8 March 2014

Rwanda: Gender Equality in ICT On Track, Says Sector Technocrat

Rwanda has made major strides toward achieving gender equality in information and communication technology, thanks to the numerous awareness campaigns and other programmes in the country.

Speaking to Saturday Times, yesterday, the Director-General of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, Didier Nkurikiyimfura, said Rwanda will be among the first countries to achieve gender equality in ICT due to sustained efforts to change status quo.

"We believe that Rwanda will be among the flagship countries in achieving gender equality as we have put a lot of efforts and employed several approaches to change status quo," he said.

"We had a positive action to encourage more women and girls to be involved in ICT at various levels and change the status quo," Nkurikiyimfura added

The world is marking International Women's Day, today, under the theme, "Equality for all is progress for all."

Among the initiatives employed by the ministry and stakeholders has been Girls in ICT initiative that was meant to have a role in changing the mentality of girls and women who didn't think they were up to task to be ICT literate.

"We created girls in ICT as a permanent project within the ministry to continue to have an impact on women. For the last two years, it has been very intense and working closely with girls to encourage them to have a role in ICT and demystify ICT," Nkurikiyimfura said.

The ICT director said the projects are run as part of the bigger national ICT awareness campaign aimed at changing attitudes and promoting the mentality that women, too, are capable.

There have also been countrywide ICT campaigns that have included awareness and literacy done at the district level and have been attracting several participants.

Nadia Uwamahoro, the chief executive and founder of Gira ICT, an ICT firm that is engaged in promotion of digital literacy across the country, said there has been progressive steps in women participation in ICT as well as basic digital literacy.

"The major part of the Rwandan population are women, with the increased awareness programmes and digital literacy efforts, the majority of beneficiaries have been women. There has been numerous digital literacy campaigns and skills enhancement for people who would like to further their careers," Uwamahoro said.

ICT impact

Nkurikiyimfura said there have also been policy actions that have ensured that ICT programmes and plans are gender-considerate-with gender balance.

"At the Transform Africa conference last year, the Heads of State and Government signed a manifesto that called for equal gender participation in ICT."

Among the visible impacts, there are more women than ever embracing ICT for example, using social media to network as well as an increase in the number of women making a living through ICT.

Dr Hamdoun Toure, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Unit, said the success of the campaigns blends with this year's women's day theme and will turn around numerous lives for the better.

"The success of this joint campaign meshes perfectly with this year's International Women's Day theme of 'equality for women is progress for all', because training in today's ICT systems is so often change that turns around the lives of unskilled and disadvantaged women and their families."

He added that having the skills opens up new horizons and empowers women, both economically and culturally, and that offering digital skills to over a million women at grassroots level is helping reverse the paradigm whereby, in many countries, ICTs still benefit men more than women.

A recent research by ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau estimated that there are 200 million fewer women online than men. Of the world's 2.8 billion Internet users, only 1.3 billion are women.

In developing world, 16 per cent fewer women are online, with greater disparities in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where ITU estimates that there are only half as many women connected as men.

Brahima Sanou, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, said, ICT being a recognised enabler of digital literacy campaigns involving women, have been key to achieve Millennium Development Goals on gender equality.

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