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Social media and internet usage viewed as too much exposure

Utilizing the internet comfortably is one of the things that increases usage especially among women in my community. By comfort I mean being able to go to a cyber cafe where internet lines are fast and the environment women friendly. But that happens not to be the case. Connections most of the times are painfully slow at public internet bars and these places are also more often than not crowded mostly by men who sometimes smoke and use foul language that might not be friendly to many women.

I used the public cyber for several years and never felt comfortable. Thus I resorted to getting an internet modem so as to be able to use internet in the comfort of my home. The question is if I get the connectivity I expect. My experience with these modems might not have been the best still because of the slow connection lines sometimes, but I am happy to work from home. The picture here shows a series of modems that can be interchanged when on service provider is not efficient. It is quite expensive still for many women to afford all these. It is therefore a big challenge for women who more often than not have a lot of work to do and would rather do their house chores than waste time trying to access internet on very slow lines.

The last time I visited a cyber about a week ago, I came across one woman who told me she had been at the cyber for more than 30 minutes, yet unable to open her email. I discovered her when I personally could not have access with the use of my laptop and after switching to the cyber desktop, discovered it was a general problem. Big problem because many will spend time but no work done.

Secondly, in a world where anything about everything circulates around the web, it is rather strange and preposterous that some people still regard social media usage as too much unnecessary exposure. This is the impression by many men in my community who restrict the amount of time spent on the internet by their female partners.

If women could be empowered with the necessary tools to needed to weave the web in my community, it will lead to a great impact because their husbands and partners will not be restricting them as much as they do when they have to leave their houses to go to public cyber to weave the web.

Most of these women too need to be taught on how to use the internet purposefully and the various tools they need to utilize. With this, the change in all aspects will be so evident as women are great leaders in my region of origin.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

Emily Garcia's picture

Thank you for sharing!

Dear Tina,

Thank you so much for contributing your voice and experience on this issue. I can see how slow Internet connectivity would be discouraging for many women whose time is certainly precious. And even though I've heard before about men limiting or prohibiting their partners' Internet use, it continues to shock and dismay me. It certainly would be wonderful if more women had access to Internet in their homes, but I think more should be done to provide public spaces that are women-friendly. Are there any cyber cafes that you know of like this in your community?

Thank you again for sharing and looking forward to hearing more from you soon!

Best wishes,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

Tina Young's picture

That is a very good option

That is a very good option Emily. Having internet access in the comfort of the home. But the big question is how many women can afford a laptop and be able to activate their internet connection every month. Many women can't afford this and that is why resort to cyber cafes. I can't remember any women friendly cyber in my community. i think it could be a great idea to have an all-women-cyber. How does that sound?

Tina Young's picture

Dear Emily, I am so glad to

Dear Emily,

I am so glad to read from you. There is no cyber cafe in my community that I know of which is women friendly. Most of the cyber cafes are usually flooded by young boys and men and fewer women. Majority of the women who frequently visit the web are mostly those who have internet in their offices.
It is also worth noting the fact that in as much as cyber cafes are not so women friendly, a lot more women need to be educated on the importance and benefits of internet exposure. This is because many women are still not interested too because of ignorance, irrespective of other contributing factors. I just give an example from my family. None of my 5 sisters uses the internet or even own an email. Two of them are college students and 3 already working as teachers.
I believe if there could be "For-women-only" cyber cafes, many more women will be mobilized to use the internet purposefully and beneficially.

Thanks,
Clementine
Communications Officer CDC/PEPFAR project
CBC Health Services
Bamenda, Cameroon.

Emily Garcia's picture

Hello Tina, It's good to hear

Hello Tina,

It's good to hear from you again. You bring up a really good point about many women not really knowing how they can benefit from technology and therefore not really being interested in it. I have heard this same challenge discussed by other women on our site here too. It seems like it is a common challenge, but one that is often overlooked by organizations working to bring technology to women. They bring the technology without educating women on the "for what" - why technology should be important to them in the first place.

Thanks again for sharing your experience and your recommendations here.

Looking forward to chatting with you again soon.

Warmly,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

kariz's picture

Thank you Tina

Hello Tina,
Am particularly happy because you raised up this issue of female education and access to the internet!
Because of cultural indoctrination many women have believed internet,cybers etc are meant for young people. It is the biggest deception that has slowed down the development of all these women!
Like you pointed out about your sisters, such is the case in several families!
We need to first of all educate our women on the role the internet can play in. Self development, community development via networking,online professional trainings and opportunities etc
Before thinking of opening more women friendly cyber cafes!
By the way internet connection is an issue in most regions, I visited one recently and strange enough in a regional headquater I could barely see a cyber where I could download a 2 paged PDF document. My phone has been my sole tool for the past 2years but how many can afford?

Charis-Shalom
LK

Tina Young's picture

Dear Charis, You got it

Dear Charis,
You got it right. Before i got the internet key on which I rely for connectivity now, there are a series of times I dashed to several cyber cafes in a day and ended up not being able to accomplish anything.

Bheki's picture

The importance of education

Dear Tina,

The issue you raise is a great reminder of one of the many issues that keep women "in the dark". The situation around getting access to the internet and the vast information that is available is quite complex, and must be looked at holistically as there are often no simple solutions. Cultural and social factors have a major impact on what is "allowed" for women.

Providing access to computer education and to how to use the internet needs to start in schools, so that girls can begin to become familiar and competent with taking advantage of the wonders of the web. I know this is not the case in so many countries. But I hold this vision.

Women still bear the brunt of most of the work that it takes to maintain a home and family, so they don't have the luxury of sitting for hours waiting for sites and documents to download and open. Having access to the internet is so critical in supporting the growth of women leaders and of helping them connect with other women leaders across the globe.

Thank you for bringing this forward. It is an important concern. j

Blessings,

Bheki

"I am almost going mad" "this thing is reading like forever" "I am already 40 minutes late for the training and I have been trying to connect for more than 40 minutes" "This is crazy" "I am letting a lot of people down" "internet in Cameroon is so frustrating". These are a melange of statements I am presently getting from a lady sitting beside me at a cyber cafe.
When I got to the cyber and sat beside her, I realized she was complaining about the slow lines as she tried to open a website "www.gotomeeting.com". Her frustrating comments made me interested as she complains she desperately needs to be part of an online meeting. This lady has been out of Cameroon for several years and explains she has bought all the modems possible to enable her work at home to no avail. Her inability to have access again at the cyber cafe compounds the whole situation. She lashes out as to how many countries she has been to have connectivity on a click and she comes back to suffer in her own country.
She says she had a great achievement in her company and is missing out on the happy moments of congratulations. I bear with her and share in her pain because I had to resort to working at a cyber because my modem failed me too at home. This also takes me down memory lane when I wanted to take part in a journalists competition and failed because I could not successfully upload my report online by the deadline. The second time, i succeeded because I was patient enough and my submission earned me an award for a competition on human rights, in which I focused on widow's rights.
That aside, it is really so frustrating when one has something so important to do and the internet lines are a mess as is the usual problem in Cameroon especially in my city. The worst is when one has to work with sound.
Talking about educating women in ICTs, many schools have this in there curricular but more attention goes with theory than with practice. I believe learning how to use the internet should have the practical part more important than theory. Many who learn without any practice, easily forget and even give up. If those interested women could have the lines fast as desired even at cyber cafes, it will spur them use the internet there. The good thing though is the fact that though the lines are sometimes slow it is not always the case and and many cyber cafes are working towards upgrading their band width to be able to have better lines. I only hope women be more resilient and not give up.
My lady who struggled to connect finally succeeded to do so more than an hour late, but is happy. had it been she gave up, she wouldn't have succeeded. Now she is having an online video chat. "Better late than never they say". women might be late in ICTs but it does not wipe out the fact that they are capable.

Tina.

loueda's picture

Accessibility

Hello, Tina Young.
Your story makes clear the impact of lack of access to safe technology for women. While reading your thoughts, I was reflecting on my own experience with accessing the internet. I have fast internet at home, but I find that I am can be very isolated in my community when I work online from home. I find myself always seeking friendly places to work so I have human connection and feel like part of a group. I wonder if you relate to that experience at all. I wish that all women had a safe and meaningful place to gather and then connect to the web.
Thank you for sharing your story. It gave me a lot to reflect on.
Loueda

Giovanna's picture

Cyber Cafes

Dear Tina,

It seems you are outlining a two-fold problem. First of all, the basic problem of a slow connection--I think this is maybe especially troublesome to women, since they are already trying to carve out time from their days to connect on the computer--and perhaps they are doing so in an environment that is not particularly friendly to women spending time on computers?

And that is exactly the second issue, which you addressed when you said '...many men in my community who restrict the amount of time spent on the internet by their female partners.' This is alarming. Is this due to men not wanting women to be away from home and chores, as well as worrying about them forming strong social connections outside of their immediate home circles?

How are these issues being addressed? And how are women reacting to this? I think I have some sense from an earlier response of yours, in which you commented on the women in your own family and their computer interactions.

Thanks for sharing!
Giovanna

Tina Young's picture

Hi Giovanna, There is no

Hi Giovanna,
There is no gainsaying the fact that to an extent, there is the feeling of insecurity for men whose spouses access the net. That is the more reason for skepticism and restriction. What ever the case, women who are educated on the importance of the net and use it purposefully don't give up. Many other women actually lack knowledge on the benefits of the internet and sometime spend time using it only for communication and fail to utilize it in a way beneficial to her and her community. There is therefore the need to to let more and more women know more on hoe the internet can bring about development.
During the women History Month Symposium celebrated in my last year, it was alarming to the organizers from the US embassy how backward women in my city are with regards to IT. Some of the women I spoke to told me they are either discouraged by their husbands or just view it as a world for young people.

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