How are African initiatives using civic tech to amplify women’s voices and issues?
Our August webinar focused on African women using technological innovations to empower and amplify girls and women’s voices, with a specific focus on access, funding, entrepreneurship and more.
In celebration of South African Women’s month the Civic Tech Innovation Network hosted the ‘Amplifying African Women’s Voices Through Tech’ webinar with speakers from around the continent using civic tech and tech for women and girls.
Our speakers included Tina James co-founder of FEMTECH, Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, a Kenyan political analyst, who serves as the executive director of Siasa Place, a non-profit organisation, Sandra Aceng, the program officer of Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy at Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and Carolyn Seaman from a Nigerian based non-profit organisation called Girls Voices Initiative. See more on their profiles here.
The discussion centred around many key issues and the work these initiatives are doing to address them. Tina James spoke about how FEMTECH, is focused on providing technology training, and coaching programmes for female entrepreneurs spoke about the importance of having more women entrepreneurs in the tech space. James shared that some of the key issues FEMTECH is noticing from their work is how women are concerned about how to get the tech to work for their businesses or communities because women want to make a difference. Therefore FEMTECH focuses on encouraging more women to be entrepreneurs and encouraging women to think big and show them how best to use technology to their advantages.
“We need to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs”, she said. She continued to encourage women attending the webinar not to be afraid to talk about money. “Money is seldom the primary motive of why women go into business… they often just want to make a difference in their communities. This is a key reason why we should encourage women to be tech entrepreneurs”, James explained.
Meanwhile, Wako-Ojiwa of Siasa Place highlighted how tech can be used as a tool for activism and as a way to amplify marginalised voices in Kenya. Siasa Place works with young people through digital media platforms to create awareness about issues like the constitution, governance, and electoral processes in Kenya.
Nerima emphasised the importance of social media as a connector of people across the world. She highlighted that these platforms could amplify activists’ voices and transport their messages of activism throughout the world. “Youth feel connected and can identify with issues no matter how far away they are and can mobilise through social media campaigns”. She also highlighted some of the issues women are facing online including limited access in rural areas, the fake news, limited women’s voices online, and online harassment. “There are distinct gender dynamics coming up from our research — women have less access, are cyberbullied, not expected to comment on politics, and don’t gain the same media coverage when campaigning,” she added.
Access to the internet and resources was a central talking point during this session, Sandra Aceng talked about the work that WOUGNET is doing in regard to issues around general ICT access for women in Uganda. Sandra spoke about the importance of involving women in decision making. Stating that “It is important to get women involved in decision making so that women’s issues around accessibility are resolved”.
WOUGNET is focused on advocating for internet access for all but with a specific focus on women and other vulnerable persons. Since the pandemic began WOUGNET has adopted a platform called M-Omulimisa which is a mobile and web-based platform to connect farmers, WOUGNET has been using it to promote accountability and transparency and to share COVID-19 related information with women in the rural areas.
Carolyn Seaman highlighted the importance of the work she does with young girls through the Girls’ Voices Initiative. Girls’ Voices Initiative is a platform that uses digital media to empower and amplify girls’ voices. The initiative uses design thinking programmes like the TechTackle Hackathon to “inspire girls to innovate solutions that help them deal with some of their challenges”. Girls’ Voices Initiative hopes the girls do not only learn tech skills through the initiative but that they learn skills for life.
Wako-Ojiwa said that some lessons they have learned from their work are consistency — initiatives focused on tech and women should note the importance of being current and responsive. Adaptability — technology will continue to push things faster so we have to get used to these forms of engagement and building partnerships and collaborations.
Tina James offered some advice “Build your village — It is increasingly important these days to build the people around you”. She mentioned this as an important thing to do for women in the tech space especially because there aren’t many women in the tech environment as we would like,” she said.