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Gender and ICTs at the Beijing 10: Mystical UN Language
Lenka Simerska | 5 April 2005


Prague, January 2005 - After five years, the status of women is explored wordwide again. Governments and civil society organisations met at the Beijing 10 preparatory meeting in Geneva for the review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action (December 12-15, 2004). The UNECE region (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) identified four thematic groups of issues critical to women in the region. They were: institutional mechanisms; women and economy; trafficking in the context of migratory processes; and, emerging issues.


There were many issues that women representing civil society organisations from Eastern and Western Europe, Central Asia, North America, Turkey and Israel were concerned with. As a result, ICT advocates had a hard time getting recognition for their issues. ICT was placed within the "emerging issues" thematic group, which dealt with many other topics, including: militarism, fundamentalism, sexual rights, HIV/AIDS, public services, biotechnology/new technologies, and the environment. Women of different backgrounds also wanted the forum to take their concerns into account as part of the emerging issues. We heard voices of youth, Romany women, indigenous women, lesbian and bisexual women, women with disabilities, older women, and widows.

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ICT group at B 10
Gender and ICT group at Beijing 10 NGO prepcom

The gender and ICT advocates formed a small group and drafted a text summarizing the most critical points in the area of gender and ICTs. The following paragraph was submitted as part of the NGO report from the Beijing 10 working session:

To ensure full participation of women of all ages and cultural backgrounds in information societies, governments must ensure all ICT programs, investments and policies, including WSIS, consistently incorporate gender indicators and benchmarking, and are accountable for evaluation. The main objectives are to provide affordable access to and education on effective and safe use of ICTs, and to empower women to generate, own, develop, use and shape ICTs, content and policies. Regulatory frameworks addressing violent and stereotypical images that exploit women must be developed with all stakeholders, particularly women, and must not enforce censorship or surveillance that limits access to information and invades privacy.

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ICT group at B 10
Long hours of drafting language can be quite demanding at the UN conferences.

As the UN documents require, this language is rather brief and does not describe the gender and ICT issues in a particularly clear way. It is not very much applealing to women’s organisations. The women’s movement as such is not yet very aware of the possibilities and challenges of ICTs. The governmental response to gender and ICT issues was not very lively either. There were few governments who mentioned the necessity to use ICTs for development and combating unempoyment. In fact, Norway was the only outspoken country in terms of ICT policy in relation to the position of women. The Norwegian minister made an appeal to the forum emphasizing the role of ICTs and WSIS for women. She said that it is necessary for women to "look at who owns and controls the channels of communication and what connects us all." Gender and ICT advocates has a long way to go in informing and educating the women’s movement about the different aspects that ICTs bring to women’s lives.

More information about UNECE Beijing 10 prepcom can be found at: http://www.unece.org/oes/gender/beijing10.htm





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