Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wikigender asks: how can social networks foster gender equality?

From 3 until 10 February, Wikigender hosted its first online discussion on: “How can social networks foster gender equality?

Numerous examples were given of web 2.0 platforms that help girls and women to feel more included in discussions that matter to them, giving them a sense of belonging to a specific community. The wealth of information offered by those online social networking platforms is not only easily accessible by those who have an Internet connection, but also easily spread. This opens many doors, from career counselling and career building to campaigns to advance gender equality, strategies to cope with poverty, best practices and more. All in all, comments reinforced the idea of online social networks acting like a “technological booster” that empowers women and girls in many ways.

Comments however also reflected the rhetoric of current global inequalities, with only 30% of the population digitally included. What about the 5 billion people that do not have access to the Internet? What about women in rural areas who are unable to view videos on YouTube in some countries due to insufficient bandwidth? Even if other technologies such as mobile phones are becoming increasingly cheap and therefore more available in developing countries, helping women to balance their family and work responsibilities, this does not mean that they have access to those social networks and therefore to the information. Therefore, within the digital divide and “access” issues, one needs to consider also the “gender divide”: women and girls need to build their capacity in using online social networks more efficiently, and they need to be involved in the early design and deployment stages of new technologies so that these technologies respond adequately to their needs. Sometimes, women and girls simply need to be informed of the existence of such social networks, as it is not always the case, and they should be trained in differentiating good information from bad information, as social media can also have adverse effects.

To access all the comments and read the full summary of the discussion, please visit this page. If this online discussion inspired you to create an article, click here!

To continue on the question of empowering women and fostering gender equality, the Wikigender Team invites you to participate in a new online discussion on: “Equal rights to resources: the key to empowering rural women. But what's stopping it?” – the outcomes of the discussion will be presented at a side event during the 56th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which focuses on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. Contribute until Wednesday 22 February and get your point across!

By Estelle Loiseau 

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