAO  and IFAD, 2015).

Among the key issues that necessitated the adoption of the model was the realization that youth and women have varying degrees of vulnerability to shocks compared to those of men for many reasons including dependence on natural resources for livelihoods, responsibility for food production, water and fuel for their household, greater limited assets gaps, social and political barriers.

The CSA approach according to world bank 2017 survey indicates increasing risk to agricultural sector and food security affecting poor men and women who live in the rural areas and depend on agriculture, forestry and fisheries for livelihoods.  This means that gender gaps in agriculture would put both men and women farmers at different levels when it comes to agency of opportunities, institutional structures, access to and control of resources, technology/practices and innovation and services, they need to respond to climate change.

According to the 2030 SDG 5 target 5, the ideal objective is to ensure that all reforms are under taken to give women equal rights to economic resources as well ass access to and ownership and control of land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources in accordance with the laws.

These are some of the gender issues that necessitated WOUGNET and RAN to flag off a research finding to assess how men and women would access, own and use these agricultural innovations, participate in decision making in regards to buying, ownership and usage to better their livelihood and respond to the modern day un predictable weather changes.

According to Betty Jokene, the district agriculture officer of Apac district during the cocreation workshop that took place on 9th January,2019, “in the agricultural, 68 percent are still under subsistence and   it’s our duty to transform the community to commercial farming and these innovations are very key especially low-cost solar irrigation pump because there are number of challenges that people face such as un favorable weather conditions”

In addition, the DAO considered farming to be a business which should incorporate the gender perspective because in lango sub region, farming is a family business.

A female participant responded to the research findings that innovations have brought argument because women always put men to dominate in everything and the cocreation workshop was an opportunity she had to take information home because she understood that innovations are for both women and men. Robert Ekwaro responded by saying that men do not always put themselves a head of women but God created a man first and a woman second and naturally women always need support from men but its good that we have realise that work can be done better by equal consideration of men and women.

With evidenced based results on the discussions about gender and innovations in the rural communities of Apac, Lira, Oyam and Kole, WOUGNET and RAN will refine these three agricultural innovations to make sure that they are gender responsive.

Compiled and written by Amuku Isaac-WOUGNET Information sharing and networking department.

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Appreciating the contribution of the m-Omulimisa in improving service delivery in Northern Uganda: A case of Oyam District

Copy & Paste or Type Here..In 2016 Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) partnered with the Agricultural Innovation System Brokerage Association (AGNISBA) to integrate the use of an SMS platform called “m-Omulimisa” to enable WOUGNET receive complaints on service delivery from the reporters; the Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSACs) and other community members. The complaints received are forwarded to responsible duty bearers for action. From the time this platform was introduced to the VSACs and the leaders in Apac, Kole and Oyam, a number of issues in the education sector, health, water and sanitation, road and infrastructure development and different government programs like Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III), restocking among others, have been reported on the system.

Analysis of the system usage shows that the SMS platform has registered over 5,000 service delivery issues in the above sectors since its introduction by WOUGNET to the VSACs, the organization’s community reporters. Most of the complaints are forwarded to leaders and action taken on some by responsible duty bearers. On the platform, the VSACs in the project districts have reported irregularities on the procedures used to select beneficiaries under government programs and how inputs under such programs are given out to the selected beneficiaries; absenteeism and late reporting by teachers and some medical personnel to their duty stations; poor access to most community access roads; drug stock out in most public health facilities; disease outbreak in some areas; water source negligence and poor accountability of water collection fee by water source care takers; shoddy work in construction projects like classrooms, latrines, health centre buildings among others.

Beside the increasing number of service delivery issues reported, the SMS platform at the project start encountered resistance from the duty bearers with the view that the WOUGNET project had come to witch hunt the leaders and expose their weaknesses to the public. There was also fear that the project would empower the local citizen and open their eyes to demand and hold the leaders accountable for their actions hence exposing corruption scandals and shoddy work in most public sectors. Even the citizens, the VSACs who are the prime target under the project never believed in the system and thought the platform would not effectively give them the answers to service delivery gaps in their communities even when reported. In many encounters, VSACs expressed fear that for long they had service delivery challenges in their communities and efforts were made to report such issues to the leaders but the leaders hardly responded to them. For this they wondered how the platform would motivate and move the leaders to respond and take appropriate actions on service delivery gaps reported to them using the SMS platform.

The continuous trainings and engagement with the VSACs and the duty bearers at all levels of service delivery coupled with project activities designed to address similar issues, many have started to appreciate the contribution of the SMS platform in improving service delivery.  Duty bearers have started to embrace the system by responding to the issues forwarded to them and on receipt of the complaints they have labored to reach the scene to ascertain the magnitude of the problem before appropriate action is taken. The overwhelming responses by duty bearers on issues reported has encouraged the VSACs and other community members to report more service delivery challenges in their community on the platform and they are now witnessing the contribution of the platform in addressing gaps in the public service sector. Interaction with the community also indicated that the WOUGNET SMS platform is building good working relationships between the leaders who are the duty bearers and citizens who are the right holders with notion that communications are being made silently and things are seen happening.

During a WOUGNET ICT training conducted in the three project districts of Apac, Kole and Oyam to reinvigorate the knowledge of the VSACs and the duty bearers on the use of m-Omulimisa ( for improving service delivery,  the Chairperson LC V of Oyam district Hon. Nelson Adea Akar when given the opportunity to address the Oyam district training participants, commended the approaches and the communication tools WOUGNET is using in advocating for improved service delivery in Northern Uganda.

Hon. Adea addressing Oyam ICT training participants on 19th October 2018 at Red Cross Hall in Oyam District.

Hon. Adea noted that leaders initially had negative attitudes towards WOUGNET’s intervention with fear that the project had come to fight them and expose their weaknesses to the public thus forcing most leaders to ignore WOUGNET programs and the district and Sub-County leaders deliberately declining to respond to complaints forwarded to them because they had not understood the concept behind WOUGNET’s communication tools.

The Chairperson noted that WOUGNET’s communication tool, the m-Omulimisa is a friendly communication tool and it enables citizens to raise their complaints while their identity is hidden. He added that the system facilitates silent communication while engaging the leaders to take action on the communication made. Hon. Adea testifies that the system greatly helped them in June this year when there was an outbreak of measles in Minakulu Sub-County.

“I want to thank WOUGNET for engineering the platform”. Adea noted. “This platform helped us in June when we had measles outbreak in Minakulu Sub-County”. Hon. Adea explained. “It happens that one of the WOUGNET reporters reported the occurrence on the system and the concern was forwarded to me and the District Health Officer (DHO) through the platform”.  “Immediately when I got the concern I instructed the DHO and my Secretary for Health and Education to drive to Minakulu to verify the concern; on reaching Minakulu, the DHO with my Secretary found out that the report was true and immediately with my DHO we contact the Ministry of Health and the Ministry responded without delay by sending their team to the district the following day and the problem was addressed”. “Had it not been because of WOUGNET communication tool, it would have taken the district sometime to know about the outbreak and respond to this life threatening outbreak in the district”. Hon. Adea explained.

 Hon. Adea noted that his office received a lot of issues on service delivery forwarded to him using the SMS platform apart from the measles outbreak in Minakulu Sub-County. In particular, he pointed out his earlier concerns about the road from Loro to Oyam district headquarters, which was eventually worked on resulting from the reports sent to the system; he also testified that he got complaints from VSACs of Loro reporting that they had paid money for the sorghum seeds but they were not given the seeds. He noted that all these issues were addressed because WOUGNET, using her communication system made effort to ensure that tax payer’s voice reached the responsible officers.

M-Omulimisa ( is a toll free mobile and web-based platform that enables any target user group for instance the local citizens to exchange information with their leaders in local languages or in English. The platform influences human mediation and text messaging to create a mobile and web-based “Q&A forum” space where the citizens use their phones to send their concerns to the system from which the system administrator forwards the complaints to the responsible leader, and the administrator receives feedback from the leader by making a phone call or physical interaction. To use the platform, a mobile subscriber must register using the key word KIC. In the registration message, the user types the keyword, the district name, the Sub-County name, the name of the person registering and sends the text to 8228. The system then sends a confirmation message to the person notifying him/her about his/her registered status. To report a complaint, a mobile subscriber must begin a text message using a specific keyword WOUGNET, writes her/his complaint in the text message, and sends it to a USSD code 8228. The complaints are received on the system and forwarded to responsible duty bearers who must also be added on the list of leaders on the system. This intervention is initiated by WOUGNET to help raise awareness in communities on human rights and to provide better service delivery through duty bearers who have responsibilities to serve citizen’s demands.

Compiled by

Egwel Gilbert

WOUGNET Project Officer

Based at Kubere Information Center – KIC Apac

Email: Tel: +256 782 701 930.

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Enhancing Farmers Capacity to Produce Own Seed: WOUGNET Farmer Field Day Story.

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) in collaboration with consortium member organization are tirelessly working to enhance the capacity of farmers to start producing rice and green gram (locally known as coroko) seeds in a bid to increase income and secure food nutrition and security through the use of information and communication technology (ICT) tools.

At the initial farmer’s field day held at Bar sub-county, Lira district attended by over one hundred and sixty farmers and government and local leaders on Friday 27th  July 2018, farmers received smartphones intended to help them acquire information and skills that would help improve on their production and technologies. The farmers appreciated the initiative and declared to adopt all the technologies introduced to them in a bid to improve their farming.

One speaker after another from the farmers side at the demonstration field where the trials for technologies for rice and green gram where set up said, they are now much better placed to produce their own seeds and sell to other farmers.

Bonny  Our who is the chairperson of the Note ber youth group said,“by the end of next season all group members will be producing seed for market and that this will generate income for the farmers”?

Robert Amayo, a research officer/crop pathologist with National Semi-arid resource research institute, Serere said, “farmers complain of information gaps especially when need arise to inquire about technical assistance and market information” and in a bid to address the problem,  he noted that the project procured and has given smartphones to 15 farmer groups in Lira, Apac and Kole with an application which enables farmers to profile their own details, mapping and profiling gardens, asking  relevant questions and receiving responses by technical experts. The phones also have a provision for an open market feature where farmers can sell their products.  Other users taking on this mobile application include: Administrators, extension officers, farmers and experts. The application also has input and output providers; that are sellers of input products and buyers.

Mr. Amayo further explained that, so far trainings have been organized to fully bring farmers on board like: group members trained on quality seed production, group dynamic and Gender issues that affect Agricultural production. Training farmers on how to use the ERIGNU mobile application to profile and map their own garden among others.

The technology will help in increasing the level of productivity and returns among farmers and hence their level of income. Also, it will help women and youth to participate in the online market chain for selling and buying agricultural products.

Early in 2017 WOUGNET in collaboration with consortium partners like National Agricultural Research Organization, Makerere University, and SNV- Uganda launched a project named Enhancing Rice Gram productivity in Northern Uganda to increase farmers income and improve food security with funding support from Food and Business Applied – Research and the project is expected to end by 2019.

Compiled by: Lilian Mercy Apio

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