Women In Media Initiative Somalia (WIMISOM) organized one day roundtable discussion for participants from the ministries of information, telecommunication, women development and education, women rights organizations, ICT education institutions, media, internet service providers and other relevant stakeholders in Garowe. These diverse participants brainstormed and evaluated the challenges facing women in their quest for digital rights in Puntland, Somalia.
The participants who are well informed on the issue also shared studies, data, experiences related to this matter as well as highlighted the specific challenges experienced by the women in digital rights on daily basis and how this poses a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality in Somalia if not addressed immediately.
The participants underlined that digital technology can contribute positively to protecting women’s rights and to their economic, social and political empowerment and development. In order to achieve effective and inclusive use of technology and address the existing challenges, the following recommendation and ways forward were raised during the discussion: –
- The online violence against women is an increasing problem in Somalia and poor digital literacy and language barrier are the key reasons barring women to accessing digital technologies.
- Women’s human rights that are protected offline should also be protected online, and policy and legislative measures to eradicate online violence against women must aim at creating an enabling environment for achieving gender equality through the use of information and communications technology, including the protection of women’s rights to freedom of expression, to privacy, to have access to information shared through ICT, and in particular to live a life free from violence.
- Women to not fear of speaking about online violence and that such bravely action will make the public aware of the risks as well as will bring discussions and long term solutions.
- Women in media are advised to take a role to raise awareness on the right of women to digital security.
- The issue of women’s digital rights is a top priority of the ongoing ICT policy and strategy led by the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication of Puntland.
- The current Puntland Sexual Offences Bill enacted in 2016 lacks the coverage of online violence and only deals with offline abuses. For this case, Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs promises amendment of the bill and the online violence would not remain unpunished.
- The ICT education institutions were advised to offer partial or full tuition fee waivers for girls or to allocate certain seats of their annual scholarships for the girls.
- The private companies are advised to employ ICT graduates and not prefer men over women in recruitment of ICT positions.
- Organizing a bigger forum to bring all stakeholders together and discuss the Internet governance.
Participants recommended continuation of such discussions and forums to raise women’s digital rights issues and to create a safe and empowering online environment for women and girls. Participants also appreciated CIPESA for funding these important discussions and requested continuation of such discussions in the future until Somalia fully assures effective and inclusive use of technology.