Internet Shutdown and Freedom of Expression
Among all the benefits that have come with using the internet, it has accelerated the enjoyment of the freedom of expression and right to a…
Representatives from different organizations met for a networking event on the weekend of Saturday 6th, February 2021 in Soroti City. The aim was to provide protected time and space for ICT4Advocacy Community of Practice, a supportive and distraction-free environment to organize their activities of 2021.
As home to the famous East African Civil Aviation Academy, it is where most pilots in the region earned their first wings by conquering their fears and soaring high. Standing up for Human Rights requires one to conquer their fears and be responsible for others, just like a pilot.
As the COVID 19 pandemic accelerates the pace of need for protection, we are entering a phase vulnerable with huge risks for human rights. Community activities that are innovating for education, health, justice, women rights and other new activities hold great promise, but need to be paired with critical collaborative ethics to ensure they don’t exacerbate social inequality or lead to human rights violations.
As human rights defenders for justice among children, youth, men, women and girls leveraging ICT4 Advocacy, we have witnessed the transformative possibilities that arise when like-minded organisations come together to share advocacy practices and support one another through change. Independently from each other, our respective communities of practice at Digital Human Rights Lab (DHRL) have emerged from a desire to forge a way of identifying common human rights issues and address them in a collaborative environment. We observed that our organisations share many characteristics which were observed and described by DHRL’s engagement lead Daniel who together with 14 other organization representatives met for a networking event on the weekend of Saturday 6th, February 2021 in Soroti City. The aim was to provide protected time and space for ICT4Advocacy Community of Practice, a supportive and distraction-free environment to organize their activities of 2021.
In Soroti, we deliberated on the challenges faced by the different projects, the place of the communities in the rule of engagement and why fewer women organisations were represented in the Community of Practice. Our reactions, while reverting to the concerns and conceptual framework situating the benefits of the networking event, highlighted the importance of prioritizing community building and increased self-efficacy for the development of a Community of Practice to establish their sense of purpose within each one's region of operation.
The networking event also sought to offer participants of the 15 organisations that were in attendance skills on how to improve their project planning and conduct in the professional world This increased responsibility to account for and acknowledge community collaborations as a standard indicator of organisational performance. Indeed, as presented by guest expert Mr Anthony Masake from Chapter Four Uganda, the importance of research dissemination and project management are the most common and valued currency for success and promotion of human rights. He urged participants to increasingly collaborate when it comes to research output, for this would have a great impact on not just their organisations but across the different regions where they operate.
Masake emphasized that the networking event was a professional development opportunity purposely designed to provide dedicated space and time for participants to examine their work plans. They were facilitated and structured, often including goal setting, identifying capacities from others, sharing of progress, reflection, positive criticism exercises, team building, and general group discussions. Much of the project planning and management sessions gave a design thinking process to each member organisation interrogating the value of planning and how it is used to determine results through monitoring and evaluation metrics such as time relays and management that increases the organizations’ productivity as key indicators of success.
Human rights advocacy has long been celebrated as a force for greater equality breaking down barriers for those previously held back by their geography, wealth, race, class and gender. However, longstanding inequalities in numbers of women organizations represented in such spaces hold back its egalitarian promise. The event provided a snapshot of the state of gender inequality and finds that even where women are closing the gap, they face a multitude of additional barriers to choose to challenge as the campaign theme for international women’s day 2012 states.
With women’s month around the corner, we urgently need to realise such inequalities and choose to challenge the status quo and make sure women in leadership are achieving an equal future for all. This is particularly important now in COVID 19 world where technological progress has transformed our societies to enable more women to engage virtually with the promise of observing digital rights without fear for their safety.
Until we do, the spaces will continue to work against progress on gender equality. Digital advocacy will not automatically empower marginalised people and break traditional power structures without long term investment and commitment to overcome existing inequalities. The women’s day will highlight key areas such as ICT4 Advocacy must focus on celebrating women especially in their month of March to enable a truly gender-inclusive environment.
The networking event spanned over 3 days and took place at Hursey Resort Hotel Soroti, in Eastern Uganda. It was sponsored by DHRL and organised by Strategic Response International (SRI).
By Aidah Bukubuza
The writer is the team lead at AYDIA Gender and Technology Initiative (AGTI), a member of the ICT4Advocacy Community of Practice.
Pictures shot by Daniel Odongo