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Changing perceptions

© Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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The session on ‘Capacity development, gender and ICTs in agriculture’ showed how communities benefit from giving women equal access to ICTs and stressed that all stakeholders, including men and the larger family unit, have to be involved in initiatives to improve women’s access to ICTs.

The discussions in the session on ‘Capacity development, gender and ICTs in agriculture’ centred on several case projects in different regions of Africa. One particularly successful case in Burkina Faso has improved the lives of women in two of the country’s regions – and therefore these communities’ overall well-being. Projects led by the Women of Uganda Network (Wougnet) illustrate the importance of involving men in projects designed to improve the position of women and overcome stereotypes.

One major problem associated with gender and ICTs in agriculture is how to change the perceptions, attitudes and stereotypes against females. Rural women are important contributors to their households and communities. By generating income and improving food security and overall standards of well-being, they are an important part of the engine that fuels local and global economies. Yet women continue to face constraints that deny them a number of basic human rights.

Males generally control the use of ICTs in African households. Often, it is only after having to convince their husbands of the benefits or needs that women are able to gain access to even basic ICTs such as radios or mobile phones. Men therefore need to be involved in the process of addressing gender issues, otherwise changing their attitudes and fighting these stereotypes will be a losing battle. Indeed, ICT programmes that address gender issues need to sensitise men to these issues.

The Nununa Federation

The Nununa Federation in Burkina Faso is a success story that amply illustrates the benefits of giving women access to ICTs. The federation is a cooperative of women who produce shea butter and sesame. It has 4771 members divided into 115 groups. In 2011, the Nununa Federation launched a project called the Voice of Women. One of the project’s key aims is to strengthen the ICT skills of the federation’s members and improve communication within the federation and with its stakeholders.

The project has set up training, information and communication centres in communities in order to improve communication about ICTs with affiliated groups and individual federation members. Seven centres have been established thus far. They are equipped with multimedia players, video projectors, external hard drives, black and white printers, communication headsets, generators, several photo cameras and internet modems.

The acquisition of this ICT equipment has helped to reduce communication-related costs and saved travel time as many tasks can now be performed at one of the centres. Information and facilitation kits have made it possible for members of the Nununa Federation to advance from basic ways of disseminating information and messages to decision makers and stakeholders to much more dynamic methods.

Wougnet

Wougnet conducts projects that aim to create awareness of gender issues in agriculture. Wougnet involves men in the projects (the ratio of women to men in these projects is 70% to 30%) and focuses on developing the capacity of all stakeholders – female or male – in the agricultural and rural development sectors.

The information groups for farmers and question-and-answer services established by Wougnet have been particularly successful in increasing knowledge about the benefits of sharing knowledge and giving women access to ICT technology. These information groups stress important points such as the need to arrange meetings that involve women at times that suit their daily timetable, the importance of having role models within communities to establish trust and that ICT tools must be adapted to local content and farmers’ basic needs.

The need to involve men in projects that aim to improve women’s access to ICTs in the agricultural sector extends, by definition, to the family unit as well. A family-centred approach to ICT projects enables parents to recognise the importance of sending both sons and daughters to school. Educating both genders will benefit the community at large, just as giving women access to ICTs will, as we saw in the Burkina Faso case.

Whether such initiatives to involve men and the family unit are successful or not can result in either an upward cycle or a downward spiral. Once it is accepted that all children, regardless of gender, should be educated, they are likely to continue that upward cycle. On the other hand, if men fail to recognise the importance of giving women equal access to technology or educating their daughters, then these ICT projects are far less likely to succeed.

Related links

Action pour le developpement des jeunes

www.devjeunestogo.afrikblog.com

Association Agriculture Tic Développement

www.facebook.com/agroticdev

Fédération Nununa

www.nununabf.org

Women of Uganda Network

www.wougnet.org

Le Programme d’Alimentation des villes par l’Agriculture Familiale

http://goo.gl/MHdCCJ

© Reuters/Mike Hutchings

The session on ‘Capacity development, gender and ICTs in agriculture’ showed how communities benefit from giving women equal access to ICTs and stressed that all stakeholders, including men and the larger family unit, have to be involved in initiatives to improve women’s access to ICTs.

The session on ‘Capacity development, gender and ICTs in agriculture’ showed how communities benefit from giving women equal access to ICTs and stressed that all stakeholders, including men and the larger family unit, have to be involved in initiatives to improve women’s access to ICTs.

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