Bridging the Gender gaps through use of ICT and New Media
New social media refers to digital technologies that are both collaborative and dynamic, allowing users to access and direct information to others over the internet or through mobile devices. Examples include social networking sites – facebook, twitter, Blogs, Wikis, new mobile phone technologies, online broadcasting sites like You Tube, Websites etc.
Rather than using the Internet as a passive tool for viewing content, new media technologies enable users to take an active and collaborative role in communication and information exchange. Users/audiences do not simply read information with a new technology; they access, interact, create and often promote the news.
Gender gaps in using new media:
Women play a critical role in the development, however, newly established ventures in developing economies fade out with out women effectively utilising them. There is an information gap -fewer women than men regularly get news and information from a range of available sources; TVs, radios, new papers, brochures, SMS etc. This gender gap extends to information gathered via new media – cell phones and the internet. Women are less likely to use internet to get news and information compared to men. Women also lag behind in the use of SMS services for the same purpose. Women are less likely to use computer-based new media than men.
In Uganda, women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men and their access to ICTs. in my community women are constrained by;Inadequate technological infrastructure in the area, social and cultural bias/attitude, low levels of education and skills among women, lack of disposable income to purchase computers, lack of power or electricity, and internet coverage as well inhibits accessibility of internet by these rural women.
In my community, there are access issues both in terms of ownership and use patterns- more men than women are likely to own a phone. While ownership is not a prerequisite for cell phone use since many of these people can and often use borrowed or rented phones. More still other constraints to women’s access & use of new media and information technologies include; lower education or literacy, education and skills – literacy, language, computer skills especially for rural women, social and cultural reasons (that generally influence women’s use of ICTs – multiple roles and heavy domestic responsibilities, limited mobility),more anxiety about using computers that is linked in part to “technophobia” and most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas – majority of the women live in the rural areas.
Violence against women:
Violence against women continues to be widespread and socially tolerated despite the fact that it’s a human rights violation. Domestic violence disempowers women and negatively affects women’s health and productivity sometimes resulting into death. In addition, the cost to women, their children, families and communities is a significant obstacle to reducing poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring a peaceful transition for post-conflict societies.
Violence against women has as its root in the structural inequalities between men and women that result in the persistence of power differentials between the sexes. Women’s subordinate status to men in many societies, coupled with a general acceptance of interpersonal violence as a means of resolving conflict, renders women disproportionately vulnerable to violence from all levels of society: individual men, within the family and community, and by the state.
In Uganda many women and girls in Uganda suffer from sexual and gender-based violence committed by state actors, military services and rebel armies, as well as non-state actors within the family and the community. The persistence of patriarchal patterns of behaviour and the existence of stereotypes relating to the role of women perpetuate the discrimination of women within Ugandan society. The difficulties women face are not only due to intimidation, hostility and ridicule from the community, but also due to the states inaction in ensuring redress. However, ICT can play a major role in combating domestic violence.
The Internet can be a useful tool to get information about gender based violence as well as raise awareness around such issues to the general public and global community. Mobile phones provide women with an opportunity to avoid being domesticated by opening links with the outside world for business, social networking and reporting or obtaining support in abusive relationships. Internet and email can be also be instrumental in mobilising to advocate against violation of collective and individual rights.
‘E- Agriculture an emerging field to help women fight poverty’:
Women remain the main contributors to agricultural production, and in many societies they are responsible for ensuring that food for their families is on the table. Providing women with relevant information on agriculture is a very important strategy to improving productivity and livelihoods.
“e-Agriculture” is an emerging field comprising the enhancement of agriculture and rural development through improved information exchange, communication and learning processes, based on the use of internet and other digital technologies by actors in agriculture locally, regionally and worldwide.
using ICTs to enable women/rural communities to access information on how to improve on the quality of their products, acquire improved seeds and crop varieties, source of inputs, diseases and pests control, soil management and conservation and how to improve their production skills can improve their situation to pull out of poverty and to promote agricultural production.
E-Agriculture presents an opportunity of increasing income and reducing poverty among rural communities and women; there is need for more e-agriculture projects to be set up in rural areas given that they depend largely on agriculture.
Reducing the further marginalization of women’s status in society or community through ICTs :
It is widely acknowledged that ICT presents unique and timely opportunities for women and girls. It promises better economic prospects, fuller political participation, communication with the outside world, easy access to information, and an enhanced ability to acquire education and skills and to transcend social restrictions. ICT is especially important to poor women because it can provide increased access to resources, the absence of which defines poverty. Hence, ICTs are tools that facilitate access to a variety of development resources.
However, uneven distribution of ICT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a “digital divide” between those who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’s access to ICTs is relatively low compared to that of men leading to a gender digital divide. In Uganda women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men.
A gendered division of labor is evident in the ICT sector and has resulted in women being mainly end users, taking up low skilled IT jobs, a small percentage of women engaging in maintenance and design of networks, operating systems or software development.
Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science and mathematics, largely contribute to the gender dimensions of digital divide. Women’s lower degree of economic security than men and gender-related constraints on their time and mobility also limit their access, use and participation in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts.
The deliberate efforts to enable women benefit from ICTs, including creating awareness about the benefits and opportunities offered by ICTs among women, building women/girls’ capacity in ICT use, setting up projects or initiatives aimed at increasing women’s access and use of ICTs, encouraging girls to take up science and IT courses as well as eliminating gender stereotypes and factors that prevent women taking up ICT opportunities can be the best strategies.
Therefore my Community Library will develop a training program targeting women and young girls in basic computer packages including; Microsoft word, Microsoft excel, Microsoft access and internet usage for a period of four months, targeting 30 women leaders from different levels administration (villages, parishes and sub-counties),20 form different village communities and 50 young girls from both schools and out of school who will spear head the drive in advocacy for women to get involved in ICT to have greater access to information, share their experiences and in order to address the changes in a more informed way, empowering communities and to tell their own story and to more actively pursue strategies to promote human rights, science education and agriculture.