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My impressions of empowerment at the WSIS+10, Geneva

Earlier this month, I was honoured to represent World Pulse at the UN sponsored World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS+10 High Level Event in Geneva, Switzerland! Being a long time advocate of meaningful participation of youth, especially young women, at global policy making platforms, it was an amazing and empowering experience to be speaking to industry leaders and other major stakeholders about the perspectives of the world’s most vibrant community of women leaders!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank World Pulse, its dedicated staff and leadership for providing women like me with the opportunity to share our stories with the rest of the world through platform like WSIS+10 that not only influences policy around the globe but also showcases the best practices from governments and organisations for better integration of ICTs for development.

The World Pulse workshop 'The Power of Digital Media - Bringing Women a Global Voice,' that I chaired focused on the results of the Women Weave the Web Campaign. As I was preparing for his event, I read through dozens of testimonies and submissions by our World Pulse sisters. The more I read the individual stories of women leaders designing solutions for better Access and digital empowerment in their respective communities, the more I felt humbled and honoured to be part of this wonderful community that World Pulse has managed to build. Honestly, I wish I had the time to share all of them, which was a bit of an unfeasible plan given the time we had. I was also a panelist at the IFLA workshop on 'Conquering the Digital Divide: How public access to ICTs supports development in the information society’. The panel chair, Mr. Stuart Hamilton had to remind me that I had already spoken for longer than my speaking slot allowed!

The stories that my World Pulse sisters shared through this WWW campaign are the realities on the ground that will help shape the policies for betterment and bridging of the gender digital divide. I often hear that we should promote harmony among men and women and not promote a separate agenda for empowering women only. My response to them is, yes, I agree. Harmony among all human beings is vital, but if women are not granted the equality and respect they deserve, preaching for harmony is pointless. If you cannot guarantee women EQUALITY, do not expect harmony either! ITU research shows that there is a stark difference in the number of men and women who have access to digital tools. This digital divide gets even wider when we look at remote and rural areas.

Often, the barriers to access are tied to the socio-cultural and religious norms of that society. When it comes to digital empowerment of women, I could not help but notice how women living on the opposite side of the globe have very similar challenges! For example, I had the same problems with my digital access and digital literacy project in Layyah, Pakistan that my WorldPulse sister Olutosin had in Lagos, Nigeria; lack of proper infrastructure and unsafe internet cafes! The list of ‘barriers to access’ goes on! But these are barriers which are beyond the control of individuals and have to be addressed by ICT companies and governments. Otherwise the impact we are hoping to achieve is going to remain slow.

My digital empowerment, which allowed me to represent the voices of my community to the rest of the world was seen as a major threat to the Pakistani cultural norms. I often heard that my example would “spoil” other girls too as they might also want to follow my footsteps and leave their homes for higher education or a career! Speaking from personal experience, ICTs, Internet and technology allowed me to start an organisation (ChunriChoupaal) to empower more women with digital literacy and related skills. For my initiative, I am developing an online learning platform with sisters I met through the Internet and my online networks. I started my own business initiative (Gill Nonprofit Consulting) to empower organisations and women groups to harness the power of digital media for greater impact. I am working not just with groups in developing countries but with European organisations as well. Oddly enough, most of my clients end up being women who are talented in their field. This gives me an amazing sense of satisfaction in my work. I was recently selected Fundraising and Nonprofit Working Group Mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s “Mentoring Women in Business Programme.” This platform mentors women from across the globe who wish to start or improve their business skills.

I strongly believe that girls from my community and girls and women from around the globe have the same potential and rights to achieve independence, empowerment and success in their lives. Women and girls have the right to have access to technology, information and freedom to achieve what they want in their lives. We just need to slightly nudge them in the right direction so that they can unlock their potential, and that direction comes from more empowerment programs for their skill and capacity building!

Organisations like World Pulse and platforms like WSIS+10 are crucial to accelerating the mainstreaming of women in accessing ICTs and contribute to their social and economic betterment. Equality cannot be achieved unless women are given equal opportunities for personal and professional development. I am glad that I am fortunate to be part of the group that focuses on solutions and not just the problems!

A big thank you once again to World Pulse, its leadership, its committed staff and incredible community for contributing to the empowerment of grass-root women leaders worldwide and making a lasting change!

Recording and Outcome Document of WSIS+10 available here.

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

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Comments

carolepng's picture

Wow!

What a great opportunity and also for being the voice for all of us - thank you so much. It is my prayer that we all will prosper and continue to be empowered to empower more women where ever we are, in all we do, using our skills, knowledge, talents, networks and wisdom.
Thank you.

-We all have a special purpose in life. It is up to us to pause for a while, identify it, grab on to it and follow through -

Iffat Gill's picture

Greetings ccholai! Great to

Greetings ccholai!

Great to hear from you! During one of my interventions at the WSIS+10 (IFLA Panel) I mentioned you and your comments about the situation of libraries! Thank you for your comment and also for the great work you are doing!

Hope to read more about your work!

Kind regards,

Iffat Gill

carolepng's picture

Oh wow!

Wow Iffat! I'm so...delighted to hear that. Thank you!
I trust our collective voices will bring great change and development to help women in our communities as well as everyone else.

Keep in touch :)

-We all have a special purpose in life. It is up to us to pause for a while, identify it, grab on to it and follow through -

Lea's picture

Wonderful piece, Iffat! I

Wonderful piece, Iffat!
I don't know if you remember me, but I contacted you a few months ago to ask if I could help you out with your project.
I think it's fantastic that you were able to participate in the WSIS+10 (IFLA Panel) and share your stories as well as read the stories of many other women who are seeking out ways of empowering themselves and others through the internet.
I completely agree with you that even though we want both women and men to be part of the dialog, women need to be given more opportunities to use the internet and to express themselves through digital literacy. Sadly, in many parts of the world, as you have quite mentioned, being able to use the internet can be a real challenge for many women and girls. I think it's truly amazing that you have founded your own organization and are carrying out various initiatives in order to empower other women, connect with them, and help them become leaders in their communities.
Congratulations on getting funding from the Cherie Blair Foundation! You completely deserve it!
I really wish you all the best and am so inspired by your dedication to women's rights and to women and girl empowerment. Again, if you need any help, please let me know!
Lea

Iffat Gill's picture

Hi Lea, Thank you for your

Hi Lea,

Thank you for your wonderful comment. Off course I remember you! I am involved with Cherie Blair Foundation for mentoring other women who are starting their projects and need advice on how to go about initial fundraising strategies.

Let me get in touch with you after the summer vacation and we can talk more about my work and possible collaboration!

Speak soon!

Iffat Gill

Kadidia's picture

Women's empowerment

Iffat,

Thank you for your contribution. I absolutely agree with you that EQUALITY among women and men is a prerequisite for reaching a fair level of harmony among men and women.For that, women need to know their rights and men need to know women's rights. Technology has been one of the best tools to spread information on this issue.
I am proud as a woman to know that women like are representing us to international meetings speaking for all women in one voice.
Thank you. We appreciate your sharing your experience on the Worldpulse platform.

Kadidia Doumbia

Iffat Gill's picture

Dear Kadidia, Thank you for

Dear Kadidia,

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and leaving a comment. Indeed technology is helping us raise more awareness about the issue of gender equality. I am amazed at the negative reactions I get from people on social media platforms when I advocate for women rights. We have a long way to go but at least we are stirring the stagnant waters that no one wanted to touch before!

Kind regards,

Iffat Gill

Kadidia's picture

Technology

Iffat,

If you have many people reacting negatively, it means that you're doing something right. It is always difficult to be one of the first ones to get into an unexplored path. Keep the good job.

Kadidia Doumbia

Iffat Gill's picture

:)

Your comment made me smile!

Iffat Gill

Idara's picture

Harmony!

A wonderful piece Iffat!
This very well deals with what most people in my own society consider. I had a male course mate who argued that women were getting too much, much more than their demands. This he said was because on some occasions he went for a job interview, the women were hired instead of him.
I totally agree with equality first and then we could talk about harmony in the society; just like the symphony of the orchestra, all the instrument should allowed their expressions and then we could have harmony.
A more disturbing concern for me is the fact that even our legal system (in Nigeria) that should promote or at least support the use of technology does not encourage it. Most times women that feel their rights have been violated do not even know where to go to for a redress. Advertising which would other wise be very effective using technology as a cost effective means for lawyers or at least finding a proper place at the finger tips for victims, is not permitted by law in Nigeria. It is only recently that electronic evidence has been made admissible in the courts in Nigeria, I would like to see more acceptance of technology in the court system in Nigeria, as I believe this will go a long way in advancing equality for women and ultimately harmony of the society.

Iffat Gill's picture

Hello Idara, Thank you for

Hello Idara,

Thank you for reading and commenting. Readiness is a problem a lot of countries, especially the less developed ones are facing. Technology has taken over a lot in recent decades and many countries have been slow to react; putting policies and related laws in place etc. My country, Pakistan, through its regulatory authority finds refuge in blocking websites, Facebook pages and social media channels left and right. There is a nation wide ban on YouTube since 2012. Recently, it banned three popular liberal Facebook pages because the admins of those pages were criticizing the state's institutions performance.

The laws that are introduced are mostly very vague and fail to protect the citizen's civil rights. So, I agree. We have a long way to go in putting cyber related laws and policies in place. It is a changing landscape and to keep up with it is a huge challenge for many!

Kind regards.

Iffat Gill

busayo's picture

This is wonderful!

This is so wonderful and thank you for sharing your experience with us. The truth is if we are going to achieve gender equality at all, internet must be made more accessible to women and girls especially in the developing countries. More and more information is moving online and without access to computer, internet and technology, women and women will continue to be excluded from many opportunities for social and economic leadership. Therefore it is pertinent that women and men have equal, safe and reliable access to computer and internet.
Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post with us, it is showing us that our voices are getting to the right sources. WorldPulse is so wonderful

Hugs
Busayo

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

Iffat Gill's picture

Greetings Busayo! Lovely to

Greetings Busayo!

Lovely to hear from you and thank you for commenting. I am happy I was of help to be present at this important event to highlight the issues raised by the World Pulse community. Indeed, World Pulse (and its wonderful community) is wonderful!

Kind regards.

Iffat Gill

Bheki's picture

Great report from an important event

Dear Iffat-

It is very interesting to hear more about the conference and about the impact that World Pulse is having globally. How wonderful that you could so ably represent the stories and needs of women. Your statement about the challenges being similar in different parts of the world is so true. On one hand, that can be discouraging in that the difficulties are so pervasive. On the other hand, it can be encouraging from the perspective of sharing lessons learned and being able to disseminate strategies that have been proven to work.

It requires great courage and determination to stand up for women's rights in your country. And yes, we all hope that it leads to other girls following your footsteps and leaving their homes for higher education or a career! How wonderful that they have such a powerful role model and assistance through ChunriChoupaal.

Congratulations and my very best wishes for your continued success!

Bheki

Iffat Gill's picture

Dear Bheki, Thank you so

Dear Bheki,

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment.

Kind regards,

Iffat Gill

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