Empowering women to speak out through ICTs

Date: January 1, 1970
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In countries and communities with limited access to even basic communications infrastructure, the Internet and computers is often a strange and far-off idea ? something for the educated, rich and powerful nations of the world. Yet the internet offers a huge opportunity for communication, one that can reach across borders within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and beyond.

As the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Namibia Network plans for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence from 25 November to 10 December in 2006, one of the tools it will make use of are the cyber dialogues pioneered by Gender Links in 2004, and used by the Network after training in the 2005 campaign.
People, especially women, were at first very wary of this new idea. Fear brought many questions. What is a Cyber Dialogue? If you go to the chat room, how safe is information in this global world? 
As the three-day training on how to use the cyber dialogue for empowerment came to an end, the faces of those skeptical about the use of the tool were all smiling. It was time to take over cyber space with the mission of educating women and men on violence against the vulnerable in society.
On 25h November 2005 the Cyber Dialogue was alive with chatters logging on to air their views on domestic and gender based violence. The theme for the day was “International day for the Prevention of violence, abuse, rape against women.”  The chant on everyone’s lips was enough is enough.
GEMSA and partners in the 16 Days Campaign said the cyber space project in Namibia is one of the success stories in the region, connecting Namibians for the first with the regions and beyond.
One user told other participants, “I kept this abuse of mine for over ten years…my husband has abused me for tool long. But thanks to this process for speaking out. I appreciate all your comments and sympathy on computer”.
One woman explained that at first she was not comfortable to share her story with people she did not know. She went on to say, “but as I read others problems of abuse I was encouraged to open the box…Someone I do not know, told me to report all abuses and not allow him (my man) to abuse me.”
The media joined in by broadcasting information and hosting talk shows to enable people to speak out.
The theme on 1st December, International AIDS Day, turned to the perception and treatment of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
The Namibia Girl Child organization led a discussion about children’s and international rights. Another topic was safe havens and places rendering support to survivors of gender based violence.
The sixteen days of chats culminated in a discussion on the empowerment of women to stand for their rights. The chat room was filled with positive minded individuals – men and women – counteracting the spread of domestic and gender based violence with particular emphasis on the perception that women should take control of themselves and how they best can empower themselves, increase their self esteem and be in the forefront in any fight.
Sarry Xoagus-Eises is a journalist and GEMSA country representative from Namibia.  This article is part of a special series of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service produced ahead of the SADC Heads of State summit in Lesotho from 17-18 August by the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance comprising ten NGOs that promote gender equality in the region.



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