African women and the Internet

Linked on our blogs with ngo net Africa. – Published on ngo net Africa, as a statement, not dated.

The position and tasks of women as described in the above paragraph, influence computer network implementation and use. The main gender problems in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) are lack of access, lack of gender-sensitivity, psychological barriers and the invisibility of women’s information.

World-wide, women constitute about 37% of the Internet users. However, the majority of female Internet users are American. Particularly women from the South have restricted access. This is related to general gender issues like the large amount of poor and illiterate women. The biases in ICT projects for urban areas and for the formal economic sector, aggravate women’s access problems.

On top of this, technology is generally seen as incompatible with women’s place in the domestic sphere and with women’s reproductive tasks. Therefore, women usually don’t get a technical education. As a result, they are highly represented in the low-skilled, low-paid ICT jobs. Southern women working in the ICT sector are more likely to be employed in the health threatening micro electronics production than in information brokerage with access to computer networks.

Internet implementation without attention for gender aspects reinforces this situation. Technology projects commonly consult men only to define user needs. This may result in an inappropriate system for women. Their multiple tasks in society, for example, make that African women usually do not have the time to surf (browse randomly) the Net. An alternative application like a selected mailing list may be more suitable to support women in their NGO’s work. Another problem resulting from the lack of gender-sensitivity is the risk of not publishing or not disseminating women’s information. In the last decades, the development community recognised the fact that women contribute significantly to development processes. It would therefore be an economic waste to ignore the important knowledge that women in the South poses on health, agriculture, the environment etc.

Since the preparations of the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, a lot of women were connected to computer networks, including in the South. There are numerous examples of positive impact of applying ICTs to the work of NGO women. For instance, increased access to relevant information, connecting isolated activities in broad coalitions and technical skills training.

However, the connected women struggle with more problems than male users in the South. In sex-mixed organisations, the majority of the female users is unable to maintain control over network access. Internet training is often based on the way men work with computers, which differs essentially from women’s technological attitude. There is in particular no attention for the insecurities of women, when confronted with modern technologies for the first time. Sexist language and harassing practices makes it difficult to use the Net for (feminist) women’s organisations.

As a result of the above issues, women on the whole benefit considerably less than men from the advantages that the Internet offers. At the same time, the important socio-economic contribution of Kenyan women is wasted as long as they suffer access problems. Therefore, gender measures need to be taken.

II. NGO-NET Gender Approach: … (full long text).

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