What does CivicTech mean for Women’s Participation?
Visualizing the Gap
The one narrative that is synonymous with civic technology today, and likely in the years to come, is the saying:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
For any individual, organisation or government that seeks to take the path of building better technology for citizens, there has to be the aspect of inclusiveness. Inclusivity means that regardless of gender, race, age, ability etc., everyone has to be actively involved if an idea that is related to civic tech is to ever hold any substance.
Women have historically been marginalized when it comes to decision making, participating in political processes, receiving fair wages for work, climbing the professional ranks and so on. Despite movements to narrow these gaps, we realize that the work ahead of us is still enormous.
At Pollicy, we believe that civic technology can help us overcome these barriers faster.
Women all over the world are already making huge strides in uplifting and empowering other women. Firuzeh Mahmoudi, founded United4Iran and Irancubator, the first civic tech focused startup incubator in Iran. The team has begun building apps including the Iran Prison Atlas, which is a database of all the country’s political prisoners. Mariéme Jamme, a Senegalese-born British technopreneur recently founded IAMTHECODE, a movement aimed at mobilising governments, businesses and investors to support girls and young women in STEAMD (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Design).
In Uganda, Mango Tree, in partnership with ACFODE and UN Women, recently rolled out a program, Fasi Fasi is (a street slang commonly used in crowded Uganda market places to imply “make way”). The show is aimed at making way for women to access influential positions in Uganda’s political, social and economic leadership. Fasi Fasi is a 25-minute television talk show to encourage women take up leadership positions.
Here, at Pollicy, we’re actively working towards inspiring girls and women to collaborate using data, design and technology to create services and tools to improve how citizens and government interact to create better life experiences.
We have recently introduced a monthly event called DataLadies that brings together women data enthusiasts from government, civil society, academia and the private sector to chat, discover and network on all things data. Our projects focus heavily on womens’ issues and in removing the traditional barriers that deter women from participating in local feedback and decision making processes. Wetaase, our project focused on building awareness against human trafficking focuses much of our efforts on young women, while WeSpeak puts power directly into the hands of women to reach out to their local governments.
Where are we now?
While there has been incremental progress in the gains of women’s political, economic and societal participation globally, the numbers of women heads of state or government and other vital positions has remained relatively low. Globally women make up just 23% of national parliamentarians, 26% of news media leaders, 27% of judges, 24% of senior managers worldwide and just 15% of corporate board members.
In 2018, we are launching a program called VOTE:Women focused on building political leadership amongst women in sub-Saharan Africa through data and digital empowerment. As part of this effort, we partnered with #VizforSocialGood after conversations with the inspirational Chloe Tseng (@datachloe). Volunteers from around the world came together to create data visualizations to craft a story around the lack of equality in political participation amongst women across the world.
Here are some of the beautiful visualizations that were created:
We are absolutely honored to be included as a part of #VizforSocialGood and thankful to Chloe and all the volunteers for their time and efforts put into raising these issues and telling our stories!
Where are we going?
Many organisations in support of women’s rights face challenges such as a lack of funding, lack of adequate skills and lack of networks. We also have to challenge societal and traditional norms that exist to oppress and silence women.
As civic technologists, we have a long way to go, but we’re confident of the power of technology to change and challenge how women exist and react in this digital age. Whether that means reporting issues on local issues, questioning political decisions, requesting information, fighting sexual harassment, closing the wage gap or just being a #boss.
Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women
— Maya Angelou
Written by Pius Enywaru and Neema Iyer