Take Back the Tech! fund winner trains women in ICT skills in Uganda

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By Loyce Kyogabirwe for APCNews

NAMAINGO, Uganda, 30 November 2010

As part of the campaign to combat violence against women using ICTs, “Isis-WICCE:http://www.isis.or.ug with support from Association for Progressive Communication(APC) conducted training on VAW and ICT from November 15-19, 2010 at Hukeseho Women’s Group, Lwangosia, and Namaingo district. The training was attended by 23 grassroots women’s rights activists from six sub counties. The purpose of the training was to equip women leaders as well as women living with HIV & AIDS with ICT skills to enable them create platforms and opportunities for women to engage with ICT to address violence against women and girls.

The training emphasized the use of new tools of communication for communication, the intersection between ICTs and VAW, use of mobile telephone applications for advocacy, computer and Microsoft Word skills, Internet and web2.0 applications (blogging) and citizen journalism.

In the olden days, women used local platforms to fight VAW

During the training, a 59-year-old participant shared an experience of how women in the olden days creatively used local platforms to combat violence against women. She shared that when she was growing up as a young girl, women used to look for a strategic location in the village, which was usually an anthill. The woman would stand on top of the anthill and start shouting about the bad behaviors the husband has and she would say, “My husband is bad, he beats me when I give meat to the children, he is a glutton, he doesn’t want me to do this that and that…” So that everyone in the village hears about her husband’s bad behaviors which would prompt the villagers to gossip about him, musicians would compose songs about these bad behaviors and he would be ashamed and eventually change his behaviors.

ICTs now used to communicate about VAW

Today, technology has provided us with much more advanced platforms compared to an anthill such as mobile telephones, internet, computers where we can make noise about VAW so that the whole world can hear us. Unfortunately, most women lack the technical know-how and resources to access such tools and fully utilize, engage and participate.

This training on how to use ICTs to combat violence against women was an eye opener for the women in the new district of Namaingo in Eastern Uganda. Some women shared their experiences: “For me I have always seen a computer. There is an NGO that gave our group a very big computer but we have never touched it because we feared it. The computer is ours but we have never touched it. Now that I have got the knowledge and the skills, when I go back, I will use it,” said Lyaka Grace from LASO.

For Taaka Alice her excitement was beyond and she said, “I am very excited to have touched a computer for the first time in my life. I have touched the mouse and I typed my name and my husband’s name and I was able to see them on the screen. Thank you Isis for giving me this opportunity.” And Kintu Solome said, “I used to think that computers are only for those people who are educated and are in big offices in Kampala but today I have realized that I can also use a computer.”

With regards to mobile telephones, while most of us assume that everyone who owns a mobile phone can be able to use the basic applications in it, this not a reality. Egesa Rose from Sigulu Islands was awakened on how little she knew after learning about mobile phone applications. “I have always had a mobile phone, I have been using it to call and check the time only but it is today that I have learnt that I can use it to send a short message to my people, which is even cheaper.”

Understanding the link between VAW and ICTs

Much as they were excited about the new tools, the training enabled them to understand the linkage between VAW and ICT. Senga Perusi Onyango, an elderly lady, commented that, “Men buy mobile phones for the wives to control them. If a man calls the wife and she does not answer the call immediately, she will be asked to explain what she was doing and she will be beaten. Remember, at times the wife might be in the garden or in the kitchen cooking.”

For Gladys Maloba, her experiences was that mobile phones have increased the rate of telling lies especially among the couples. For instance, you call your husband ask him where he is, he will tell you that I am Bugiri on the contrally,when get to Namayingo, you find him there and he asks you, “Where are you going? Who has given you permission? and you will be beaten.

And for Barbara, her learning was that “As much as these telephones have caused violence against women in some circumstances, I have learnt that we can use the same phones to send messages to the men who violate women’s rights to educate them about VAW.”

The women for the first time were able to see and use internet by searching the web and opening up their first email addresses, a group email (tumbulawomen@yahoo.com) and a group blog. To most of them, they imagined that internet was a building in Kampala while others thought internet is a human being. This is a reflection of total ignorance or lack of any knowledge of such tools. While some us have access to such communication tools and are using internet, email on a daily basis, many women in rural areas have not even heard about such tools.

Using SMS to raise awareness of VAW

Lastly, the women were introduced to Frontline SMS software application used for sending bulk SMS. This software works with any Global System for Mobile (GSM) network. They used it to send out test message to themselves. During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, this platform will be used by women to send out text messages to raise awareness on issues of violence against women and women’s rights in their community.

We call for more support to enable the women acquire computers and internet as means of empowering them to take control of new technology tools and contribute to bridging the gender digital divide.

These women were trained thanks to a small grant awarded by APC Women’s Networking Support Programme’s (WNSP) Take Back the Tech! to end violence against women project to Isis WICCE.

(END/2010)

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