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The session, moderated by Ms Marilyn Cade, Internet Governance Forum Support Association (IGFSA), featured discussions on building more awareness across a diverse geography about projects that are focused on the economic empowerment of women and girls. Starting the session, Cade invited participants to present themselves and talk about their projects.
Ms Shabana Metori, Afghanistan, shared her experience on building a community of women in technology (TechWomen). The focus of this community is digital literacy issues. According to Metori, TechWomen show other women the importance of digital literacy in their everyday lives. She talked about the difficulty of this goal because of the mentality of the Afghan people. They think that the use of technology is a Western, male-dominated action. Many families do not financially support women to study computer issues because they do not see the benefit of doing so.
Ms Mary Uduma, Nigeria, focused on the challenges faced in her country. The digital divide is a big problem, mainly in the rural areas because access is non-existent, and smartphones are not affordable for the population. According to her, Africa has very sensitive religious issues. In some cultures, children are not allowed to access the Internet and husbands do not allow their wives to work in the technological sector. Uduma finished by saying that there are women who have cell phones, but do not know how to use the Internet.
Ms Ursula Wynhoven, ITU, presented the equals.org initiative that recognises the initiatives most impactful in the world. The portal presents an action map with gaps and opportunities in the regions. She spoke of the importance of policymakers understanding the problem of the digital divide. She ended by inviting all to participate in an online consultation on bridging the digital gender divide.
In his presentation, Mr Omar Mansoor Ansari, TechNation, Afghanistan, talked about the gender divide in his country: the high cost of bandwidth, the unavailability of local content, the misunderstanding of the benefits for women, and the safety issues. Ansari spoke about some projects that are helping overcome these challenges like Safetya, an online safety platform, and TechWomen, which aims to empower women in Asia.
The audience made some comments about cultural aspects that make it difficult for women to engage in the technological world. In the Pacific culture, there is a hierarchy: women have to take care of the house and of the children instead of doing something about their education. In the cultural sense, in Zambia, women are subservient to men; gender equality is seen as a Western idea that is breaking up marriages. All examples presented showed that traditional knowledge is difficult to overcome in many countries.
By Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício