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Women Rewire the Web

With ingenuity and resourcefulness, women are coding new strategies to bring more women online and empower them. World leaders and technology firms should be paying attention to their solutions—and backing them up.

"It’s time to take a closer look at how we can boost the feminine digital revolution."

According to the Women and the Web report, 200 million more men have access to the Internet than women. In mid- to low-income countries this statistic soars to a 25-40% access gap between women and men. A host of cultural, economic, social, and infrastructural barriers keep women locked out from the empowerment potential of Internet access.

But while global experts search for solutions to bridge the worsening digital divide for women, it turns out the answers are at our fingertips.

Every day I witness women around the world who are building the Web they want and bridging the gap so more women and girls can access the Internet’s immense benefits.

There’s Olutosin in Lagos, Nigeria: Her country is known for the hostile men who conduct online scams from Internet cafés across the region, men who make these cafés unsafe for women. Olutosin has created an alternative: a women-only center that allows Nigerian women to connect online safely and freely.

Over the hum of her café’s fuel-powered generator, Olutosin types, “Our center is the safest place for any woman to access the Internet in my community. Even if it is for an hour each day, women will access the Web. It is the only place where we can weave our desired world without sweating profusely with gender inhibitions."

And then there is Myrna in the Philippines, who escaped trafficking as a young girl and worked as a domestic helper. After her employer's 7-year-old son taught her to use a computer, she rose up to found her own IT company. Today, she is using technology to help fellow trafficking victims.

That’s just the beginning. In Crimea, women are using the Internet to advocate for peace as the country navigates its newfound Russian identity. There are digital literacy trainings for women springing up in Bangladesh, Internet cafés for women opening doors in Argentina, and women leaders in Kenya prototyping mobile apps that send out alerts if a woman’s safety is threatened.

It’s time to take a closer look at how we can boost the feminine digital revolution—a revolution that is already underway. At World Pulse we trust that local women community leaders will reveal the way forward. This year, we launched a global crowdsourcing campaign to collect homegrown solutions and ideas to spread digital empowerment. Hundreds of submissions have poured in from 40+ countries as part of our Women Weave the Web Campaign—and we’ve only just started.

Women themselves are revealing key challenges—issues of safety, affordability, technological skill, distance to Internet cafés, and gender norms that restrict women’s access—but solutions are also being generated.

With ingenuity and resourcefulness, women are coding new strategies to bring more women online and empower them. World leaders and technology firms should be paying attention to their solutions—and backing them up. The future of our world depends on it.

We know there is enormous potential in bringing more women online. The Women and the Web report estimates that bringing 600 million additional women and girls online could boost global GDP by up to US $13 billion. And we know that those who have access to participate in the knowledge economy will hold the power to shape the future of civilization.

Women in our online community tell of solutions, but they also tell of risk. They warn us that we cannot ignore the horrifying stories that reveal the dark side of technology.

In India, women bloggers are threatened on Twitter with "live-telecasted gang-rape and acid attacks." In Bengal, police report that girls, farmers’ wives, and brick-kiln laborers are being tricked into one night stands that are digitally recorded and then circulated, sentencing the women to lives of shame.”

But for every horror story, there is a story of hope and a story of creative solution building. For Barbara—a participant in a training led by World Pulse community member Loyce Kyogabirwe in a remote fishing community in Uganda—the issue of domestic violence and mobile phones has been transformed. She writes, “As much as these telephones have caused violence against women in some circumstances, I have learnt that we can use the same phones to send messages to the men who violate women’s rights to educate them about violence against women.”

Above all the message we are hearing is that, although the Web can be a dangerous place for women, the solution is not to focus on protecting women from the Web, but instead the solution is to increase our efforts to enable women to mold the web and make it their own.

World Pulse’s campaign is cataloging these recommendations for making the web more easily accessible and safe for women users. From reducing the price of mobile Internet for rural populations, to establishing safe technology centers for women, to providing digital literacy training for girls in high school—women are not only generating solutions, they’re putting these solutions into practice. We’re delivering these ideas to key forums, including the Silicon Valley Rights Conference and the Internet Governance Forum, to make sure they are heard loud and clear.

If global experts can heed the recommendations of women worldwide and combine the best of the global technology industry with the ingenuity of women on the ground to solve the digital divide challenge, we can unlock a colossal wave of human potential and freedom for future generations.

I challenge top development experts, technology leaders, philanthropists, and policy-makers to partner with grassroots women the world over and rise to the task. The women I work with every day are ready. With support, these local grassroots women leaders can lead the charge and open doors for billions of people in their communities.

About This Story

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. With this campaign we are crowdsourcing solutions from across the globe for women's digital inclusion and empowerment. Learn more »

Comments

hanasazi's picture

Thank You!

Dear Jensine, Thank you so much for forming World Pulse and making digital online tools more accessible for women around the world. Thank you for opening doors of opportunity, making education more easily available, and providing a venue for women to find funding to pursue their dreams. Thank you for providing a platform from which these women can use their newfound voices to share their stories with the world, and for keeping up with new developments and utilizing opportunities to present the needs and importance of women's digital empowerment to world leaders and powerful global organizations. I have watched the World Pulse community grow by reading the excellent newsletters and recently became active in the community, introducing my daughter to the sisterhood of World Pulse, too. Nearly every time I visit the site I am filled with gratitude...and perhaps somehow I feel the gratitude of many others...so intensely that I am overwhelmed and the tears begin to flow. This community is so warm, loving and supportive, and the benefits of participating are real! You are changing the world in a beautiful way for everyone. God bless you and your continued efforts on behalf of women everywhere.

Jensine's picture

Dear Hanasazi

Thank you for your kind words, for being such a vibrant part of the community and for cheering us on! We welcome your daughter and know that the world will be different for our generations of daughters because we have spoken!

You are changing the world with your voice, lots of love!

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

hanasazi's picture

Well, it's happened

Well, it's happened again...the tears well up in my eyes and I'm filled with gratitude. Thanks again for all you're doing.

The power of the web is immeasurable. We are not yet able to assess. A women lo can meet the world playing their fingers on a key. This woman can join the many other women in the world and learn new things and change their lives.
You can ask for help when you feel threatened. Can save lives.
Congratulations on your article.

Dear Jensine,

Thank you for starting World Pulse and providing a platform for women around the world to speak out and demand the same rights that men have been reclaiming for the past 200+ years. The right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," -- and the right to live in peace and dignity within their homes and community.

While women of lesser-developed countries are still fighting to pass laws that would protect their rights, women of the 'West' should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the few advancements we have made in past decades. The battle for peace and security within the home and community is still as omni-present in the "West" as it is in the 'East'.

As Michelle Bachelet, former Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women stated last year, “the shortcomings [in the protection of victims of domestic violence] are not in the vision, voices and the voluminous efforts undertaken by determined women around the world. No, the shortcomings lie elsewhere—in the lack of political prioritization… Now is the time for governments to translate international promises into concrete national action….”

Amnesty International (Spain) produced a very good report, and documentation of the lack of political prioritization and failure of its govt. to translate their promises into reality in "What Specialized Justice?" (http://www.es.amnesty.org/paises/espana/violencia-de-genero). (An English translation and resume is posted on http://worldpulse.com/files/upload/2759/newsletter_family_courts_in_cris... ) But, essentially it states the following:

..."The factors which prevent women from filing complaints for domestic abuse are varied. When an aggressor is the partner or ex-partner, the capacity and ability of the women to defend herself against the violence is all the more impaired. The continual insistence of officials that it is women who “must” denounce said violence so that they might be protected and receive support, shows to what extent officials do not understand the dynamics of the situation. As well as being ignorant to the problems created by deep-rooted discrimination….

Instead of justifying the inaction of institutions by contending that it is the “obligation” of the woman to denounce the violence, authorities should verify the effectiveness of the legal protection available and identify the obstacles that, in the law and its application, impede women from accessing and obtaining justice and protection.

Along these lines, the focus of attention should be the response of the State in relation to its obligations to respect and uphold the rights of the victims of domestic violence by providing them with effective remedies in order to obtain justice and protection under procedural guarantees that assure that they are not discriminated against.

The experience of the women who file complaints [and are systematically denied protection] can shed light on the response of the system and whether they correspond with international norms that obligate the Spanish State to exercise due diligence in the persecution of crimes, in the investigation of the facts, and the protection of those who have filed the complaints and who are at risk....

The documented cases represent serious lack of diligence by the administration of justice. All of these women and children have encountered judicial procedures that are not adapted to their necessities, with obstacles that prevent them from obtaining justice and have not facilitated the just resolution of their cases. The acquittal or absolution for lack of proof has had a serious impact on the lives of the victims and in the behaviour of the aggressor. Amnesty International want to call attention to:

--> Adverse impact in the process of recuperation for these women
--> Losing confidence and seeking protection from the justice system
--> MORE POWER FOR THE AGGRESSOR AND REPETITION OF ABUSE
--> CONSOLIDATION OF PROFESSIONAL MALPRACTICE (lack of effective mechanisms to assure accountability of professionals when they fail to comply with the duty to act with due diligence)"

__________

By looking to the 'West', women of the 'East' may see the road and challenges that lay ahead of them. This road far from being paved in gold, is filled with pot-holes, booby-traps, and land-mines. It is time that women of the East and West re-examine the priorities and issues of the women's rights movement of the past. A movement that has all too often only see labor and reproductive rights of women as the solutions to her oppression and domination. Until and unless women can be assured security and safety within her home, she will continue to be a 'caged bird singing for her freedom' no matter how much financial wealth she obtains.

Quenby Wilcox
Founder - Global Expats
quenby@global-xpats.com
www.global-xpats.com

hanasazi's picture

Thank you, Qwenby

for such a well written understanding of this ubiquitous problem - one whose time has come to be eliminated once and for all! And thank you for the work you have done thus far to improve the situation for abused women trying to make it through to safety and renew their lives. After a two year battle and against all odds, my daughter escaped from an abusive husband earlier this year, and she ran into all the booby traps you mentioned in her journey to freedom - lack of help or cooperation from the police, the courts and her church. Dastardly doings by her ex-husband's attorney that prevented her from ever testifying that she had been abused. Betrayals by people (even women) she thought were her friends. The list goes on and on. Her abuser runs free to this day, fully accepted and active in his church. It's just beyond reason the lack of help there is for battered women, and how dangerous it is for abusive men to face no consequence at all for beating and otherwise abusing their wives/girlfriends/intimate partners. Though she's a busy woman, a ER nurse, a surfer and a mom of two teenage boys, she has devoted her life to empowering other women to escape their abusers as she did. I know she would be happy to connect with you, and perhaps the two of you will be able to help each other make real progress toward the desperately important goal of improving the justice system so victims of abuse are no longer treated like criminals, and their abusers are no longer allowed to walk away without a care. You can search for Jennifer Faith here at World Pulse or find her in my list of friends to connect with her.

Cookies's picture

Strong and thoughfull.

Very strong and though full!!

busayo's picture

Yes! Great and powerful voice!

Thank you Jensine for the powerful tools and network WorldPulse has created to give women and girls globally voices. It has been a great privilege for many of us in the developing countries that they wouldn't have heard our voices forever. Your dream have brought alive our own dreams.
Ride on Sister, continue to change the world in the beautiful way you have been doing

Love
Busayo

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

Jensine's picture

My inspiration

Busayo, you are my heart, my inspiration. You are the future of Nigeria and your dreams feed my dreams.

I love you!

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

Dear sister Jensine,

I am moved by the innovations powerful women have made, small and big, to minimize the gap that exists between men and women as far as access to technology and the internet is concerned. I am also strengthened to find that women who have reached a stage in life where they enjoy internet access and the benefit of technology in their lives, have looked back and held their hand to help other women up to their present state- and this is what I admire about my gender. Thank you for such a powerful thought and direction.

Much love and hugs from India,
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Jensine's picture

Yes sister!

You feel it too! You are harnessing the wave of the web!! Thank you for being so outspoken and brave!!

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

Urmila Chanam's picture

Rewired

Dear Jensine,

You are absolutely right to say that I am harnessing the wave of the web too. I dread to think what life would be without it. We all at World Pulse are witnesses to that.

Much love
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

katyal's picture

out standing

out standing

malayapinas's picture

You're a Gift !

Jensine my dear,

You're such a precious gift to every woman in this world who need to be heard! Congratulations for an incredible journey when nobody wants to hear us and give us voice.

I love you !!!

Malaya

jap21's picture

Hi Jensine

Over and over again, I keep coming back to World Pulse to seek inspiration from you, my dear Jensine.

There is always something in the way you think, in the way you put things together, that makes me be so proud of being your friend, and be part of the Pulse.

In this case, when I read your article, I came to think about many issues that need to be scaled globally, so that people will realize that women are not joking about using tech for the betterment of their lives, and the ideas came and developed, and are ready now to be delivered.

Thanks dear for being such a great point of departure for me. I know many sisters see you that way too, but I am proud to be the one who first tells you this: You are the airport. We fly all over the world after meeting with you.

Love you much my sister!

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

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