The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is a non-governmental organization established in May 2000. WOUGNET promotes the use of ICTs by women to enhance their capacities and opportunities for sharing and exchanging information and collaboration.
At present, WOUGNET operates online, so that most members are based in Kampala where it is relatively easy to gain Internet access. For members in rural areas who lack Internet access, WOUGNET puts them in contact with women who do have access and are willing to serve as ‘information conduits’.
WOUGNET’s programmes and activities include:
- a mailing list via which women and women’s organisations can exchange and disseminate information;
- a website profiling women’s organisations and their activities.
- a monthly Update Newsletter highlighting the activities of women’s organisations throughout Uganda;
- a ‘TechTips’ programme to address members’ queries related to computers or IT; and
- a website design programme.
Feedback from members reveals that the information shared and exchanged has benefited their projects and/or research programmes. In achieving its goals, however, WOUGNET faces a number of challenges:
- increasing its outreach to women living outside Kampala;
- obtaining information (content) that is relevant to members’ needs;
- raising awareness about the potential of ICTs as effective tools for information exchange and dissemination;
- providing hands-on demonstrations and training in the use of ICTs;
- offering opportunities for members to meet face-to-face in addition to online networking; and
- improving its own institutional capacity to support its programmes.
The Ugandan government recognizes that timely and relevant information will contribute to national development plans such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture (PMA). However, the bulk of Uganda’s communications infrastructure is restricted to urban areas, and is accessible to only a small proportion of the population. WOUGNET therefore aims to enable rural women to access information on food production and disease prevention, and to encourage them to participate in local initiatives.
WOUGNET members have launched several programmes to improve information access for rural women, either directly or via intermediaries. For example,
- Women’s groups of the ALFA Ministries are working in partnership with six organisations in Mpigi District to promote rural community development projects focusing on improving the lives of women. ALFA Ministries runs a rural information centre, which uses a mobile phone to access the net.
- The Women’s Information Resource Electronic Service (WIRES) of the Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa is a web-based resource centre providing business information for women. WIRES aims to sensitize rural women about ICTs using community leaders and individuals who are knowledgeable about ICTs as role models. WIRES advertises its services using posters and mobile video shows, and offers ICT demonstrations and training sessions.
- Nakaseke Women’s Development Association (NAWODA) runs a multipurpose community telecentre that includes a library, computers and audio-visual equipment. Its members share ideas for earning money, and information on diseases and treatment. Its members are pioneer users of the CD-ROM ‘Rural Women in Africa: Ideas for Earning Money’, which was designed to be accessible to users with limited reading skills, and is available in the local language (Luganda) and in English.
- Radio Apac, a community radio station, broadcasts programmes for women on peace and conflict, good farming practices, HIV/AIDS, etc.
- In support of its activities, WOUGNET has launched a pilot programme to make available WorldSpace satellite radio equipment to members. It recently hosted an online conference on ‘Information Access for Rural Women’ to facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences. WOUGNET is a key online source of information about NAWODA, and obtained a copy of the English version of the CD-ROM for use by Radio Apac’s women’s desk. A Luo version of the CD-ROM will soon be available.
WOUGNET is committed to sharing experiences and lessons learned with stakeholders in rural development and women’s empowerment. For further information, visit WOUGNET's website at www.wougnet.org.
Dorothy K. Okello is the WOUGNET's fouding coordinator. At present, she is completing her PhD study at the Telecommunications and Signal Processing (TSP) Laboratory of the McGill University, Montreal, Canada.