Activity-report, Women internet governance forum

REPORT OF A ONE DAY WOMEN INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM (WIGF) ORGANIZED BY THE CENTRE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT ON THE 29TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021 VIRTUALLY

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in conjunction with Local Multistakeholder Committee of the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum as part of their efforts to promote women digital inclusion and ensure women are involve in the internet policy making at every level in the country, organized as a pre-event, the third Women Internet Governance Forum (WIGF). The Women Internet Governance Forum held on September 29, 2021, ahead of the Nigeria Internet Governance Forum held on September 30. Held online, it was attended by over 60 participants from different parts of the country.

The event which started at 11am began with a welcome remarks by Mrs. Mary Udum, the Chair of the West African Internet Governance Forum. Mrs. Uduma thanked CITAD for providing the opportunity for women to discuss issues affecting them relating to access and use of the internet in the country. She said it was necessary that all hands were on deck to ensure the digital inclusion of women. She commended the tireless work of CITAD in promoting the digital inclusion of women in the country. She observed that the theme of the Forum titled: Women, Patriarchy and Digital Inequality: A Look at Global Efforts to Bridge the Gender Digital Divide was apt and timely and should allow us to draw lessons from the experience of countries that had made significant progress in addressing the digital marginalization of women. The Chair, West African Internet Governance Forum went further to say women inclusion at the global level is gradually increasing as preference is given to women especially at UNIGF, African Union in order to bridge the gender digital divide which is very important and appreciable. She also stressed that at African level efforts are being put to ensure gender balance in all organizations. At the end she thanked CITAD for consistently advocating for women inclusion in digital world.

The welcome address was followed by an opening remark by Y.Z Ya’u, Executive Director of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) and the convener of the event. Y.Z. Yaú started by lamenting that the discussion about and around the internet usually features very low women voices due to many factors such as culture and religion, however, he stated that it’s time for the voice of women in Nigeria and Africa to be heard loud and clear on matters of the internet because as stakeholders, women should be the majority users of the internet and without users, we cannot be talking about the internet. He went further to state that for many years CITAD has been advocating for the digital inclusion of women. Buttressing his points, Mr. Ya’u said although there is no statistics, but various samples have shown that women were being left far behind.

Speaking about the importance of internet and connectivity and why citizens should demand for it, Malam Yunusa said internet is a major tool that allows citizens to access education, helps in the actualization of the freedom of information and an avenue to demand for good governance. He added that because of lack of connectivity, these people who are being digitally left behind were also being “identity excluded” and therefore face many challenges in the society such as having problem when traveling, difficulty in accessing higher education, cannot access financial service, etc. Digital justice must be promoted to include all the digitally excluded, the majority of who are women.

At the end he called on the participants to join hands in advocating for effective policies that would enable women to access internet which will give them the right and platforms to participate on policy making in the country.

 

PANELS:

PANEL 1:

The first panel which was moderated by Dr. Amina Salihu of MacArthur Foundation discussed on the Challenges of Mainstreaming Women in the Digital World with Chioma Agwuegbo of TechherNG, Abuja who spoke on the Challenges to Women Participation in the Digital Economy/Mainstreaming Women in the Digital Economy, Hamza Ibrahim of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) discussed on Do Women Suffer Misinformation on the Net? And Zainab Aminu, Gender Technical Officer, CITAD presented a paper on Combatting Online Gender Violence as Key to Enhancing Women Participation in the Digital World.

The first presenter, Ms. Agwuegbo of TechherNG started her presentation with a suggestion that girls should be allowed to study whatever field they want, by that the speaker said girls will be able to reach their full potentials. Giving an example with out of school children in Nigeria, Ms. Chioma said, in 2018 there were 10 million out of school children in Nigeria of which 60% were girls.

Lamenting about the negative consequences of patriarchal system in the underdeveloped countries, the speaker stated that the system dictates what and who women become in the society, as such it is denying many women access to technology which is the only liberator of women backwardness and leading to the silencing of their voices.

Closing her presentation, Mrs. Agwuegbo suggested that there is need for increase collaboration between public and private sector to ensure more involvement of women in the ICT sector, encourage women to take careers in technology based areas, resourcing of materials that will allow women to occupy the digital space. She concluded the presentation by asking the participants “when we advocate for women to pursue their dreams, do we really have a society that will allow them to do that?

In her presentation, the Gender Technical Officer of CITAD, Miss Zainab Aminu stated that Gender-Based violence refers to harmful acts directed at individuals based on their gender which is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms. She also stated that Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening issue. It is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Discussing about some forms of Gender Based Violence, she mentioned that Gender-based violence can include sexual, physical, mental and economic harm inflicted in public or in private. It also includes threats of violence, coercion and manipulation. This can take many forms such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation while the consequences of gender-based violence according to her are devastating and can have life-long repercussions for survivors; it can even lead to death.

Ms. Zainab further stated that in a research the Centre for Information Technology and Development conducted on the impacts of gender-based cyber violence on victims discovered that gender based violence includes reputational damage, mental illness, physical and medical issues, disruptions to a victim’s living situation, invasions of privacy, silencing or withdrawal from the online environment, and damage to personal relationships.

While making comparison on the impact of gender based violence online between women and men, Ms Aminu stated that cyber violence appears to differ according to the victim’s gender, where she gave an example of a research conducted by the Pew Research Centre which revealed that 38% of harassed women found their most recent experience with online harassment extremely or very upsetting, compared to only 17% of harassed men. She added that compared to male users, who tend to be more concerned about damage to their reputation, females are more likely to fear physical harm. This corresponds to the nature of online abuse these groups experience. Where men and boys are more likely to be victims of defamation and libel, women are more likely to be subjected to derogatory remarks or sexual images and threats, such as non-consensual pornography.

Discussing about the impacts to women and girls when they experience violence online, Ms Aminu mentioned that the greatest impact women experience is self-censorship; women start censoring themselves online which is what the abusers want.

Discussing about some ways to reduce the GBV in the society, the presenter mentioned that public awareness was the key to solving this problem and providing severe laws and punishment that would deter others from committing the same crime

The third speaker, Hamza Ibrahim of the Countering Misinformation Group of the Centre for Democracy and Development took the participants on how women suffer misinformation on the net. In his presentation, Hamza Ibrahim made it clear that women do suffer misinformation on the net. He gave an example with how perpetrators or purveyors of misinformation spread the news of president Buhari’s marriage with Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Faruk which had inflicted damages to both the First Lady, Aisha Buhari and Minister Sadiya Umar Faruk. He further stated that women all over the world were being targeted either online or offline, but the most injurious ones happen on the net.

Closing his presentation, Malam Hamza said that more efforts especially around sensitization and awareness creation need to be intensified.

PANEL 2:

This panel featured Ms. Toyosi Akerele Ogunsiji, Founder Rise Networks/The Rise Labs who discussed on Fostering Creativity and Innovation for Mainstreaming Women Participation in the Digital Economy and Dr. Sana Abdullahi Mu’az of the Department of Computer Science, Bayero University, Kano who discussed on How Do We Get More Women in the Digital Profession for Better Representation of Women in the Digital Economy.

Making her presentation at the event, Dr. Sana Mu’az started by confessing that the diffusion of ICT has brought change to all aspects of human lives. She said the digital economy has grown much faster than the rest of the economy and the rapid development of digital technologies has created challenges for inclusive growth which led to under-representation of women. Discussing about how digital competences shape the careers of women, Dr. Mu’az said women represent about 50% of university students in most developed countries but the case is different in the underdeveloped countries and for younger children, there is no difference in the use of computers in most of the developed countries.

Moreover, speaking about how women are using digital technologies, the speakers said most of the developed software in the world are usually developed by males even when gender differences in skills are insignificant. And she also lamented that women perceive their skills as being lower than those of their male counterparts in such environment. At the end of her presentation, Mrs. Sana discussed on the opportunities or threats career women face between work and life as follows:

 

There are “leaks” in the education pipeline of women

Research has shown that computer science is seen as a domain for men according to cultural beliefs

Some males respond by “chasing” girls and women away from the field

Research proves that gender-based differences in organizational rewards were almost 14 times larger than gender-based differences in performance evaluations

The second speaker, Ms. Toyosi lamented that, in Data Science, the highest paid job in the world you can only find one female out of four employers which she attributed to fact that since from the beginning, even from homes women are encouraged or sent to read Home Economics in schools while their males counterparts are encouraged or sent to read technology based courses. In this case, Ms. Akerele said the stereotype we created among our children is among the major factors that are discouraging women from joining the ICT courses, she cited an example with how parents bought things to their children, where she said, parents normally buy toys to their female children and aeroplane to their male child.

When speaking about the achievements made by women in the technology and science, the presenter said the first individual to win noble prize twice in the world is a female and the three people that wrote the mathematical formula that sent the Americans to the moon are women but the technology is biased towards women.

Moving forward, the presenter said, in order to ensure more involvement of women in the Information Technology sector, government, individuals and private companies (most especially the giant tech companies) must:

Create equal opportunities for both men and women

Focus on research and development

Have a system that reward female teachers in the area of technology

Create strong collaboration between the entertainment industry, technology sector and policy makers

Have more stem programs that focus on girls and boys in order to co-create and collaborate

More efforts to support people (women) who are already working in the area

 

Observations:

Women are being underrepresented in the tech jobs

There is negative stereotype of females in the society

Women are the major victims of terrorism and other forms of violence

Technology is biased against women

Women suffer a lot on the net

Computer science is seen as a domain for men according to cultural beliefs

Women and girls are being chased away by men from the field

Online violence keeps women away from a major sector of the public sphere

Public only take physical violence seriously, ignoring or believing that online violence does not exist.

Some women leave the online platform after being harassed

Online violence is a public health issue and the effects are very detrimental

RECOMMENDATIONS:

There is need to create equal opportunities for both men and women

There is need to Focus on research and development

There is need to have a system that reward female teachers in the area of technology

There is need to create strong collaboration between the entertainment industry, technology sector and policy makers

There is need for more STEM programs that focus on girls and boys in order to co-create and collaborate

More efforts to support people (women) who are already working in the area

Need to create platforms where to be naming and shaming of perpetrators of misinformation and at the same time naming and hailing those working to combat it

Create platforms for women working in the tech areas to be sharing their experience and successes to encourage the upcoming generations

Creation of safe and transformative schools for young girls

There is need for the creation of mentorship club for young girls

Creation of safer environment for women to thrive

There is need for women in tech to be going to the secondary schools to teach young girls and boys technological courses

 

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