As the web fast becomes a crucial node for learning, commerce and communication, ensuring it is also safe and accessible for all has never been more important. Women are 50% less likely to be online in urban poor communities, leaving women at the margins of the digital revolution. When online, women are half as likely to use the internet to exercise their political and civic voice.
Our Women’s Rights Online network, formed in 2015, brings together civil society organisations working across low- and middle-income countries to bridge the gender gap and drive women’s empowerment. 2017 was a busy year for the network — our network of partners grew to 17 countries strong, and we worked with all of our partners across Latin America, Africa, and Asia to deliver policy solutions to leaders and amplify women’s voices across ICT policy processes.
Here’s a snapshot of what we accomplished in 2017:
- We collaborated and planned the year ahead at the WRO network meeting. Members of the WRO network also participated in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and held a briefing with UN Women on strategies and opportunities for women’s empowerment online.
- We held digital security and ICT trainings with gender rights activists in Egypt, Kenya, and the Philippines to protect against crackdowns on political expression.In Egypt, the Tadwein Gender Research Centre held sessions with women human rights defenders and the LGBT community, providing vital support in the context of heightened police surveillance and arrests of LGBT groups.
- We pushed the digital gender gap as a key policy ask in Francophone Africa. In September, the Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) hosted aRegional Conference for Francophone Africa on Gender Mainstreaming in ICT Policies and Programmes together with UN Women, Facebook, UNESCO, ECOWAS, the African Development Bank, and the Ministry of Communications and Telecommunications in Senegal. The conference brought together 80 high-level participants from across West Africa to discuss concrete solutions for mainstreaming gender concerns in ICT policy and closing the digital gender gap, resulting in the production of the recently publishedDakar Declaration.
- We worked with governments to integrate our recommendations for closing the digital gender gap into policy. In Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative presented the Women’s Rights Online action plan to the A4AI-Nigeria Coalition, and hosted a high-level workshop with policymakers on closing the digital gender gap and mainstreaming ICT into women’s rights frameworks. In Ghana, Mozambique, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, the Philippines and Dominican Republic, our partners held high-level national forums on key Women’s Rights Online recommendations, which saw participation from government agencies, academia and civil society.
- We published new original research with A4AI —REACT with Gender-Responsive ICT Policy: The Key to Connecting the Next 4 Billion. The research reaffirms that better broadband policies are key to closing the digital gender gap and moving towards universal access goals. We even outline how to develop a gender-responsive policy.
- We worked to strengthen responses to violence against women (VAW) online. In India and Bangladesh, our partner IT For Change began to address the phenomenon of online VAW, developing new research and think-pieces on strengthening legal-institutional responses to technology-mediated VAW. This research will be presented during national consultations on the topic taking place in early 2018.
- We launched new country-level gender policy assessments. Network partners developed new digital gender gap audits in the Dominican Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon and presented country action plans to policymakers and tech communities. New digital gender gap audit research is also underway in Costa Rica, Mexico, Myanmar and Paraguay.
- We provided expert input into national gender and ICT policies. In Uganda, our partner WOUGNET was invited to provide input into the National Gender Policy, and engaged in policy dialogues with a number of government ministries and other key stakeholders. In the Philippines, Foundation for Media Alternatives was invited to comment on the draft national ICT plan.
- We convened workshops with women to develop policy for women. In Colombia, Fundacion Karisma hosted five workshops with women to reflect on Colombia’s digital agenda and identify policy solutions to empower women through technology. These workshops were captured in a documentary film, Mujeres Empoderadas, which was launched at a film festival during 16 Days of Activism around International Women’s Day.
- Our work was recognised by the international community. WRO network partner Sula Batsu Cooperativa won the 2017 EQUALS In Tech Award for its work to develop strong women leadership in the IT sector in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America. The program focuses particularly on rural areas, and working to create opportunities for women to access and develop the digital skills needed to participate in the digital economy.
- We produced three videos interviewing partners on their perspectives on theempowering potential of the internet,challenges to women’s rights online, and top asks for policymakers to improve women’s rights online.