APC Women's Networking Support Programme - Africa Region

We are an African women's network of individual women and women's organisations focussing on African women's empowerment by developing and disseminating information, providing regional support, lobbying and advocating around gender and ICT policy; delivering ICT training and conducting research in the area of gender and ICTs We believe that it is essential to engage more women in accessing and using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for equality and development in Africa.

We believe that women should be able to use ICTs strategically in support of women's empowerment and agendas in order to: Facilitate networking and information exchange Support solidarity campaigns and collaborative actions Mainstream issues of concern to women Ensure that women are able to participate equally in civil and public life

Women's social, political, formal and informal networks have existed for centuries - to teach, to support, to produce and to create. Women have realised that the increasingly globalized world and the pace of information production and dissemination means that understanding and taking control of the Internet can enhance and expand networks. These new technologies are being adapted and employed to augment already vibrant networks.

The potential for greater inclusion, global relationships and sharing is immense. There is however a great danger of exclusion, domination and re-enacting age old differences through the insensitive and un-coordinated application of new technologies for internetworking amongst women in Africa. Networks do not operate in isolation and are directly influenced by social reality. Women's networks are aware of the dangers of exclusion are as great as the possibilities of inclusion.

"ICTs bring profound changes to our communities. They influence how we know and understand the world. They change work methods and the ways in which we communicate. They affect how we access and share information. They are also an important source of power. By acquiring the equipment and skills to use them, we gain access to that power."

The development of ICTs is taking place in a global context of gender inequalities. In Africa disparities exist amongst women in terms of access to education, land, credit, literacy etc. Gender intersects with many other differences and disparities which also shape women's ICT needs and experiences such as: race, ethnicity, class, culture, age, history, sexual orientation, geographic location, disability. Poverty, war and endemic violence against women are ever-present realities in the lives of many women living in Africa.

ICTs is a major development issue. If African women are not actively present at all levels, we will see new forms of marginalization that could undermine other advances made by women in the 20th century. This implies a crucial challenge to women to take on these issues themselves.

African women already network and organise actions themselves. Appropriate application of ICTs can enable women to access information and knowledge which can assist in overcoming the realities of poverty and exclusion. We are convinced that if women appropriate and use ICTs as tools for collaborative actions, accessing information, and sharing knowledge, ICTs can assist in challenging and changing the devastation of poverty, marginalisation and inequality.

For more information on African women's networking you can link to:

APC-Africa-Women http://www.enda.sn/synfev/apcfemafr/indexapc.html

Women'sNet http://www.womensnet.org.za

Flamme: http://flame.org

APC-Africa-Women and FEMNET, June 2000. NET GAINS: African Women Take Stock of Information and Communication Technologies http://www2.womensnet.org.za/beijing5/news2/show.cfm?news2_id=120

Betinho Prize Winner, 2001: http://www.apc.org/english/betinho/2001/bet_winner.htm