This Thursday 7th July the Web Foundation will be at the final round of TechMousso, a competition using gender data to bring the tech community together with civil society working on women’s issues in Cote d’Ivoire. Of the 80 teams that entered the competition, 20 have made it to the final round and will be competing for the top spots. You can follow the action live on Twitter using #TechMousso!
We spoke to seven of the competing teams to find out more about what the competition has been like and how the experience has shaped their views of gender issues in the country. Links to the original text of each full interview (in French) can be found below.
What has motivated the participants to enter the competition?
All the teams we spoke to were united by their desire to use their skills to make a difference for Cote d’Ivoire as well as the opportunity to be recognised by the industry for their skills and know-how.
“Our motivation is to have our know-how recognised but also and above all a desire to create a platform for parents to protect their daughters.” – Devlogy
“We all want to improve things, and find a way to make ourselves useful. This competition is an opportunity to use our know-how to improve the circumstances of women.” – Cerco
Has the experience changed their views of gender challenges in Cote d’Ivoire?
Many of the participants were surprised by the conditions of women and girls in their country. In particular, participants who had grown up in larger cities noted a much greater disparity between urban and rural residents than they had realised.
“We were educated on several subjects concerning gender, and we realised that in certain regions, women don’t have a voice. This was news to many of us because we have grown up in the capital.” – Cerco
“We were shocked at the number of school girls falling pregnant, and the rate of violence against women. Related to that, there are cases of in-laws appropriating all the property of a deceased spouse leaving the widow alone with the children and in misery. Many women endure these difficulties and don’t seem to have any recourse simply because they don’t know their rights.” – Wikimedia, Team Legal Advice Platform
Another important observation was how data and technology, and the systems behind them, impact gender equality. The participants agreed that informed data collection and analysis as well as better access for women to technology and data is critical to making fundamental change to the current circumstances.
“I noticed more than anything how there is a lot of data on gender in Cote d’Ivoire. The challenge is to popularise that data in order to analyse it and determine solutions as well as inform the next data collection activities in the areas where the problems are most intractable.” – Wikimedia Team Maya
“One thing is certain: women are less involved in the technology sector and access [to technology] remains one of the main causes.” – Baby Lab
What has the experience of the competition has been like? What have been the challenges and surprises for the teams?
All of the teams agreed that the competition has allowed them to meet with a wide range of actors in the industry, and that they have been grateful for the on-going support of the TechMousso team during the incubation period between rounds of the competition. They were all motivated by the chance to use their skills for change, but also found this pressure to make a real difference in others’ lives one of the most challenging aspects of the experience.
“Pitching in front of the judges who are all experts in their different areas was not easy. The most interesting moment was once the the semi-finalists had been announced. The kindness and helpfulness of all of the TechMousso staff was surprising. We did not expect the expert team to be so ready to listen to us and guide us. Thank you!” – Wikipedia Legal Advice Platform
“The TechMousso competition is very interesting because it pushes us to use our creativity to find a relevant use for gender data to improve the lives of women and girls. That has been our biggest challenge.” – Devlogy
“The competition is a great experience for us because it allows us to contribute to improving the lives of women and girls and to bring our ideas face-to-face with the ideas of other participants, fighting to convince the judges who are all eminent personalities involved in promoting gender equality.” Wikimedia Team Mousso Connexions
For a number of the teams, they also had the opportunity to use new kinds of data and even add to their existing skills.
“The most interesting moment was when we loaded the database and used it to take geographic location into consideration. This parameter wasn’t integrated into our concept initially. We have to say this was new and very instructive.” – Maurice Communications
2036: what do the teams think the future will look like for women and girls in Cote d’Ivoire?
Hands down, all of the teams believe the future for women and girls in Cote d’Ivoire will see great improvements. The participants have learned a lot about the some of the difficult realities many women and girls face, but feel optimistic that by working together these can be overcome in time.
“Thanks to the solutions proposed by the different teams this year and to their implementation and new ideas that will be developed in the years to come, women in Cote d’Ivoire will become more empowered, more confident and dynamic.” – Wikimedia Team Mousso Connexions
“I think that [women] will be even more educated. This will lead to an increase in empowerment and visibility of their contributions to society.” – Wikimedia Team Maya
“We are optimistic and we believe that from now until 2036 women will no longer be on the margins digitally, they will be instead actors in the evolution and creation of solutions [too].” – Baby Lab
“No doubt that in 2036, women and girls will enjoy equal privileges. Initiatives like TechMousso allow us to focus the public’s attention on the need to protect women and girls. We hope to be able to take part in advocating for this awareness.” – Devlogy
“The situation for women will be much improved, and their place in society strengthened. We won’t see a situation where giving a woman her rightful place in society is seen as a favour. This place will be seen as deserved through her involvement in and contribution to the development of society.” – Maurice Communications
We hope these visions of the world for women in 2063 come true not only in Cote d’Ivoire but around the globe. Tomorrow, we’ll publish a list of their proposed ideas and the teams. @webfoundation will be in Abidjan tweeting live from the event, sharing photos and video in real time. You can follow the pitches and awards using #TechMousso.
Want to learn more about the teams we interviewed and their projects? Click on the team name to read their original interviews in full (in French) and read all about the ideas they’re pitching here.