Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) at RightsCon 2021

RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age brought to you by Access Now. This year (2021), the 10th Anniversary of RightsCon is happening from Monday, June 7 to Friday, June 11, 2021, bringing together business leaders, human rights defenders, government representatives, technologists, and journalists from around the world to tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and technology. 

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) sees RightsCon as a networking and collaboration space to discuss the pressing issues, needs, and current trends of Women’s Rights Online. Over the years, WOUGNET has hosted several panels, strategy sessions and many others at RightsCon to discuss the gender digital divide, Gender and ICT policy issues in Uganda, Open Data for women and other vulnerable groups, online gender-based violence and strategies such as digital safety and security for human rights defenders in the digital age, service delivery, digital economy, digital innovations for women, internet shutdowns, surveillance and disinformation and etc.

 At this year’s edition, WOUGNET will discuss the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives, and highlight the fundamental role of the internet in ensuring continuity in both daily activities and emergency response to ensure that women and girls in Uganda are well-connected. We will specifically discuss strategies to counter online gender-based violence against women and children; Open Data for women and Persons with disabilities, the human impact of internet shutdowns and why it maters; and the state of internet freedom with provision on the analysis and recommendations.

Find more information about RightsCon and the program for this year here: https://www.rightscon.org/ or agenda here: https://rightscon.summit.tc/t/2021/events/agenda

Sessions co-organized by WOUGNET

Open data and human rights for women and persons with disabilities

Host Institutions: Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) | Digital Literacy Initiative (DLI)

Time: 11:15am – 12:15pm/ Jun 8, 2021 

Open data is described as data that is free to use, reuse and can be redistributed. The Open Data movement in the area of access to public and other information is very significant in the East African Region States namely (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan). It is widely acknowledged that Women and Persons with Disabilities face social exclusion due to digital division and digital exclusion on account of their disability, gender, class, location and privilege, yet several international Human Rights conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals. In Uganda, Access to Information Act 2005, Uganda Constitution 1995 and Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 all recognize that access to communication technologies are not only human rights but sources of empowerment and social integration for persons with disabilities. This session reveals the Open Data and Human Rights aspect across the East Africa region, the existing legal frameworks on Open Data and the gaps with these legal frameworks, challenges faced by the Women and Persons with disabilities, the role of Civil Society organizations, Governments and other stakeholders in ensuring Women and Persons with disabilities access open data. 

Amplifying the human impact of internet shutdowns: why it matters

Host institutions: Access Now | Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Time: Jun. 11, 2021 |4:45pm – 5:45pm 

As the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives lengthen, stakeholders continue to highlight the fundamental role of the internet in ensuring continuity in both daily activities and emergency response, and press for safeguards to ensure that people across the globe are well-connected. Sadly, some governments are actively hindering these efforts by implementing repressive measures such as internet shutdowns, and digital identity programs to draw back these efforts, further widening the digital divide. Internet shutdowns are disruptors of people’s lives worldwide. The negative impact of internet shutdowns or lack of internet access during the global COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying. Diverse aspects of people’s lives are affected whenever governments decide to arbitrarily cut access to the internet and social media platforms. Although the impact of these disruptions affect everyone, the effect hits hardest on people in already under-served and at-risk communities such as women and girls, persons with disability, ethnic minority groups, refugees, among others. Internet shutdowns widens the existing digital divide among these affected groups. Although, a substantial gap persists between women and men and girls and boys in regards to internet access and use. Thus, the need to give women and girls and other marginalized groups a platform to raise awareness about how internet shutdowns affect them.

This session seeks to highlight the threats and challenges these marginalized groups are faced with when kill switches occur. The session which will be in the form of a panel discussion will provide the speakers a platform to tell the human impact of internet shutdowns as they struggle to be connected online and the strategies, they resort to in order to stay informed. Speakers will be drawn from groups that work with identified minority groups or communities around the globe to tell their own story. Participants will be invited to share their experiences.

Digital security and data privacy to tackle OGBV and safeguard women’s and children’s rights online in Uganda

Host Institutions: Digital Human Rights Lab | Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Time: Jun 10, 2021/11:45am-12:45pm EAT 

This session will bring together representatives from private and public institutions that play a key role in implementing or advocating for data privacy and the protection of women, girl’s and children’s online safety. We intend to have a nuanced and interactive discussion on this topic. Speakers will share perspectives and experiences from digital security and data privacy of women and children. WOUGNET will discuss their report to UN Special Rapporteur on domestic violence in the context of COVID-19 to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (VAW), and #SayNoToOGBVUG campaign policy brief on Online Gender-Based Violence: An assessment of women’s safety in the digital space. Plan International will share experiences from the #FreeToBeOnline Campaign. Unwanted Witnesses will discuss their experiences working on data privacy and the legal frameworks. Encrypt Uganda will share their experience working with children’s online safety and school staff to ensure their knowledge on online safety. Based on these initial inputs, the stakeholders invited will be guided through a strategy session by the facilitators.

Their interaction is key to the development of a common strategy which is made up of 4 steps using common strategy-building tools:

1. Scenario analysis including SWOT matrix to determine their current position.

2. SMART objectives to specify their vision for digital security of women and children

3. Smaller teams address one objective each developing organizational strategies, communication tools, and educational tools.

4. Final feedback to lay down the common strategy and its KPIs.

The facilitators summarise the final strategy in a roadmap document. This will enable the stakeholders to develop common strategies to address the spread, types, and impact of online abuse of women and children. We shall explore how these actors can contribute significantly in bringing online safety to marginalized groups and at-risk populations especially women, and children.

Sessions where WOUGNET staff will be Speaking

Prepare, prevent, resist: a guide for internet shutdown advocacy strategy and resilience

Host institution: Internews

Time: Jun. 11, 2021 | 8:30pm – 9:30pm EAT 

Over the past year, Internews’ OPTIMA team has worked with the KeepitOn community to determine civil society needs around combatting internet shutdowns. As identified in OPTIMA’s internet shutdown advocacy community needs assessment, which surveyed 142 civil society actors, organizations need resources to better assess risks and capacities to better prepare for potential shutdowns, engage in long-term strategic planning and advocacy around shutdowns, build vital skills and expertise, and involve new actors in anti-shutdown coalitions. In response, Internews has collaboratively collected and built a selection of curated resources to help CSOs better prepare and plan for potential shutdowns. This guide includes a ‘risk quiz’ to determine the likelihood of a shutdown and likely shutdown technical methods, a civil society capacity assessment, internet shutdown response case studies, and resources and tutorials produced by OPTIMA and Keepiton network organizations to build capacity for network measurement, VPN use and circumvention strategies, multi stakeholder outreach and engagement, and legal approaches. Through this session, Internews will invite participants to interact with the online resources, invite collaborators to present select case studies and research produced for the guide, and seek further community feedback and input on how the guide can be expanded upon, localized, and translated for communities experiencing or at risk of experiencing shutdowns.

Internet freedom in Africa: analysis and recommendations

Host institution: Independent

Time: 2:15pm – 3:15pm EAT

The general idea is to tell the story of internet freedom in different countries from different aspects. The panelists are from Uganda, Nigeria and Sudan. For Sudan, the panelist will talk about the first Shutdown case caused by national exams and tell the followers its impact. For Uganda, the panelists will talk about the digital rights violations before, during and after the elections with more emphasis drawn into how the digital rights of women are being infringed. Panelists will also look at the threatened voices from the emerging sectors such as the creative arts that are being silenced because one of them (Bobi Wine) decided to run against the president’s 35-year-old rule in the last election, also touch the effect of the shutdown on their livelihoods considering that they are relying on the internet since COVID-19 led to the closure of live performances. For Nigeria, the panelists will tell the story of the digital rights violation during the #EndSars campaign. There’s a lawyer who will discuss why the African legal and enforcement framework fails to prevent internet shutdowns and weakens digital rights. At the end of the session, the panelists will answer the followers’ questions and provide their recommendations.

Join us in these sessions to contribute knowledge, skills and showcase strategies in promoting women’s rights online.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@wougnet); and Instagram: (@wougnet1) to get more updates. 

Related Resources on the Topics

1. Not ‘revenge porn’: Non-consensual intimate imagery in Uganda https://wougnet.org/website/news/newsingle/49

2. TECHNOLOGY RELATED VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Investigating Tech related Violence Against Women in Peri-Urban Areas of Uganda https://wougnet.org/assets/portal/wougnetwebsite/publications/2020-10-01/report-vaw_1.pdf

3. Understanding Online Gender-Based Violence https://wougnet.org/website/publications/publicationsingle/26

4. Online Gender-Based Violence An assessment of women’s safety in the digital space. https://wougnet.org/website/publications/publicationsingle/30

5. Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Submission on domestic violence in the context of COVID-19 to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (VAW) https://wougnet.org/assets/portal/wougnetwebsite/publications/2020-11-16/report.pdf

6. Open Data for Women and Persons with Disabilities https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/open-data-for-women-and-persons-with-disabilities/

7. Online GBV – why it’s still crucial to raise awareness https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/why-its-still-important-to-create-awareness-about-ogbv/

8. Non-Consensual Intimate Images: Can ICT help? https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/non-consensual-intimate-imagery-how-can-digital-security-help/

9. Cutting internet access when people need it the most: stories from Uganda https://www.accessnow.org/internet-shutdown-stories-from-uganda/

10. Internet Shutdowns: An Evaluation of Women’s Online Expression and Participation in Uganda https://medium.com/global-network-initiative-collection/internet-shutdowns-an-evaluation-of-womens-online-expression-and-participation-in-uganda-8a4cac7bc479

11. Will Uganda shut down the internet as opposition heats up for 2021 elections? https://globalvoices.org/2019/11/25/will-uganda-shut-down-the-internet-as-opposition-heats-up-for-2021-elections/

12. Taxing dissent: Uganda’s social media dilemma https://globalvoices.org/2019/12/12/taxing-dissent-ugandas-social-media-dilemma/

13. Market mayhem in Uganda as COVID-19 measures upend women’s lives https://globalvoices.org/2020/03/28/market-mayhem-in-uganda-as-covid-19-measures-upend-womens-lives/

14. Examining the Impact of Internet Shutdowns on Women’s Online Expression and Participation in Uganda https://medium.com/global-network-initiative-collection/examining-the-impact-of-internet-shutdowns-on-womens-online-expression-and-participation-in-uganda-500f15e6e25d

15. The Role of social media: An enabler in Voicing Women’s concerns in the Digital Age https://wougnet.org/website/blog/blogsingle/26

16. Freedom of Opinion and Expression Online is a Human Right even with Disinformation in the Digital Age https://wougnet.org/website/blog/blogsingle/27 

Written by Sandra Aceng,

Program Manager, Information Sharing and Networking


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