The euphoria that has been encapsulated within the term ‘Africa Rising’ according to researchers is attributed to Africa’s expanding middle class and the development of information and communications technologies. This is crucial for the growth and development of Africa’s economy. However, as the internet continues to expand to even the remotest parts of the global South and with such optimism, women and girls remain largely under-represented into key sectors of the economy as these are predominantly dominated by males. A recent report commissioned by the World Wide Web Foundation found out that “Women’s exclusion from the digital revolution is primarily due to policy failure, and policy failure can be reversed” The above line sums up what the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) have been doing as far as advocating for gender-sensitive ICT policies and decision-making processes are concerned. The need to ensure more women contribute to the ICT policy and decision-making processes is instrumental in shaping development outcomes and how such an arrangement of things positively impacts the lives of women and girls.
Building the capacity of women in Gender and ICT policy, internet governance is key to the realization of women’s internet rights. It’s well known that ICT offers transformative potentials in the lives of women around the globe and yet despite such transformative values, the majority of women especially those in sub-Saharan Africa are marginally and disproportionally underrepresented in all levels of employment and decision-making processes. As a result, their views and perspectives are left out.
For the internet to provide the transformational potential that it has for everyone, ICT policies must be gender-responsive in manners that equally addresses the challenges of connectivity and takes into account the needs, values and perspectives of the diverse groups of people including women since meaningful access of the internet imply that the status of women and girls equally improves as a result of benefiting from the productive ICT resource.
For the case of Uganda, South Africa, and a few other African countries, the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and partners such as the WorldWide Foundation and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) have made tremendous gains in building the capacity of young African women on gender and internet governance, ICT policy as well as participation in an intensive Africa school on internet governance that produces graduates that continue to substantially make important gains in advancing a gender-sensitive approach to ICT policymaking.
Some of the Ugandan women that have benefited from our interventions have supported activities like the national ICT policy frameworks and consultative processes, the review of policies as well as actively participating in offline and online discussions that promote gender equality and digital empowerment. Some have integrated gender-sensitive approaches into their institutions and many continue to contribute to the global ICT and women’s empowerment discourses. For instance, some of our participants have actively participated in the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa conferences, the Asian CyFY – a Conference on Cyber Security and internet governance, Africa, and the global internet Governance Forum including the RightsCon among others. As women and male champions continue to advance the status of women in the digital age both internally and externally, the benefits that accrue as far as the empowerment of women and girls are concerned and its concomitant values is indisputable in spurring gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.