Subject: [fem-women2000 508] A GENDER-BALANCED INFO REVOLUTION 2000.07 ECOSOC (full version)
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 04:29:43 +0900
Seq: 508



Anne S. Walker, Ph.D.
(Member of Conference of NGOs at UN and Steering Committee of
Task Force on Gender Issues- ITU, Co-Coordinator of WomenAction 2000 and
Executive Director of International Women's Tribune Centre)

Building on the Secretary General's Report to the Millennium Assembly of
the United Nations on development and international cooperation in the
21st Century: the role of information technology in the context of a
knowledge-based global economy, this presentation seeks to include the
need for an ICT Gender Action Plan. It offers recommendations for ways
in which such an action plan can be implemented with the support of a
facility established under the auspices of the United Nations. 

An information and communications revolution is taking place worldwide.
It has become increasingly apparent that information and communications
are fundamental to the achievement of a world that is gender-equitable,
sustainable, just and peaceful. Women play an enormous role in the
development of their communities, but without access to the information
they want and need, without a means of public expression and without the
ability to share knowledge, they are severely handicapped. Shutting
women out of the information and communication revolution handicaps the
development of all. 

As codified in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
all people have the right to "seek, receive and impart information and
ideas through any media regardless of frontier." This implies that it is
essential for women and other marginalized groups to gain access to all
means of communication and public expression, including the mass media;
non-commercial access to broadcasting spectrum and communications
technology; and a say in the direction of technology development. The
Secretary General's Report states that: "The empowerment of women and
men to utilize new technologies and to apply their creative potential,
knowledge and ability to their development challenges appears
increasingly to be one of the keys to enhancing the capabilities of
developing countries and poor communities to leapfrog stages of
development and thereby close the income and human development gap that
today separates them from the developed world." 

The report gives factors of gender, level of education and literacy,
household income, language, race and ethnicity as critical determinants
of access within countries,  and adds that the cost of going on-line for
most people, and particularly women, is prohibitive in developing
countries. A high-level panel of experts on information and
communication technology that met in New York in April reiterates this
concern when it states: "The gross disparity in the spread of the
Internet and thus the social and economic benefits derived from it is a
matter of profound concern. There are more hosts in New York than in
Continental Africa; more hosts in Finland than in Latin America and the
Caribbean." The panel calls on all actors to unite in a global
initiative to meet the following challenge: provide access to the
Internet, especially through community access points, for the world's
population presently without such access by the end of 2004.

Women's media networks worldwide have formed a global NGO communications
network that is strategizing around ways to bridge this widening
"digital divide." Known as WomenAction 2000, this network is a coalition
of more than 40 women's media networks, and was formed in March 1999
during the first preparatory committee for Beijing Plus Five. With
minimal resources, WomenAction 2000 has developed a global web-site and
regional websites in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean,
Eastern and Western Europe and North America. Resources are added daily
and accessed by regional and national focal points for downloading and
dissemination. Future plans call for links with emerging community
telecentres in Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean,
providing access to appropriate information for women in those regions.
WomenAction 2000 has undertaken global and international workshops to
train women from every world region in the construction of web-sites,
the facilitating of regional and national dialogues, and the
"repackaging" of information downloaded from the internet, -information
that is transformed into radio programmes, brochures, newsletters,
posters, etc, using local languages.

At Beijing Plus Five, -the Special Session of the General Assembly to
review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action held from
June 5-9, 2000-, WomenAction 2000, in collaboration with CONGO
(Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN), undertook
a full programme of information sharing and dissemination so that women
worldwide could participate in the discussions underway in New York.
Regional focal points in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean
and Eastern Europe/Central Asia, downloaded and distributed the daily
newspapers (one international, one with a focus on Africa) prepared by
WomenAction 2000 teams. Via interactive radio and TV webcasts, women
worldwide took part in live discussions around important agenda items.
An Internet Cafe ran throughout each day, making it possible for
hundreds of women to be in daily contact with their home groups and
media contacts. A Global Media project brought 20 women writers and
journalists for training in use of ICTs and in coverage of women's

Along with this coordinated effort to share and disseminate information
on Beijing Plus Five with NGOs and women's groups in every world region,
the Communications Consortium ran a Media Center, developing daily press
releases and assisting journalists in writing reports that went to
mainstream media outlets worldwide. Never before has UN meeting on women
received such concentrated media coverage.


Given that women constitute the majority of the world's poor, -a fact
documented and emphasized in the Beijing Plus Five Special Session
Outcomes Document of June 2000-, the need for relevant and timely
information that would empower women in all sectors of the community is
critically important. Many of the following recommendations therefore
focus on the urgency of finding ways to include women and other
marginalized groups in the worldwide information revolution. Note is
taken of recommendations made by a high level panel on ICTs that met in
April 2000, of the Declaration from the Media Caucus that met daily
during the Beijing Plus Five Special Session, and of the Steering
Committee of the ITU Task Force on Gender Issues (TFGI) that met in
Ottawa, June 2000.

(a)  The United Nations (UN), at the Millennium Assembly in September
2000, should proclaim the right of democratic and equitable access to
information and communication services, such as the Internet and
community services such as telecentres, with a focus on access for women
and other marginalized groups, as an important new component of the
United Nations principles and conventions on human rights and

(b)  The Task Force on Gender Issues (TFGI) established by the
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Telecommunication
Development Conference (Valletta 1998) and unanimously endorsed by the
Plenipotentiary Conference (Minneapolis 1998), should be strengthened so
that it can play a more decisive role in a) ensuring that
telecommunications services and programmes are widely available equally
to men and women and b) ensuring gender equality within the ITU. To
effectively reach these goals, particularly women's democratic and
equitable participation in ITU policy decision-making process, the TFGI
should have the necessary resources for its recommendations to be
meaningfully implemented.

(c)  The mandate of the ITU/TFGI "to secure financial and other
resources to carry out its work, including through partnerships with the
private sector, multilateral development finance bodies and other donors",
should be expanded to direct the attention of and solicit resources from
corporate members of ITU towards supporting democratic and equitable
access to telecommunications services for women and other marginalized

(d)  In addition to the ITU/TFGI, an ICT gender task force should be set
up by the UN Secretary General that would bring together other
departments and specialized agencies of the UN system, multilateral
development institutions, private industry, foundations/trusts, mass
media and NGOs, including women's information and communication networks,
to develop an ICT Gender Action Plan. Such an Action Plan would address
the broader issues and obstacles identified, including the need for
training in both hardware and software usage, the development of
networks and online dialogues, the management of information and
communication projects and enterprises, etc.;

(e)  A facility should be created to carry out the ICT Gender Action
Plan with monies solicited from a variety of sources, including private
industry, foundations and trusts, and Member State contributions. The
facility could leverage additional resources through matching programmes
within countries. The fund should be equally available to NGO media
projects and networks, including "repackaging" programmes that make
information currently only available on the Internet more accessible to
women and men at community level. It is suggested that UNIFEM may be the
most appropriate UN agency to administer such a facility. (NOTE: This
facility could be integrated into the Global Knowledge II (Malaysia 2000)
recommendation for a Gender and ICT Replication and Learning Fund. This
find is described as:
   a) a fund for the promoting of effective exchange of initiatives that
      promote gender equality and women's empowerment using ICT, 
   b) a fund to provide support for ICT-related proposals, and c) a fund
      that would seek public and private sector contributors. See GKII
      Action Plan);

(f)  The United Nations, and agencies within the UN System such as the
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), should identify and
eradicate all factors that restrict democratic and equitable
participation of men and women in the ICT sector. This should lead to
the elimination of discriminatory and unequal access to education and
training, the removal of social pressures that limit women's and girls'
access to science and technology activities and open up access to
training and necessary ICT equipment while diminishing labour market

(g)  Governments should legislate for corporate practices within firms
in the ICT sector to  ensure overall fairness in employment conditions,
in particular with respect to the recruitment, training and retention of

(h)  The capacity of civil society organizations, including women's
organizations, should be strengthened by making ICT and Internet
training opportunities available, along with financial resources and
equipment, so they may participate more effectively in the
transformations made possible by the ICT sector. In this respect, the
initiative raised in the Secretary General's Report to the Millennium
Assembly concerning the forming of a corps of ICT volunteers who would
train and promote the use of ICTs in developing countries is to be
applauded. Special consideration to the training of women leaders in the
community is urged;

(i)  Programmes and networks that facilitate South-South knowledge flows,
and which link those with technical expertise to those with local
expertise and experience, should be encouraged and supported. Among such
programmes would be those that use students as mentors for small
community-based organizations, women's media network training programmes,
training for leaders of community groups, etc. The international
community and the United Nations system, as stated in the
Secretary-General's report, should work more closely together in order
to fully support efforts to assist developing countries and countries in
transition to fully and beneficially integrate into the networked
knowledge-based global economy; 

(j)  Support should be given to the call for a World Summit on the
Information Society where a global action plan for democratic and
equitable access to information and communication can be elaborated. 

 _________________________________________________________________________ for Women 2000, UN Special Session on Beijing+5
 Searcheable Archive
 visit fem-net HomePage for other mailing lists

Return to Index
Return to fem-women2000 HOME