The Tech Women Africa summit was the first women centred conference organized by women and for women across Africa I have ever attended. Being an advocate and a cause champion of women in technology, I was excited to register to attend the summit. I was also excited to have taste of Ghana jollof rice and also the opportunity to have a say in the Jollof rice war (#JollofWars) between Nigeria and Ghana, here are few takeaways from my participation at the summit.
Building for women, with women and by women
I was opportune to hear great women from different part of the African continent speak and share the stories of the inspiring work they do ranging from ICT Policy to capacity building to coding to training etc; how they are changing lives of girls and women and how they are determined to do even more, the Tech Women Africa summit gave a deep insight into how African women are not just consumers of technology but builders and drivers.One of such women is Rachel Sibande from Malawi who started an initiative by training 30 young girls on how to build mobile apps in 2015 , and currently has a movement of over 300+ members all over Malawi. Girls are never and should never be too young to get involved in technology and should be encouraged to embrace disciplines in science and technology so they can build products designed for women and with women.
Telling our stories right
There are hundreds of women in technology changing lives positively in their communities whose stories are not being heard because they are not telling them on the right platforms and forum. Nnenna from the Internet encouraged delegates to create social media accounts, have a presence online and learn to use their online and social media klout to tell their stories, share updates on their work, join relevant networks so their stories can be heard and re-shared. There are women in tech who create compelling stories with the work that they do in and around Africa and there are those who are able to tell these stories and share them to a even larger audience, one of the ways these two categories of women can influence each other’s work is through social networking, we can all help each other tell our stories in unique ways to our audience.
Freedom of expression online and offline: Anne Jellema made strong points about women being able to speak up online without censorship or discrimination. No girl or woman should be cyber-bullied, harassed and talked down because of their opinions or expression online or because of who they are, the Internet should be a safe public space for women. The need to create awareness and train young girls and women on how to report abuses, harassment, hate speech, cyber-stalking etc. cannot be over-emphasized. Young girls need to be aware of best practices on the internet, they should know that the internet never forgets and should be encouraged to leave positive digital footprints that can outlive them online. We also need to help young girls and women find their voices by organizing women only events and training online and offline.
Working with government on policies
Key takeaway and fact from the summit is that you can not successfully influence and advocate for women’s participation in technology without getting involved in policies. Personally, I do not find policies interesting as a topic, but I have come to realize that that without the right policies and legislation in place, a lot of efforts that we make will have little or no influence and impact. Speaking on one of the panels at the Tech Women Africa summit, Anne Jallema emphasized on the the need to work on translating the work done on the local level to the policy level and the importance of dialogging with the government.
In this regard, it has become important to support and lend our voices to Paradigm initiative Nigeria’s call and advocacy for the passage of Nigeria’s Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into law. One of the objectives of the Bill is to promote the freedoms of expression, assembly and association online and the guarantee of fundamental rights of citizens and define the legal framework regarding surveillance. The passage of this Bill into law will set Nigeria and Africa as whole on a new path.
Affordability and Accessibility
Finally, if internet is not readily affordable and accessible, women cannot be empowered to acquire digital skills and education, they won’t be able to assess and use relevant content and services. Web Foundation and 12 network organizations including Paradigm Initiative Nigeria put together a report on Women’s Rights Online and developed policy recommendations based on their findings.
Life After The Tech Women Africa Summit
So what next for me for me? I pledge to be committed to the cause, join relevant networks promoting girls and women in technology, teach and encourage more girls and women to embrace technology and take up disciplines in it. Most importantly, I am committed to helping women who are using technology to change and influence lives positively in their communities tell their stories across different social media platforms.
Credit: House of Mo