Bridging the digital gender divide in Africa: A policy brief for the summit of the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 2010 (2010)

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African Heads of States and Governments gather in Addis Ababa for the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union at a time when the continent faces a huge digital divide. African women are disproportionately affected by this divide. The Summit's theme “Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development” is therefore quite pertinent. However, deliberations on the theme without explicit focus on women’s access to these technologies will overlook a critical aspect of Africa’s development. The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) urges national delegations to ensure that decisions taken in this Summit do not ignore women’s specific experiences to-date, and adopt specific measures to advance women’s access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) going forward. Key recommendations This policy brief examines the gender-differentiated impact of ICTs in Africa, and makes seventeen key recommendations to national delegations, and private and civil society organizations. SOAWR particularly calls on African governments to:
  • Enact and implement Freedom of Information laws and urgently repeal restrictive media and other laws on freedom of expression
  • Promote use of ICTs to increase awareness among women on their rights and facilitate informed decision-making. This could include initiatives that enable citizens to use SMS helplines to report human rights violations
  • Promote the use of ICTs to increase understanding, knowledge sharing and action on HIV/AIDS, and preventable diseases that cause maternal and child morbidity and mortality as a gender and human rights issue
  • Invest in research on the emerging uses of ICTs by perpetrators of violence against women and generate gender-disaggregated data to this effect
  • Support the use of ICTs in education (formal and informal) and literacy programmes so as to build ICT skills among young and adult women, and increase awareness about the opportunities for development using ICTs
  • Support girls and women to take courses at higher education levels that are relevant for employment in the ICTs sector
  • Formulate policies that encourage women to use ICTs within the household, in their businesses and also make ICTs affordable for women, for instance through reduction or removal of taxes and tariffs on ICT equipment
  • Invest in the use of ICTs for storage and easy retrieval of data and information in institutions that are responsible for processing land titles, trading licenses, birth and death and other legal documents that affect women’s rights to own, control and have access to development resources.
Language: English
Imprint: Oxfam International Briefing Paper, 20 January 2010: 2010
Series: Briefing note,