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This is the second in a series of interviews we will be publishing until the end of the year that highlight the journey, struggles and achievements of women doing work in community networks. We will document their experiences with the intention to inspire more women to get involved in this field. This month we are featuring Chako Armant.

Chako is a representative of Ensemble Pour la Différence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the community networks learning grant initiative implemented through the "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" project. She leads research design and implementation processes, capturing monitoring, evaluation and impact data from social business partners, their staff, suppliers and customers at Ensemble Pour la Différence. This includes training staff to conduct field research using mobile technology, as well as designing research processes that respond to local needs and language requirements. 

She has been working for over a year with Ensemble Pour la Différence, a mobilisation campaign that is working towards raising internet usage awareness on the island of Idjwi. This project is led by Pamoja Net. As a trained journalist by profession, she has organised multiple campaigns to discuss not only the importance of internet access in the modern world, but also the advancement of women’s role in the world thanks to technological advances. Through public discussions held in this community, affected populations share their needs, women share their worries, and together they find solutions that benefit everyone. With Pamoja Net, they have also organised workshops on smartphone usage, with particular attention given to the the importance of including women. 

"Thanks to APC, today we are planning on organising more workshops in Idjwi," said Chako. "Moreover, we would like to create a team of men and women capable of resolving different technological issues that arise on the island, without having to always call the Bukavu team like we do now."

Here are her responses to the questions we are asking all these inspiring women who are bringing connectivity to underserved communities:

APCNews: What is the most interesting reaction you have received from a community when doing the work?

Chako Armant: Some of the women that received smartphones through the Ensemble Pour la Différence campaign now use the internet in their homes, and have also managed to get more Android phones using their own funds. Even men have come to see us in order to learn how to use smartphones. 

APCNews: Can you share a moment or experience where you overcame structural/cultural gender barriers while working on community networks?

CA: During the construction of internet antennas for Pamoja Net, women were more involved in the project than men, which is a rare occurrence on the island. The involvement of women in Pamoja Net's work helped us advance and develop more strategies to get closer to the community, and hence also know their exact needs. Women became our first respondents and partners.

APCNews: What is a gender stereotypical comment you received and what did you do about it?

CA: Men used to tell us that our work was not fair as we were only working towards getting more women interested in technology than men. For them, this demonstrated a lack of respect towards the Idjwi community. But with time, thanks to campaigns on positive masculinity and their integration in Pamoja's activities, they ended up working with women for the betterment of their community, and this positive partnership is ongoing even today.

APCNews: What do you enjoy most about your work on community networks?

CA: I really like it when women decide on their own to come help us mount antennas, as well as helping us to get more women and men interested in appropriating networks. I also enjoy it when these women discover all that is happening elsewhere in the world through the internet and it is all thanks to Pamoja Net. 

APCNews: Thank you, Chako!