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Beyond gender commitments: OGP needs to “walk the talk”

Web Foundation · December 22, 2016

The Web Foundation hosted a workshop at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit on Women’s Rights Online and Access to Information: Why Gender Equality Matters for Open Government.

As one of only three events at the Summit focused on gender issues, the workshop provided a valuable opportunity for gender equality advocates to come together and discuss how the OGP can become more responsive to gender and women’s rights, and what we can collectively do about it.

Currently it is clear that the OGP has not prioritised gender equality, neither in its overarching declaration of guiding principles or their implementation. However it has prioritised several other key areas where we think addressing gender equality is essential for meaningful impact on women. As enshrined in the Open Government Declaration and endorsed by 75 OGP participating countries, these are:

  1. open up government information and data  
  2. uphold citizens’ right to information
  3. ensure everyone has equitable, affordable access to safe online platforms as well as the skills to use technology to engage with decision makers.  

And more recently in the Paris Declaration’s ongoing collective actions, which includes Access to Information.

In order for OGP members to make good on these promises at large, governments must take concrete actions to close persistent gender gaps in access to information, technology and data. In order to do this, policies need to address growing digital gender inequality for women to participate equally in their right to access information, have a voice, and be counted and heard in the digital age. Yet our audit of 10 developing countries showed that majority of countries’ ICT strategies and policies remain gender-blind. When women are excluded from policy, so too are women’s voices. As a result, gender-blind policies are failing women in much of the world. Countries can start to reverse the failure of gender-blind policies by baking a gender perspective into their country National Action Plans.  

In our workshop, participants engaged in short discussions in an “Around the World” format to share knowledge and identify new strategies and opportunities to engage OGP members in prioritising gender equality and women’s rights around these three key focus areas.

Discussions revolved around the following topics:

  • All women count: gender in open data and open government. Facilitated by Ana Brandusescu (Web Foundation)
  • From access to empowerment: What are the inequalities that women face in exercising the right to information? How can access to information, particularly government information and data, lead to real empowerment for women? Facilitated by Laura Neuman (The Carter Center)
  • Women’s Rights Online Report Cards: What is the role of technology in facilitating women’s access to information and meaningful participation online? Why and how should the OGP prioritise women’s access and use of the Internet as a key policy commitment? Facilitated by Ingrid Brudvig (Web Foundation).

Here are our Recommendations:   Commitments are not enough – OGP needs to “walk the talk”   The OGP Secretariat should:

  1. Identify a gender focal point for each OGP Working Group. There should be cohesion and communication among all of these points of contact.
  2. Provide training, guidance and resources to OGP member governments on integrating gender in National Action Plans (NAPs). Engage women’s groups and movements to provide expertise.  
  3. Ensure gender is not siloed in National Action Plans. Rather than focusing solely on commitments that “tick the box” on gender, ensure that all commitments are inclusive of and address women specifically.

The OGP Secretariat should require all OGP member countries to:

  1. Monitor and evaluate how their NAP commitments are addressing women specifically.
  2. Identify opportunities to implement new National Action Plan commitments specific to women’s rights and gender equality.
  3. Ensure all women including women with disabilities are included in NAPs, and consulted during the implementation period.
  4. Innovate and be proactive in delivering information to women, rather than simply “putting information out there”. Design technology and deliver information and services with women for women using a variety of information and communication technology platforms, including community radio.
  5. Talk to women’s groups and organisations and see how they can participate in open government processes, and listen to their demands.
  6. Consider conducting assessments of the impacts of models devised by private and public sector actors towards meaningful and affordable access to the Internet, and therefore to information online. 

We look forward to working with the OGP secretariat to make the Paris Declaration, its ongoing collective actions and its implementation through NAPs more gender responsive, and hope to see governments begin stepping up as open gender champions to lead the way. It is more important than ever that we recognise the needs and contributions of all citizens, and ensure open government is representative truly for everyone.

If you have ideas on more actions we can take or ways to contribute, please feel free to get in touch with our Women’s Rights Online project coordinator Ingrid Brudvig on Twitter @ingridbrudvig.

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