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Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis–WICCE)
is an international women organisation that exist to promote justice, equality, and mutual relationship between women and men.
It was founded in 1974 in Geneva Switzerland with the purpose of promoting the exchange of skills, information and knowledge among women so as to strengthen their capabilities, potential and visibility.
The organisation relocated to Africa in 1993, to tap the voices of African women, and link their issues and concerns to the debates and campaigns taking place at the international level.
In 2009, Isis-WICCE worked with grassroots women in fishing communities in Namayingo district after undertaking a survey on the situation of women in the district
This engagement aimed at increasing access to legal aid support to grassroots women with special focus on women living and affected with HIV and AIDS.
A group of 18 grassroots women leaders were trained as Paralegals to provide legal assistance, counselling and mediation on several cases such as family neglect, sexual violence, property grabbing, widow inheritance and child abuse among others.
The women paralegals were able to engage the law and help their fellow women use it through sensitization and legal assistance activities. One of the many successes of this group was the ability to mediate and engage the law to recover a widow’s property which had been grabbed from her 10 years ago.
Where as the paralegals were addressing violence against women and initiating action to be taken, there was still a gap on the ability for them to share & timely information on the situation of women in their community and beyond.
In responding to this, Isis-WICCE in partnership with APC and WOUGNET implemented a project on Innovative use of new ICT tools(computers, mobile telephones, internet and social media) to respond to the communication gap.
The project aimed at strengthening the capacity of women to use computers, mobile telephone applications, internet and social media to speak out and report violence as well as share information and experiences globally.
This project was the first of its kind and was an eye opener for the rural women in Namayingo district Eastern Uganda as it provided new skills and knowledge about ICT and VAW.
“ I am very excited to have touched a computer for the first time in my life. I have touched the mouse and I typed my name and my husband’s name and I was able to see them on the screen. Thank you Isis for giving me this opportunity .” said Taaka Alice
“ I am so happy to learn how to use a computer. I thought I would die before touching it. Now I can type and send an email to my son.” Aguttu Getu
The SMS feature that makes mobile phones affordable was hardly used by participants, owing largely to low literacy levels and a cultural preference for verbal communication.
. “ I have always had a mobile phone, I have been using it to call only but it is today that I have learnt that I can use it to send a short message to my people, which is even cheaper .” Egesa Rose from Sigulu
The women were able to understand how ICTs perpetuate violence against women
“ mobile phones have increased the rate of telling lies especially among the couples.Forexample you call your husband ask him where is and he will tell you that I am Bugiri and on your way to Namayingo, you will find him there and he will ask you where you were going and you will be beaten”. “ some men buy mobile phones for the wives to control them. If a man calls the wife and she does not answer the call immediately, she will be asked to explain what she was doing and she will be beaten thinking that she was with other men and not knowing that she was doing domestic chores
Paralegals were able to run an SMS campaign using Frontline SMS software.
Sent SMS to different local leaders, clan leaders and the general public condemning acts of violence against women in the community.
Specifically tackled widow inheritance and property grabbing.
The SMS campaign on Violence against women in Namayingo district has helped to awaken local leaders, clan leaders and the community at large on the issues of violence against women. The messages are sent in the local language “ People keep on asking themselves where these messages come from and are afraid that some intelligence work on violence against women is going on. There is a case of a woman whose husband cut her hands because she went to a political campaign rally without informing him. When we heard about it we sent out messages to the local leaders and the police. The case was handled.”
Paralegals were able to use ICTs to mobilise, organise and participate in the World AIDS day and International women’s day celebrations respectively in Namayingo and most of them it was their first time to participate.
They showcased their work , designed posters and banners with messages condemning violence against women.
They also used music dance and drama to convey their
Women in fishing communities face numerous economic, social and cultural challenges that prevent their access to and use of ICT.
The project demystified IT and proved that women have the capacity and potential to use ICTs despite their age, level of education, locality and language. They showed much interest in learning and were quick to grasp concepts and techniques.
Need for constant follow up in order to build confidence and maintain the momentum. Managing a rural household creates a heavy daily workload for women, leaving them with hardly any spare time to become familiar with new technologies
Need to mainstream ICT in all development undertakings in order to catalyze change. This initiative contributed to up scaling the already ongoing response by Isis-WICCE on addressing violence against women and promoting women’s rights.
By equipping the women with ICT skills, it served as a catalyst in furthering their activism and taking control of the technology.
Penetration of Mobile telephony in rural areas provides un limited potential which is not fully exploited because of ignorance