Editorial: Bridging the gender divide in ICTs
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CTA. 2004. Editorial: Bridging the gender divide in ICTs. ICT Update Issue 21. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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This special issue of ICT Update features reports on the nine winning projects in the first round of the Gender for Agricultural and Rural Development in the Information Society (GenARDIS) small grants fund. This new fund has been set up to support inn
The eradication of poverty is at the heart of the Cotonou Agreement, signed in June 2000 between the European Union and the ACP Group of States. It is also the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals, which all 191 UN Member States have pledged to meet by 2015. But who are the poor? Approximately three-quarters of the world´s 1.2 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas, and at least half of them are women. Poverty is not gender-neutral. Women face greater constraints than men in gaining access to, and control of, land, credit, education, health services and technology. Interventions aimed at poverty reduction must therefore take into account gender relations - the socially constructed relations between women and men in a particular society. The Millennium Development Goals recognize that empowering women to enhance their educational and economic status and reduce their vulnerability to disease, hunger and disasters are key factors in the eradication of poverty. Information and communication technologies (ICTs), which encompass a broad range of tools that facilitate communication and the processing and transmission of information by electronic means, have undergone rapid changes over the last few decades. They have enabled the advent of the ´information society´, in which more information is available than ever before. However, access to this enormous body of information, and to the technologies that facilitate communication and information transfer, is by no means equitable. The term ´digital divide´ has been coined to describe the situation in which some members of society or areas of the world are left behind by those who have access to ICTs. Digital divides have emerged between countries of the North and of the South and, because of connectivity constraints, between urban and rural areas. In addition, there is a gender divide in ICTs, reflecting a bias that is especially strong in the rural areas of developing countries. Women are further away from digital opportunities than men. They also tend to be less well educated, less mobile and have less control over material resources than men, and so are often unable to seek out and access the information they need. In recognition of the availability of a potentially powerful set of tools - ICTs - and their failure to benefit the majority of the poor in ACP countries - rural women - in September 2002 CTA organised the first expert consultation on ´Gender and Agriculture in the Information Society´. Out of this consultation grew the awareness that little was known about successful applications of ICTs by and for women in agriculture and rural development in ACP countries. Together with two partner institutions, the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), CTA announced a small grants fund known as GenARDIS, to support innovative activities that will contribute to the understanding and application of ICTs by and for rural women. The response to the first call for project proposals for nine grants of ?5000 each was overwhelming - more than 360 submissions were received in less than two months, a clear indication of the interest in the topic. This special issue of ICT Update contains reports on the winning projects selected by an international jury in the first round of GenARDIS. The nine projects have been implemented, and they are now sharing their results and experiences. CTA and its partners hope that these reports will increase awareness among policy makers and donors of the importance of gender in ICT-enabled livelihoods projects, and provide some new insights into and examples of good practice to guide future initiatives. We hope that this is not the end of the process, and look forward to continuing our collaboration. Gesa Wesseler, CTA Laurent Elder, IDRC Judith Veldhuizen, IICD a target=_new href=http://www.iicd.org The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) is an independent non-profit foundation, established by the Netherlands Ministry for Development Cooperation in 1997. IICD assists developing countries to realise locally owned sustainable development by harnessing the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). a target=_new href=http://www.idrc.ca The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is a Canadian public corporation that works in close collaboration with researchers from the developing world in their search for the means to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. Genardis is supported by IDRC´s Acacia Initiative, a program to empower sub-Saharan communities with the ability to apply ICTs to their own social and economic development.
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