Save Generations Organization (SGO) in collaboration with Urgent Action Fund (UAF) Africa has since June 2021 started an Awareness and Advocacy campaign on digital inclusion on gender inclusiveness in technology programs and services.
Through a series of Awareness & Advocacy campaigns involving Gender activists, women and girls in different sectors such as women in Business, Education, ICT experts, Civil Society Organizations and Government institutions, have managed to discuss how to implement Rwanda’s co-lead Generations Equality commitment to bridge the gender digital divide, to which Rwanda committed at the Gender Equality Forum held in Paris, France on June 30-July 2, 2021.
Save Generations Organization (SGO), a civil society organization says that they are committed to the campaign for awareness raising and advocacy to bridge the gender digital divide between men and women in Rwanda; with the aim to engage different partners to address existing challenges that limit women and girls to participate equally in the use of ICT.
Hakim Mugenyi, the Save Generations Organization Head of Communications says as civil society organization they have been focusing on awareness and advocacy for an inclusive access to technology and skills for both women and men, though there are still some gaps in terms of mindset change and commitment, lack of skills and ICT tools to use in their daily lives.
In one of the campaign meetings, Hakim Mugenyi the Save Generations Organization Head of Communications revealed that women asked for hands-on tech skills training and tools, continuous Advocacy and awareness raising interventions on the use of technology since most of the women and girls are totally unaware of what is happening in the world of technology. Therefore the engagement of other partners and Civil Society Organizations is highly to bridge the Gender Digital Divide.
General research findings show reasons behind this divide are: lack of education, domestic responsibilities, and computer anxiety (sciencedirect.com).
Research by Nadine Mumporeze on “Gender digital divide in Rwanda” published by the Association for Computing Machinery- ACM Digital Library indicates that equal access to ICTs would be a shortcut to economic growth in Rwanda.
Mumporeze’s study concludes that Rwandan women need to be better educated in the use of computer technologies and certain gender-sensitive strategies that guide the use of ICTs in this way also need to be established.
This rings bells for Francine Uwamurera who says many women fall victim to the digital divide due to high costs of the internet, ignorance and lack of skills to engage available technology.
Uwamurera is a self-made business woman who owns a clothes boutique shop in Nyarugenge Market in Kigali city.
She uses available internet-based technology and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to advertise her products and sell them online.
To do business Uwamurera also uses mobile money payment systems which she says specifically under the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled her to sell, receive payments and order for new products for many distant clients across the country.
“Using technology has reduced my costs incurred in traveling and also connecting with suppliers and clients without, which wasn’t the case before,” Uwamurera said.
Uwamurera one of few women in Rwanda who are benefiting from the 63% internet penetration in the country and existing ICT infrastructure in which the government has invested heavily to lay fibre optic across the country.
Despite government efforts and an increase in women owning businesses in Rwanda, a majority of women over 80% women remain in informal and medium size business, Gender digital divide still exists in Rwanda.
As a way forward with solutions to challenges in the digital divide , experts said that there are efforts underway to address issues of access to technology as highlighted by women and girl’s voices.
Gender Digital Inclusion expert Slyvie Nsanga with experience in policy and infrastructure called for collective efforts to bridge existing gaps if Rwanda is to achieve its co-lead Generations Equality commitment to bridge the gender digital divide.
Nsanga said that the existing challenges have to be addressed through creating education opportunities for all women and girls so that they can fully utilise existing technology and gadgets like smart phones.
Christelle Muteteri, a software developer, one of the lucky women who got an early education said:
“It is not easy to be a mother and be digitally connected however if one sets her plans well, she can even breastfeed while at work but this requires specific skills for example to explore phone technology that can help one to be a working mother’’.
With a successful education background and a good tech job, Muteteri says that workplaces must be created with convenient spaces for women where they can breastfeed while at work but also open women to new tech opportunities and skills upgrade.
Save Generations Organization(SGO) remains committed to raising awareness and working with partners to address challenges raised by women in accessing ICT and services to become digitally engaged.