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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: Women's Networking

Africa: Women's Networking
Date distributed (ymd): 991118
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several announcements of on-line resources related to women's networking, on the occasion of the 6th African Regional Conference on Women, hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa on November 22-27, 1999. Included are (1) the press release from the ECA announcing the meeting, (2) information on the Africa Region Women's Networking Support Program of the Association for Progressive Communications, and (3) a note on related activities from Women'sNet in South Africa.

For additional related information in French, go to:

le site web des femmes d'Afrique francophone

Enda Synfev

Flame/Flamme, African Sisters On Line/Africaines En Ligne!

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ECA Press Release No. 91/1999


Addis Ababa, 15 November 1999 (ECA) - Some 1,500 participants drawn from senior levels of governments, civil society, regional institutions, bilateral agencies, agencies of the United Nations, and multilateral partners will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 22-27 November 1999 to take stock of progress made by African countries in implementing strategies for the empowerment of women agreed in Beijing in 1995.

The Sixth African Regional Conference on Women, organized by the African Centre for Women (ACW) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), comes five years after the adoption of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action - which laid down concrete targets for countries to meet in 12 critical areas of concern. ECA is mandated by the General Assembly and African governments to monitor the implementation of regional and global conventions for the advancement of women in Africa.

Participants at the Conference will be able to share information, assess the priorities different countries have set for themselves, and review the specific programmes being implemented at national level. It will also provide an advocacy opportunity to kick-start the implementation of national strategies in countries lagging behind in their Beijing commitments.

The Conference has three main objectives:

  • To evaluate the implementation of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action from National Progress Reports and Thematic Evaluation Reports;
  • To formulate a plan of action for the next five years; and
  • To develop modalities for Africa's participation at the Global Review (Beijing +5), to take place in the year 2000 in New York as part of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly.

The Conference also aims to contribute to the enhancement of dialogue between governments and the civil society; sensitize actors working on the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, on their roles and responsibilities, as well as on the 'gender' approach to development; and strengthen partnerships and South-South exchange of experiences.

The Conference will involve plenary presentations of progress reports on the implementation of the Platforms for Action, twelve workshops for thematic evaluation, and the joint preparation of a Plan of Action for the next five years, as well as agreement on of modalities for Africa's participation at the Global Review (Beijing +5).

The five-year action plan due to be adopted at the end of the proceedings is expected to provide appropriate adjustment strategies and redirect efforts towards greater achievement of the targets set out in the Platform for Action. Participants are also expected to adopt a Declaration of commitment by all actors to the implementation of the Platform for Action.


The latest version of the Conference programme as well as theme papers and other relevant background documents are available on the ECA Web Site at:

Full text of all speeches and statements will be available as they become available, and can also be delivered by e-mail on request.

For more information, please contact:

Peter da Costa Senior Communication Adviser
Economic Commission for Africa
P.O. Box 3001 Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Tel: +251-1-51 58 26; Fax: +251-1-51 03 65;
Cell: +251-9-20 17 94
E-mail: or

Association For Progressive Communications (APC)

Women's Networking Support Programme

Africa region

[Contact details for APC-Women-Africa

Programme coordination and Francophone Africa:
E-mail:, Web:
ENDA Synfev at ENDA, B.P. 3370 Dakar, Senegal Tel: 221 823 45 42, Fax: 221 822 26 95

Southern Africa:
E-mail:, Web:
Women'sNet at SANGONeT
PO 31, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa. Tel: 27 11 838 69 43, Fax: 27 11 492 10 58

East Africa:
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Africa Centre for Women,
PO Box 3001, Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. Tel: 251 1 51 89 19, Fax: 251 1 51 22 33]

Information and Communication Technologies: A Women's Agenda

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

Who is APC-Women-Africa?

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

Can ICTs really make a difference?

We are convinced that globalisaton and the emerging information society will either advance the status of women in society or reinforce their marginalization. If we do not engage and harness the tools which ICTs offer us, we will further marginalise women's concerns.

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.

The 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women (UNWCW) was a major impetus for women's advances in the use of ICTs. During the preparatory phase of the UNWCW, women were pioneers in taking up the use of email for information exchange, lobbying and campaigning.

Thought the Internet was a relatively new tool for women, those who gained access and learned to use it were quick to grasp its potential to facilitate the UNWCW agenda. Like many other civil society organisations, these pioneers now recognise the value of using ICTs in their work.

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 .. 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 Internet: Getting Connected, published by the African Gender Institute and Women's Net

ICT realities and Trends

Information can be a transformative tool and the acquisition of appropriate knowledge has the potential to catalyze development. Civil society is seeing :

  • Access to mass media and communications are critical in achieving their goals
  • Large monopolies controlling media content which is leading to homogenous representation of cultures, harmful content and the regulation and censorship of ICTs
  • Public pressure groups struggling to influence and change the direction of the above trends.

"Indeed once trained, women's groups can harness the potential of the Internet towards the common goal of a gender-balanced, just and empowered society." -- Dorothy Kabagaju Okello, Uganda

Key areas of concern:

There is an imbalance in the participation of women in ICTs. The growth of ICTs is happening in a context of vast inequalities, violence, poverty and political domination. Although more women and women's networks are using the Internet in their work since 1995, issues of basic access is a primary area of concern. This prevents women from appropriating ICTs to advance their missions and agendas.

Here are some of the key areas of concern which have emerged since women began harnessing ICTs for development and women's emancipation

Access and Infrastructure Issues

  • Ensure governments and private sector prioritise basic connectivity and infrastructure and include women in policy decisions
  • Engage the capacities of African women to facilitate access to appropriate technologies, both new and old such as radio, television, newspapers etc.
  • Development of applications, products and services that address the specific needs of women
  • Support and development community telecentres and facilitate the participation of women

Economic and development issues

  • Ensure that the tools are applicable to diverse women's needs.
  • Harness ICTs for women's entrepreneurship
  • Develop products for women in the informal sector to use ICTs for commercial ventures
  • Develop a critical mass of women able to use and appropriate ICTs for their own empowerment
  • Train and educate young girls in the fields of science and technology
  • Develop training and support materials in local languages and encourage training of women by women.

"Women's access to information and technology has historically been marginal. Harnessing the power of both is a critical step in developing a genuine culture of gender equality." -- Anriette Esterhuysen, Director, SANGONeT, South Africa

Gender and cultural issues

  • Develop awareness raising, training and information and communication systems geared to women and girls
  • Develop research programmes to document the vast indigenous knowledge of women in critical sectors such as agriculture, health, environment
  • Gather gender-disagregated data
  • Monitor how women use ICTs and how ICTs impact on gender relationships
  • Ensure that access to ICTs does not widen existing disparaties between women
  • Support the development of culturally relevant content

Political and Human rights issues

  • Involve women in planning and decision making on ICT policies and projects to ensure their relevance to the communities in which they work
  • Consult women at every level to understand the opportunities and constraints of ICTs in their work
  • Establish mechanisms that guarantee that women's needs are taken into account in projects and programmes

"..information is one of the strongest tools of empowerment.." -- African Platform for Action adopted by the Fifth Regional Conference on Women, Dakar, November 1994

Beijing and beyond

As we reflect on the progress made by women since Dakar and Beijing, these key concerns can serve as building blocks for a wide variety of actions that are required to take up the ICT challenge:

The Beijing Platform for Action reflects many of these concerns, but efforts are needed to monitor whether - and to what extent - they are being implemented.

More equitable and strategic use of ICTs by women can contribute towards addressing the other "critical areas of concern" of the Beijing Platform.

The Beijing+5 process can involve many more women if appropriate use is made of ICTs.

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.

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.

"Advances in information technology have opened up boundaries. The role of women in global communication networks needs to be strengthened. Barriers to such information technology and to women's involvement at every level of its development should be reduced"


Beijing +5 Activities

[Women'sNet, a joint project of SANGONeT ( and the Commission on Gender Equality (, is a platform for South African women's voices and issues. You can find us online at

Tell us what you're doing for Beijing +5! Send us a message at]

Women'sNet as a member of the Association for Progressive Communication's Women's Programme in Africa (APC-Africa-Women) is implementing a range of activities to facilitate the preparation and participation of African women' s NGOs in the global review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action to be held in New York in June 2000.

In preparation for, and on the occasion of the 6th African Regional Conference on Women, APC-Africa-Women has embarked on the following activities:

Flame/Flamme, African Sisters On Line/Africaines En Ligne!

A Beijing +5 in Africa web site - an interactive information resource for African women's NGOs - created for and by African women.

Flamme! African Women's
Online Meeting Space

An online discussion forum - Flamme! African Women's Online Meeting Space will be officially launched during the 6th ARCW. APC-Africa-Women and FEMNET, (the African Women's Communication and Development Network) jointly invite you to participate in discussions about how ICTs can be used to implement the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action. To join this mailing list go to Flame/Flamme web site at

Technical Training at the 6th African Regional Conference on Women in Addis

APC-Africa-Women in partnership with the African Centre for Women at the ECA is offering free technical training - in both French and English - to women's NGOs registered to attend the conference. Web publishing training and an Introduction to the Internet will be conducted in English from the 18th to the 20th of November. And a French introductory Internet training will be conducted on the 21st.

"On Site/En Site"

A bilingual print and 'virtual' newsletter. "On Site/En Site" will be published daily during the 6th ARCW (22 - 27 November). To track the news at the conference visit the Flame/Flamme web site ( from November 22nd. On Site/En Site articles will also be distributed via the Flamme! mailing list.

African Women and ICTs - Research

The Flamme! mailing list will also be used to gather experiences and views about at how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have made an impact on African women's lives. The outcome of these discussions as well as other research on women's use of ICTs in Africa since Beijing will be presented in a status report at the Women 2000 (Beijing +5 mid term review) conference in New York City in June 2000.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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