I attended the TechWomenAfrica Summit, my first conference organised by women and for women across Africa on Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 September 2016.
I was excited to attend being an advocate for women in technology and with the event taking place in Ghana, I got an opportunity to have a say in the jollof rice war between Nigeria and Ghana.
Here are my five takeaways from #TechWomenAfrica:
- Building by women, for women and with women:
The summit provided insight into how African women are not just consumers of technology but builders and drivers, changing the lives of girls and women. I was honoured to listen to women from different countries share stories about the inspiring work they are doing ranging from ICT policy to coding to capacity building.
One of such women is Rachel Sibande of mHub who started out teaching 30 girls aged 8–15 how to build mobile apps in 2015. She has now built a movement with over 300 members across her native Malawi.
Girls are never too young to be involved in technology and should be encouraged to embrace disciplines in science and technology.
2. Telling women’s stories:
Hundreds of stories of African women using technology to change lives are not being told. Nnenna Nwakama of Web Foundation encouraged delegates to set up social media accounts and other online platforms to share updates about their work and to expand their networks.
There are women with compelling stories and there are also women who are storytellers, capable of capturing these stories and making them available to new audiences. One way these two categories of women can support and influence each other’s work is by connecting on social networks platforms.
3. Freedom of expression offline and online:
Anne Jellema made strong points about women being able to speak online without censorship or discrimination.
The Internet should be a safe public space for all female users. No girl or woman deserves to be abused, harassed or shamed online.
The need to educate girls and women about ways to report online abuse cannot be over-emphasised. Girls and women also need to be made aware of responsible use of an Internet that never forgets and encouraged to create positive digital footprints. Advocates can help young girls and women find their voices by organising women-only events and offering online and offline training.
4. Working with government on policy development:
A key lesson from the summit is that advocates can not successfully influence women’s participation in technology without influencing government policies.
Personally, I find policy development a boring subject but I have come to realise that without the right laws and policies in place, efforts of advocates will have little or no impact. Speaking while giving the keynote address, Anne Jallema stressed the need to work on translating the work done at the community level to the policy level and the importance of continued dialogue with African governments.
With this in mind, I believe it is important to support Paradigm Initiative Nigeria’s call on the Nigerian National Assembly to pass the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill into law. One of the objectives of the bill is “to promote the freedoms of expression, assembly and association online and the guarantee of fundamental rights of citizens and define the legal framework regarding surveillance”. This new law will set Nigeria, and Africa as whole, on a new path.
5. Affordable and accessible Internet:
Finally, if the Internet is not affordable and accessible to women, many will continue to be denied a chance to acquire the digital skills and information required to get ahead in 2016 and beyond.
The Web Foundation and twelve network organisations, including Paradigm Initiative Nigeria put together the report, Women’s Rights Online and developed policy recommendations based on their findings. Download the full report here.
So what is next for me?
I pledge greater personal commitment to the cause; to join networks promoting girls and women in technology; to teach and encourage more girls and women to embrace technology and take up disciplines in it. Most importantly, I am going to help women using technology to influence African lives to tell their stories across different social media platforms.
You can also check the #TechWomenAfrica hashtag on Twitter for more conversations