This happened at this year’s fifth Tanzania Annual ICT Conference 2021 happening in Arusha between the 19th to the 22nd of October at the Arusha International Conference Center. This year’s theme is “Building a Digital Nation: Adapting Digital Competitive Opportunities”, with one of the goals being to raise awareness in understanding Information Communication and technological affairs globally as well as the skills needed nationally to adapt to the dynamic digital economy. The conference has been graced with a variety of ICT experts and professional, decision makers, the private and public sectors, respective ICT authorities and key players. Hon. Neema Lugangira speaking at capacity as the Member of Parliament was vocal on her perspectives in the ICT sector emphasizing on the Digital Taxation, Digital Economy, role of the Private Sector, Application of Technology and the Gender Digital Divide. Below are among the two areas that she emphasized upon.
Agro-Tech Gap and Adaptation
In her opening remarks Hon. Lugangira said, “When it comes to ensuring that there is innovative interventions in agriculture but also rural women participating in the space because we are all enjoying foods that the agriculture is producing here in Tanzania but 50% of the small holder farmers are women but these women still do not have equal access to different advanced agricultural innovations because they are far from the eco-system.”
Hon Neema Lugangira challenged the ICT conference to consider rural women in the agricultural space who are left behind on the eco-system because one cannot focus on digitizing the urban area while leaving behind the food system that the country depends on which comes from the rural area.
While technology is growing at a fast pace when it comes to the agricultural sector in the country, with its growth comes its challenges such as digital inclusion and the digital gender gap.
OGBV to Women Leaders in Politics
Hon. Lugangira emphasized on the predominance of Online Gender-based Violence (OGBV) to women leaders in politics. She insinuated that despite having women participation in political matters, the country is still far behind when it comes to the online gender-gap of Women in Politics. Hon Lugangira says, “Often times it is said that government, stakeholders and development partners want to see more women in politics being online but there is one area almost nobody is talking about which is the enormous online gender abuse that women in politics face.”
Hon. Lugangira shares that, she speaks from experience of being an active member of the parliament on social media, she sees the difference prior to her being a member of the parliament active in social media and now being an active member of the parliament on social media, one needs to have a thick skin to manage and cope in the digital space.
She says “A lot of interventions that are advocating for online safe space for all, nobody looks at the group of women in politics yet so much goes to promote and enhance women in getting into politics but most women fear to get into politics because they see the women in politics how they are being treated.
“Very unfortunately when a woman in politics is being attacked online versus a man in politics being attacked online the man in politics tend to focus the agenda based on the issue but the woman in politics issue will be sexualized based on her gender, this is something that is clearly happening right now to the level of Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan.” she adds.
Hon Neema seeks to know who comes at the defense of the women in politics, when we speak about bridging the gender gap, talking about investing in the ICT sector, she believes that as a country we need to invest in making sure even women leaders who are the voice of ensuring bridging of the gender gap have equal and safe space online because without that, all will be for nothing. She also mentions even if when promoting youth to be online, the way an adolescent female is treated and an adolescent male is treated is totally different.
“Organizations that claim to advocate for women rights when a woman in politics is being abused online they do not say anything, they do not even come out with their public statement to call out that behaviour, why? is it perceived that it is normal and okay for a woman in politics to be subject to such abuse and the youth who we are trying to promote to come online when they see the women in politics that are powerful being attacked how are they going to cope?” Hon. Lugangira challenges.
Her position on what happens on the online space to women leaders in politics was seconded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country representative, Ms Christine Musisi also attested that she too was online but she was not active because of the online abuse that she used to get. She says, “It is discouraging, but indeed we need to join hands and do something about it”. Further adding, “UN women is trying to address issues of women security in politics, as UNDP we have tried to focus in ensuring physical security for Women Politicians especially starting of campaign and political activities; we must also combine our effort on addressing women issues to ensuring Digital safety”.
Ms Musisi promised to join forces with Hon. Lugangira into being part of the ways to enhance women participation online by providing whatever support available.
The hon. Lugangira emphasized that there were committee parliamentary sessions happening but because the parliament understood the role and significance of the ICT sector in the country; hon. Job Ndungai had granted her access to participate this important event. Most importantly, she and some of her fellow members of parliament was at the final stages of establishing the parliamentary caucus of Internet Governance so as to have a focal parliament platform that can advocate for ICT related aspects such as addressing the Gender-Digital divide.
Women at Web Tanzania advocates for enhancing women participation and safe spaces online. In the process of combating gender online gap we understand that it requires many hands on the agenda of private and public stakeholders in the ecosystem to prioritize and enhance more participation of Women Leaders in politics. There is also an urgent need for the Ministry to to review the ICT policies and reforming our laws to be gender sensitive and inclusive. As provoked by hon. Lugangira during her speech, go take a look at the ICT policy of Tanzania and search the word “Women” to see how many times it has been mentioned or if it has been mentioned at all.