One of the issues Africa is keen to address to achieve sustainable economic growth is gender equality in ICTs access and use. How best can the continent narrow the gap, empower girls and women and realign the imbalance that currently favours males?
This was one of the questions that generated intensive debate during the 9th eLearning Conference in Kampala, Uganda last week (28-30 May).
Of particular concern to the delegates was the gender imbalance in the application, access and use of ICTs in Africa.
“Girls need to be empowered through education. They should be provoked to think critically like boys to enable them create innovations to solve critical problems in the society.”
Goretti Amuriat, Women of Uganda Network
Panelists presented various initiatives set up to empower women in the use of ICTs. Ayub Kalema Golooba, ICT projects coordinator with the Uganda’s Ministry of Education says the focus is on training school girls. “Girls are trained through clubs and societies after the usual class work. They are linked with other students in the United States through video link and they share experiences with their counterparts,” Golooba explains.
The students are also trained in digital journalistic skills, learning how to gather, edit and market newspapers to fellow students. They also lead the production exercise. “In this sense, they are equipped with business and organisational management skills,” adds Kalema.
Other speakers from across Africa made presentations on ICT initiatives for women that involve training them in computer proficiency skills, Internet browsing and use of mobile phones to access and share market information for their products.
Does that mean that gender empowerment is synonymous with women and girl child empowerment? One of the panellists, Goretti Amuriat, programme manager of ICT and gender policy advocacy of the Women of Uganda Network, says the girl child and women are still disadvantaged in many ways in her country, especially in ICTs.
Amuriat explains: “Today’s education is learner-centred compared to the traditional mode that was teacher-centred. Girls need to be empowered through education. They should be provoked to think critically like boys to enable them create innovations to solve critical problems in the society”.
While the focus is on women and girls, boys should not be left behind.
The necessity of training both boys and girls in ICT is not only meant to address the issue of gender imbalance, but more so because girls need to be especially empowered to run the economy alongside their male counterparts in the future.
However, boys and girls are uniquely different in many ways. Thus, ICT curriculum developers should look at eLearning solutions that are adaptable to the different needs, abilities and interests of students — with equal attention to both sexes.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.