What roles can ICTs can play in advancing women’s representation in politics?

What roles can ICTs play in advancing women´s representation in politics?

Muslim female MP in Malawi vow change.

One could argue that the social media is changing the political landscape, and it is becoming an important tool for mobilization and in this case; women’s empowerment given that the majority of social media sites are dominated by women (Posted by Pingdom, on November 27th, 2009). A note of caution however, is that although social media has been successful at rallying various groups to actively engage in political activism, there is no evidence to suggest social media can enhance women’s participation in the actual sense. In other words, it is true that various social media platforms can be used to galvanize the people and to open up their campaign to a wider world, but it is also possible that these mediums can be used by those who seek to undermine them. The rise of digital technology and new media can  deeply affect contentious politics through their impact on individuals who either participate in or are exposed to such communication that flows from lower levels to upper ones, (Aday et al, 2010,p.11). Without forgetting that, information and communication Technologies (ICTs) use to be critical to achieve women’s rights. At some point, gender stereotypes, inequalities and biases still exist both online and offline. Therefore, one could say that the internet could misinform and put women’s rights at risk.

All people of all nationalities have been victims of being stereotyped. Thus, all over the world should stand and be attempted to correct stereotypes. For instance, Muslim women seem to not be authorized to speak publicly. Therefore, we’re called to encouraging all women to integrate themselves in the debates and to have all positive impacts on the decision making process. This could help them in proposing new better policies and laws in order to address the issues at stake and the challenges they currently face, (Global Information Society Watch, 2013, p.3). Like in 1995, problems remain in utilizing the media in fighting discrimination, counter gender stereotypes and raise awareness of male violence against women’s rights, (Loiseau & Nowacka, 2015,p.1). While globally, women are more active in social media than men, (McPherson, 2014). In many poor countries, women lack the digital skills and don’t have any access to this technology due to infrastructure, costs and discriminatory social norms, (ICRW, 2010). Nevertheless, females use social media less than men in a sense of facilitating their empowerment and in the fight against gender-based violence.

Some individuals may become or work as one team and develop new competencies by using their media exposure and its effects of public participation which could allow them to participate more readily and effectively in real-world politics and promote greater connectedness among them without forgetting that they could process information differently, (Eickelman, 2006,p.13). This is when women may find it more possible to participate in a mediated public sphere than in real-world contentious politics, giving them the type of action and engagement that corresponded to public political engagement that has explicitly been denied them in the past,(Otterman,2007,p.14). However, new media could make citizens more passive politically through various forms of distraction by leading them to confuse online rhetoric which can divert their attention and effort away from productive activities, (Morozov, 2007, p.15). According to experts, the use of social media is important especially when it comes to changing attitudes and public opinion. For instance, it may be used by women to develop a public self and build confidence in public debate, although not necessarily linked to formal or representative politics even in private sectors[1]. Obviously within female fan communities, fans have been producing song videos  using found footage drawn from their favorite television shows  or films and set to pop music as well, (Mandiberg, 2012,p.235). For that reason, it is important to have a clear strategy to strengthen and to build up women capacities in order to involve them in productive activities, institutional building, family and social transformation, decision-making process, political representation, trade and commerce, entrepreneurial development and social leadership, (Suresh, 2004, p. 1).

Furthermore, women find harder competing with men in any type of political election, therefore it is critically important for them to be aware of the importance of building strategic partnership with the media. Once strong relationships are established, women can expect a favorable media coverage which could eventually change the outcome of the election. The undisputable reality is that media is a powerful and vital mechanism to use in order to hold officials, such as candidates and leaders accountable during elections. In this case, the media coverage deters and exposes voting irregularities and rigging and more importantly, its visibility prevent all tactics that could be used against women during such highly charged political environment. However, most available literature review identifies the important role of elected female politicians working with NGOs and women’s associations encourage and advance women’s political careers and promote female politicians’ agendas (Shvedova, 2005). But social media also provides women the opportunity to networking with other women as mentioned above, which helps developing confidence between themselves and appeal to other women and peers in order to widen their support base.

To sum up, the media strategies should be developed using gender mainstreaming principles, by including the gender aspect in all laws, regulations, codes of conduct, professional standards, and other policies of the media. Clearly, this may have a positive influence on women activities in politics. Doing so, women may be able to overcome the barriers that hamper them in politics. Therefore, the media should offer more space to awareness campaigns against all forms of discrimination against women, but it is often harder for women to exercise this right in practice. Today’s media is certainly driven by other agendas including financial gains and profits, but it has a role to play in educating the masses on the way in which customs, beliefs and values need to evolve with time. By highlighting women’s conditions in society and giving them a platform, there are no doubt perceptions and practices would eventually shift for the better of these countries. Through the social media network, women are able to communicate, able to organize gatherings and rallies. In other words, the social media must be used as a tool to bring people together in order to reach people’s goals and dreams.

One wouldn’t doubt to emphasize how blogs could be an easy and potent tool to achieve such a lifestyle in order to improve individual practice, but fails to engage with broader, traditional structures especially in the context of large international aid agencies and communities in the Global South, (Denskus & Papan, 2013,p.13). As a result of this, there is still very little evidence of blogging and its learning processes could make a difference for development and influence macro policy-making as well, (Ibid). Due to the power shifts in the digital age, one quoted that “the people formerly known as the audience”. This seems to mean that people wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you’ve all heard about. For this reason, the listener is not only called to listen but also to speak without isolating themselves but instead to take part in gathering, and to place them in relation to others, (Rosen,2005). This journalist kept his language alive based on the same principles behind the explosion of participatory media. Where participatory media and citizen journalism have been closely linked, because they both could play an active role in the process of collecting and reporting news, the way the political power involved with destabilizing the one-directional broadcast from a reporter to an audience into a multivoiced conversation among participants, (Gillmor, 2004). One could conclude that blogs could help to expose the rituals and can continue to work towards an alternative learning environment that reflects new and diverse voices, (Denskus & Papan, 2013, p.13). In terms of women’s participation in politics, the internet is a vital public sphere due to barriers of access to media.

[1] See Kosovo Center for Gender Studies. 2009, p.10, Ukrainian Women’s Fund, 2011.p. 18, Report of the Division for the Advancement of Women of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in cooperation with the E-Network of National Gender Equality Machineries in Africa, September 4 October 14, 2007, p.17 and Nzomo, 2012, p.8.

5 Comments

  1. Helen

    Hi Chouchou! Interesting topic. I had the pleasure of working one year for an organization for women journalists in Kenya. They also have a similar organization in Uganda, which I got to visit. One year was not enough to really get to know the organization and its’ actual impact, but I was left with the question of how efficient is their work, what impact do they really make? Do they make a difference? I hope and think that slowly they are making an impact and are strengthening human rights in Kenya. Kenya has actually come quite far as I have experienced, compared to many other countries. These are just some thoughts from me. Thanks 🙂

    1. Chouchou Irambona

      Hi again,
      I agree with you about what you have seen out there. Still most observers remain adamant due to the lack of tangible progress and more needs to be done to promote women’s empowerment in Kenya. But some analysts see the good intention in the new Kenyan Constitution due to its emphasis and priority on gender equality, but also do argue that there will be an uphill battle in implementing the measures in reality, as this requires sufficient political will against existing cultural ambivalence which has limited women’s full participation in society since the independence.With a political and adoption of new Constitution will and could be welcome as good news and change to many groups that today feel wholly ignored and discarded in their society hopefully. For that reason, we need to spend decades talking about the importance of gender equality.
      Thank you again for sharing your experience and constructive feedback!
      Kind regards,
      Chou2.

  2. Melissa Andersson

    Hi Chouchou, I love the topic that you have chosen to explore a little bit more. And that the people “formally known as the audience” should be a diverse one including the voices of both women and men. It is not easy to correct for years of inequality but hopefully the access to social media that you reference here will continue to level the playingfields and bring more gender equality in the future.

    1. Chouchou Irambona

      Hi Melissa,
      Hope all is well with you. Thank you for your advice and constructive comments.For sure, the story of rising inequality is complex, and demand for skills still clearly deserves a chapter. Because the inequality issues still remain, therefore, men and boys should be unavoidably involved in gender issues and this is the time to talk about gender inequality until changes happen in the opposite direction.
      Thank you again for your very helpful and constructive feedback.
      Best regards,
      Chou2.

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