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Summit addresses technology barriers for African women

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By Priscilla Muzerengwa
Oct. 5, 2016 | ACCRA, Ghana (UMNS)

The United Methodist Church participated in the inaugural African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology, held Sept. 13-14 in Accra, Ghana. The summit drew nearly 150 digital equality advocates from across Africa and the world. Participants discussed solutions that will enable millions of African women and girls to benefit from access to technology and be able to use these skills to build a better Africa for all.

The event was a collaboration between UN Women (the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women), the Alliance for Affordable Internet, the World Wide Web Foundation, the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Center of Excellence in ICT and the African Development Bank.

The aim of the summit was to develop a set of key actions that policymakers, activists, teachers, technologists and female community leaders must take to ensure that African women and girls have access to a Web that is open, safe and empowering for them. Participants shared experiences, insights and ideas for developing a strong digital future in Africa.

Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, UN Women’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, described women as the center to Africa’s development. “Information drives technology, technology drives innovation, innovation is central to the development and growth of Africa. Therefore, putting women in technology puts women at the heart of Africa’s development,” she said.

The Rev. Neelley Hicks, director of ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) Church Initiatives for United Methodist Communications, concurred. “Some call women the ‘backbone of the church,’ and when they are equipped with knowledge and tools for communication, the life of the church and her communities are made stronger,” she said.

The African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology explored how technology policy can further the rights and interests of women in Africa. Photo by Priscilla Muzerengwa.
The African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology explored how technology policy can further the rights and interests of women in Africa. Photo by Priscilla Muzerengwa.
Mobile technology and access to the internet have transformed the world over the past 20 years. While recent years saw this progress in technology use in Africa, there are still fewer women and girls playing a role in creating this technology and pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The gender gap in mobile phone ownership varies across regions and countries. Groupe Speciale Mobile Association’s Connected Women program released a report that shows that women in low- and middle-income countries are less likely to own a mobile phone than men. Even when women own mobile phones, they use them less intensively than men.

Access to mobile phones and mobile internet can unlock a world of possibilities. Women are being left out of the digital revolution and may be ill-equipped to use technology tools at a time when the world is increasingly becoming internet-dependent.

Some of the reasons highlighted as barriers to technology for women are poverty, illiteracy and discrimination when getting training and education. Due to the high cost of mobile handsets and credit, women are less likely to own a phone than men. Women are often more price sensitive and have less disposable income to buy a phone. Cyber bullying also is more of a concern for women than men, leaving women less equipped to use technology tools.

The summit explored how technology policy can further the rights and interests of women in Africa, and how these policies can work to close the growing gender digital divide.

“The digital divide will increase gender inequity as more girls than boys do not have access to education and skills training, such as Information Technology,” said Carol Van Gorp, United Methodist Women’s executive for international ministries. “Boys are exposed to more of math and science than girls, and the cultural message around the world is that boys are better at technology than girls.”

Some of the action plans that came out of the summit are building partnerships and designing technology by and for women. There was consensus on the need to build networks that enable learning, sharing and growing. Technology and access to the internet are essential to women’s empowerment across the continent and key to overcoming these barriers. The internet has to be a safe public space for expression by African women and girls. Benefits should extend to being able to use technology to solve important community problems faced by women.

Finda Quiwa, a youth regional missionary for United Methodist Women Africa, says that despite the limited access to technology for women in Africa, technology is contributing greatly to improvements and development of women.

“Through telephone conversations, local women can now know that going to deliver their babies in health facilities reduces the rate of infant mortality,” she said.

Digital literacy promotes democracy by giving access to a vast repository of knowledge. It also provides a platform from which to speak out and make viewpoints heard. The inequality of internet access around the world is compounded by location and gender.

Technology gives women the opportunity to communicate their needs in their own ways, in real time and on a massive scale. Without access to ICT, women are at greater risk of being left behind as agents of change and leaders in a rapidly changing global society.

“Methodists around the globe, including United Methodist Women, have prioritized education as mission for over two centuries,” said Van Gorp. “Educating and training in technology is just a new curriculum that is as important as reading, writing and mathematics.”

This universal access to technology can be “game-changing” in improving the lives for people in Africa. Closing the digital gap has an effect of expanding opportunities for families, communities and nations.

“No woman or girl must be left behind in technology. This keeps us abreast with what is happening around the world and will enable us to provide a better and brighter future for our children,” said Elmira Sellu, United Methodist Women regional missionary for West and East Africa. “United Methodist Women is making every woman count in technology.”

Muzerengwa is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-547

HATFIELD ARE HARARE EAST MUMC MUSIC CHAMPS

musical2By Ranganai Dzotizei

Hosts Hatfield MUMC made territorial advantage count twice as they ensured a clean sweep of top honours at the Harare East District MUMC Music festivals held on Saturday. They will lead the Harare East Choirs to ZEAC MUMC Festivals on Saturday 8 October. ZWAC Festivals will be on 15 October at Murewa Mission.
The hosts shrugged competition from 17 more circuits including defending champions Cranborne to pip them to the coveted crown.

A devotion by Connectional Ministries Director Reverend Oscar Mukahanana set the tone for the festivals, highlighting the need for the MUMC to go and preach the Word in character and through the theme of the day – music.

Once all the pleasantries had been done, it was down to the business of the day with five tickets available to equivalent entries to the Conference festivals at Chisipite on Saturday.
Surely, the music preached the gospel, pregnant with meaning and much needed choreography and it made for great viewing for the packed crowd.

The hosts picked the 14th ballot and roared by an appreciative home crowd never disappointed.
Their own choice Mumwe Ariko Kumusoro and the set piece Jesu Mutitungamirire were delivered with finesse, too good the adjudicators resolved this was the best of the lot for 2016.
The result ignited wild celebrations from the host circuit, under the stewardship of Reverend Maxwell Chambara, ending Cranborne’s reign.

Hatfield’s triumph meant that they, along with Cranborne, have won the festivals in the last six years, Cranborne having won four times.

Joining the two choirs into the conference festivals were three surprise packets in Msasa Park, Zimre Park and DomboraMwari.

This represents a new renaissance in MUMC music as the young circuits have worked their way to outwit the established order and these results will be met with much grace as a sign of a district developing musically.
Msasa Park improved on a sixth place finish last year to finish third whilst Zimre Park consolidated on last year’s performance to book their ticket to Chisipite, laced with a second place finish in the own choice.
It is the Cindrella story of DomboraMwari that deserves absolute praise as the circuit has indeed announced their arrival into the music dormitory in 2016 with a splash.

The MUMC Choir followed up on the exploits of the RRW Choir that reached the Area music festivals and they will be one of five Harare East representatives on Saturday, making for some sensational piece of history making.
Ruwa was voted the Most Improved Choir whilst there were prizes for the Best Lead Vocalist in both own choice and set piece categories respectively with Hatfield fiery chorister Mr Muchemwa scooping the Best Lead Vocalist(Own Choice) whilst Mr Misheck Mukumire was the Best Lead Vocalist in the set piece song.
All attention now is fixed on the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference MUMC Music festivals on Saturday at Chisipite.

Disposable diapers create environmental hazard in Zimbabwe

By Taurai Emmanuel Maforo
Aug. 26, 2016 | MUREWA, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

253-waste-management-1-578x388An item meant to offer convenience to new parents has turned into an environmental headache in Zimbabwe.

As people have adopted the use of diapers as an alternative to napkins, or cloth diapers, used diapers have become an eye sore and environmental hazard in the country’s urban centers and areas nearby cities, according to Africa University professor Zanele Furusa.

“Zimbabwe is not yet ready for the use and disposal of diapers,” she said, noting the country’s lack of incinerators.

Furusa, a lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and wife of Africa University Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa, spoke to more than 20,000 women in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area at their annual Ruwadzano Rwe Wadzimai conventions, large camp meeting revivals held over two weekends earlier this month. She told them that disposal diapers are a convenience, but also a major cause of pollution in both urban and some rural areas.

“For the time being, we need to explore alternatives, such as going back to using napkins, until such a time we are able to dispose (of) them with no further damage to the environment.”

She challenged institutions to use ingenuity to come up with contextualized technologies in the area of waste management and sustainability.

“In my back yard in Mutare, I woke up to some shocking development, as neighbors were piling up these diapers behind my perimeter wall … Water was flowing to where the piling garbage was, leading downstream,” Furusa said.

The problem of uncollected refuse in most of the country’s urban centers is contributing to the accelerated degradation of the environment.

“Rural communities at the peripheries of city centers are at the receiving end due to the polluted rivers…,” she said, referring to ongoing studies.

Proposed interventions
Furusa implored the church as citizens and stewards to take full responsibility for waste management in their own back yards.

“In the Book of Genesis, God gave dominion to humanity … yet we the custodians continue unabated to defile the land God blessed us with…,” she said.

Garbage piling up at dumps is stripping away Mutare’s beauty and splendour, she said, bemoaning the status quo where people live in clean houses but are not mindful of dirty surroundings.

“Acknowledgement of the environmental crisis is the starting point towards the building blocks for a habitable planet,” Furusa said.

She called on individuals present at the conventions to share the vision for a cleaner environment.

“This presentation is in line with our desire as an organization to be at par with the sustainable development goals…,” said Greater Nhiwatiwa, president of Ruwadzano Rwe Wadzimai, “and having such presentations during our annual conventions is of great importance.”

Pastors also were called upon to work with church leadership to promote the “teach one to reach one” campaign, an advocacy program in which individuals and communities influence each other to make a difference for the environment.

“Advocacy for our communities and beyond through the ‘teach one to reach one’ initiative will be a viable tool for intervention,” Furusa said.

Sorting trash at the source, processing waste correctly and adopting the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle” also are good starting points, she said.

“We need our own communities to come up with home-grown initiatives for our God-given niches so as to make sure every community is covered.”

Africa University clean-up campaign
Through its initiatives, Africa University has managed to implement waste management on campus and beyond.

Five roadside drum refuse bins were placed along the roads that flank Africa University. In addition, staff and students participated in clean-up campaigns in collaboration with City of Mutare leadership and residents, local high schools, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Mutare, police and several environmental groups.

Fifteen additional bins were made in collaboration with Mutare Board and Doors, a local company supporting the initiative. Four were donated to United Methodist Church headquarters at the women’s annual conference and the other 11 have been planted on campus.

Maforo is a pastor and communicator in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5472.

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