An Evaluation of Buwama CMC and Kawolo Telecentre from a Gender Perspective
Telecentres were established to promote rural access to information so as to foster rural development. However, technologies are socially constructed and thus have different impacts on women and men. Women’s capacity to exploit the potential of the new ICTs as tools for empowerment is constrained in different ways. Some constraints are linked to factors that affect both women and men for instance technical infrastructure, connection costs, computer literacy and language skills, exacerbated in many cases by gender based determinants which particularly disadvantage women.
Facilitating women’s access to appropriate content is critical in ensuring that women can fully exploit the opportunities of public access centers. Repackaging and augmenting information are critical steps for enhancing the relevance and use of telecentres for women and men. Telecentres lacked disaggregated content based on gender differences. The evaluation identified the information needs of women and men, but none of such content was available in the telecentres. This however contributed to lack of awareness of women and men about the telecentres and their failure to know what telecentres could provide for them. Involvement of women and men in development of content would be paramount to overcoming language barriers.
This evaluation focused on gender inequalities that exist in telecentre service provision to women and men in the communities. The identified inequalities however needed to be addressed, in order to have equitable gender access and use of ICTs and telecentres, which would eventually increase the suitability of telecentres to both sexes.
Language remained an issue to be addressed by telecentres. The language used for the content barred specifically a bigger number of women, who also confirmed during the interviews that they lacked education and were not even confident to talk about it in public. It denied women a chance to attend educative programmes extended to them through their local councils. Men commonly shared information during their informal meetings, unlike women who most of the time remained in their homes to do their house chores and farming. Packaging formats should as well be addressed, due to the fact that there was a very poor reading culture in the communities especially amongst women.
Women believed that it was a shame for a woman to fail in farming to produce food for the family. This barely left them with no time to enable them access and use the telecentres. As such, the typical rural woman had no idea about the telecentre, its location or what the telecentre could provide for her. However Buwama CMC was advantaged with the community radio. The radio was the commonly used ICT tool by women and men. At Kawolo, there was no community radio, but again commercial radios were outstandingly the most listened to by women and men in the communities. The quality of the aired content, especially with the community radio was to be addressed to focus on gender and development.
Location of telecentres was indeed a very serious problem to women and men users. This was also reflected in the low levels of participation by women, on the local management committees, because they resided from parishes which are too far from the telecentre. All the parishes were diversely dispersed, making it difficult especially for women mobility to the telecentres.The Ugandan administrative levels are namely from above; District, Division, County, Sub County, Parish and Villages. The smallest unit of the administrative level is the village, however, these are also big in size, depending on rural or urban places. In most rural parts, the parish which comprises of many villages becomes huge in regard to access and use of resources provided by the government because, there are several big sized villages that comprise of a parish. At the same time there are a number of parishes which comprise of the Sub County. e.t.c. That complicates the extension and reach of services to the communities and particularly to those who need the services. This evaluation also noted that there are still many parishes where connectivity to mobile telephony is still a problem alongside poor road networks. So there should be a solution to reduce the distance people have to move to the telecentres by extending the services closure to them especially women, who reside from such parishes.
To ensure gender equity in telecentres, policy makers and implementers plus telecentre management agreed on a common approach that pointed out that the telecentre management should be gender sensitized to enable them to address gender issues and differences in their communities. For the communities, it was agreed that community outreach programs be carried out to create awareness about telecentres and gender issues. There should be subsidiary contribution or subscriptions by the Sub County administration towards telecentres to promote women learning through access and use of the telecentres and also the introduction of satellite telecentres to ensure the Sub Counties are catered for as a whole. Ideally, they called for the equal participation of the local management committees in the daily functionalities of the telecentres and to provide relevant content for women and men, which would be coupled with training the communities; both women and men about how to use different ICT tools.
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