RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 30 June 2004
In the first week of June, Rio de Janeiro saw a major gathering of gender and ICT advocates from all around the world. Over 40 activists, researchers, members of non-profits, donor agencies, and other institutions, many of whom have been working in gender and ICT for more than a decade, arrived in Brazil invited by the APC Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) to discuss gender issues in the context of ICT policy processes and practice.
The aim of the Networking for Change and Empowerment Forum was to provide a much-needed space to build on the momentum created during the first phase of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and prepare a strategic approach and plan for the second phase of WSIS and other ICT policy arena including the Beijing+10 process (the ten year review of the results of the 1995 United Nations conference on women), the World and Regional Social Forums (WSF), the World Trade Organisation and others.
The Forum combined experience-sharing, dialogue, networking and skills-building. Debate, analysis, training, capacity-building, and access to new tools in a series of five events that ran from June 1st to June 7th.
The first three days of the event were dedicated to a GEM Practitioners Exchange Workshop. After two years of developing the Gender and ICT Evaluation Methodology (GEM) and testing it by a variety of organisations, institutions and companies in four world regions, the project concluded in this learning workshop. The GEM testers and partners first shared lessons learned from the two-year testing process, and they also discussed evaluation results, methodologies, and theoretical as well as practical experience from the evaluation. As a concrete outcome of the testing process, the final version of the GEM tool and website was presented. The GEM gathering finally resulted into establishing the GEM Practitioners Network that would serve as a support net to those working in
gender and ICT evaluation.
The following two days were spent on ICT policy debates and strategising. The "APC WNSP Gender and ICT Policy Forum" and "National Gender and ICT Policy and Advocacy Capacity-Building Workshop" were attended by many of the GEM testers, but primarily by WNSP members, partners, agencies, and donor partners. A training component to train participants in the skills necessary to start getting involved in national ICT policy advocacy was a much-appreciated part of these two days. This was an extension of work already carried out by APC in ICT policy training and was based on APC’s "ICT Policy and Civil Society Curriculum" which is freely available online.
Since Rio is such a beautiful and interesting city, working long hours for seven whole days without a break was quite gruelling! However, on June 6 the forum still had one more and for some participants even two more days to go. Capacity and skills-building workshops activities were planned which fall within the overall APC Action Plan for 2004-2007. Topics included a WENT (Women’s Electronic Networking Training) Trainers Clinic, a Clinic for ‘techies’, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), Generating and Sharing Dynamically Generated Content (using APC’s FOSS-based content management system APC ActionApps), and resource development to support strategic use of ICTs.
The last day was reserved for WNSP members only. WNSP took advantage of the presence of lots of its members and arranged the APC WNSP Bi-Annual Meeting. Sustainability strategies and future plans in regard to the APC Action Plan as well as major global UN processes and other happenings were the main points of discussion at the meeting. Members also shared their plans for regional development in the gender and ICT area. In the near future we can expect some quite interesting projects, such as "She Blogs" software for women in Asia or a first study ever on the state of gender and ICTs in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The Networking for Change and Empowerment Forum was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC/CRDI), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), HIVOS, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UNIFEM Central and Eastern Europe, and the Open Society Institute, and was hosted by RITS (Information Network for the Third Sector), the APC member in Brazil.