Weaving to WP Community Members at Multi-stakeholders Forum on Affordable Internet, Abuja, Nigeria
As I stepped into the room, I looked to the right side and saw hands waving at me. It was Greengirl, Busayo and Nabiye-- my world pulse sisters! Wow, I was delighted, welcomed like a very important personality (VIP). Out of excitement, I tried hugging Busayo and Olanike together as they stand very close to each other. Suddenly Nabiye came over from other side of the table, held me and said “I have been longing to meet you Celine.” The four of us were filled with happiness, love and care for one another. I felt the bonding as if we are from the same mother. Oh, the power of World Pulse-- uniting and bringing women together through our voice. I thought to myself, ‘yeah, we are bonded because we break ethnic and geographic barriers, united by WP we proffer solutions to challenges facing global women.’
It was at Chelsea Hotel, Abuja a multi-stakeholders forum hosted by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in partnership with Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Nigeria. The forum united diverse players-- policy makers, technology pioneers, civil society groups, campaigners (including the World Pulse community) and researchers who are interested in bringing more affordable Internet access to Nigeria. Our excitement and bonding attracted the attention of our host as Sonia and Emily from the A4AI came to meet us on our table.
The Forum started off with introduction of represented groups by Sonia Jorge, the Executive Director of A4AI. Sonia explained that after this forum, a wider network would be created for the campaign. Mrs. Omobola Johnson, the Minister for Communications Technology was present and she gave an opening speech. Among the groups represented was the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, National Communications Commission, University Researchers, Network of Non-governmental Organizations, Interestingly, the World Pulse has the highest number of representatives. According to Nnenna Nwakanma-- the A4AI African Regional Coordinator, “…we are grateful to the team from the World Pulse. You ladies bridged up the gap of gender imbalance, which we might have experienced in this forum.”
It was revealed during the introduction that Nigeria is one of the countries on the top list of countries with large number of internet users. This is the case, despite the fact that 60 percentage of Nigerian population live on less than one dollar per day. The important role of internet in alleviating poverty, enhancing empowerment, knowledge and communications were reiterated. This explains why exploring the challenges and proffering solutions via the multi-stakeholders forum in Nigeria is very crucial.
During the panel discussion it was pointed out that heavy and incessant taxation by government, poor electricity supply, lack of awareness, illiteracy and language barriers, poor routing for internet hosting and unprofitable investing due to remote nature of many states of Nigeria were among the major challenges facing stakeholders in Nigeria. These challenges also constitute hindrances to accessible internet to women.
The group discussions offered opportunity for participants to find and recommend ways to make internet affordable and available to Nigerians. It was noted that Nigeria has existing policies guiding use of internet-- even though the policies are inadequate-- as well as a fund supporting government to discharge its responsibilities regarding provision of internet, but some of the policies and the fund are not made known to the public. This calls for awareness – raising as is done in some countries of west Africa. Details of the presentations can be found on www.a4ai.org
Good a thing that the World Pulse has joined in a network with Alliance for Affordable Internet for a campaign for affordable internet for Nigerians. I see this campaign as very important because affordability and accessibility to internet is gate-way for women’s development and emancipation from the shackles of poverty, stereotypical attitudes, patriarchy and backwardness holding women in the rural communities. I for one, I am a living testimony to how the internet empowers women, transform them to make impacts that create change in the world. To me women need internet access more than the men because empowerment has more multiplier effect with women. An empowered woman empowers her children, extended family members, her community and the whole world. Development can only be achieved if women are empowered to actively create changes on the ground.