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Best Practice Forum

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[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

The session was focused on the work Best Practice Forum (BPF) has done on gender and access over the past year in relation to the barriers of Internet access women face around the world.

It was pointed out that the work done would not be possible without the community-driven efforts when it comes to gathering information.

The work is particularly valuable when it comes to the support for women and girls’ equality goals, and the promotion of the empowerment of women and girls outlined in the UN 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development, specifically goal 9 about access and goal 5 about the need to empower women.

Session organisers Jac SM Kee, Women's Rights Programme Manager, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Renata aquino Ribiero, Researcher, E.I. MAG member to the IGF CS, and Anri van der Spuy, Internet Governance Forum

Andri Van der Spuy, Internet Governance Forum, opened the session and noted the development of the best practice forum which was developed as a result of community input from civil society, companies and individuals working in the field. National and regional IGFs participated in terms of sending relevant examples from their countries.

The BPF focused on challenges in terms of barriers, which the research showed to be:

  • the effect of culture and norms
  • lack of women in decision-making roles
  • relevant policies

Claire Sibthorbe, from GSMA, UK, presented a study published in 2015 which showed women to be disproportional, affected by barriers such as income and education.

She said that 19% of women said that they made decisions to purchase devices on their own. 61% had to get permission to purchase a device.

Angie Contreras, Youth Observatory, Mexico, explained the the Internet as a space and a tool for confidence and freedom of expression for women. The research shows girls and women to be subjected to heavy social surveillance both “at home and as social surveillance”, largely in Asia. Lower income and lower education is directly putting women under control.

Alison Gillwald, Research ICT Africa, South Africa, stressed the need to make governments accountable for public statistics, and the need to work together on the literature.

Ritu Strivastava, Digital Empowerment Foundation, India said ‘In India women are given second hand mobile phones, and the reality is women are unable to reach public wi-fi access points because they are controlled by men.”

Peter Bloom, Rizomática, shared his experience from working in rural areas on how men are asking to learn about how to access the metadata in order to ensure “their wives, sisters, and daughters are not allowed to talk to men they don't want them to talk to.” Bloom stressed the ongoing presence of a patriarchal system where women’s bodies are being surveilled and controlled.

Session’ conclusions were:

  • the need to work with all stakeholders
  • to base discussions on research and evidence, in order to stop talking about women as a homogeneous group
  • the need for exact data

Participants were invited to further contribute to the document. The BPF's second draft outcome document was published on the IGF's review platform on 3 December 2016, and will remain open for public comment until 18 December 2016. It is available for download.

by Aida Mahmutović

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