“Women’s exclusion from the digital revolution is primarily due to policy failure, and policy failure can be reversed” (World Wide Web Foundation, 2016)
Founded in 2000, the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is a network of over 100 organisations dedicated to developing the use of ICT among women and women’s organisations in Uganda. As part of our work, we partnered with the Web Foundation’s Women’s Rights Online network in 2015 to conduct research on the state of the digital gender gap in Uganda and specifically in low-income areas of Kampala. We expanded upon this in 2016 with new research that outlined key recommendations for Uganda to advance efforts toward closing the digital gender gap.
Since then, we’ve worked on a number of policy briefs to guide our advocacy work. We’ve shared these with policymakers and stakeholders in Uganda and, thanks to the willingness of stakeholders in Uganda to actively participate in our project activities, we have successfully been able to:
- Engage with policymakers from a range of ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, the National Information Technology Authority (NITA), the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, the Ministry of Education and Sports, and the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association. Representatives from these government agencies have joined a number of our awareness-raising workshops, helping to enrich discussions and strengthen clear, concrete plans to move forward.
- Contribute to policy and law reviews through submissions that were presented to Parliament on behalf of all present at the consultation, as well as joining with the Uganda Human Rights Commission to call for the enactment of the 2015 draft Data Protection and Privacy Bill. The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance has also invited WOUGENT to join a consultative meeting to provide input into the Digital Uganda Vision — a framework that will guide all national ICT policies and laws and components of ICT in other sectors of the economy.
- Broaden discussions around women’s rights online through policymaker engagement. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development invited WOUGNET to be a part of the gender-based violence (GBV) reference group meetings, which are hosted quarterly at the ministry. WOUGNET’s work to raise awareness around these issues has been of great interest to the ministry, particularly the fresh perspectives provided in the review of the National Policy on the Elimination of GBV in Uganda, which was launched last year and allowed us to put our concerns about this particular policy forward.
Looking ahead to the next years of our work to improve women’s rights online, we plan to:
- Conduct more qualitative research on challenges to internet access and affordability faced by women, as well as tech-related violence and gender-based violence, both online and offline.
- Increase awareness of issues related to women’s rights online and build capacity to tackle these issues among government and civil society by running training and knowledge sharing events; supporting greater participation by women in parliament; and encouraging and educating policymakers, civil society organizations, female community influencers, and young women.
- Strengthen advocacy at the parliamentary level, especially with our newly formulated relationship with the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association.
- Expand partnerships for sustainability, particularly with like-minded organizations, government institutions, and individuals who wish to join us in pursuing solutions to the gender and ICT-related challenges that come with the ever-evolving ICT sector.
As we continue to make plans to reach our policy goals, we are cognizant of the barriers that we have overcome and those that we are likely to face as we continue to advocate for digital gender equality. We look forward to cultivating and nurturing the vibrant working relationships we currently have with the aforementioned government ministries and agencies to ensure continued success in regards to digital equality and the empowerment of women and girls. We’re confident that our various capacity building initiatives on women’s internet rights, internet governance, and ICT policymaking among Ugandan young women will continue to yield substantive outcomes, as many of our trainees continue to make outstanding contributions within their own institutions but also within the international women’s rights online discourse.