An author and a member of the speaker’s faculty at the second edition of the 2020 Digital Rights series hosted by ITREALMS, Morenike Adebayo, has said that digital era offers women, especially in Nigeria like other developing countries, more voices.
The second edition of Digital Rights webinar series was hosted in collaboration with DigitalSENSE Africa, Domain Name System ([DNS] Women – Nigeria) and NaijaAgroNet was on the theme: ‘Women and Rights in Digital Era.’
Adebayo, an author, activist and social entrepreneur, dwelt on sub-theme: “Nigerian Youth, Women and Rights in Digital Era” noted that in a country that has very limited representation for women in politics, the military, and law enforcement, “it is also refreshing to see the women’s rights movement find refuge in online platforms.”
She cited for instance that social media has become the traditional channel for pressuring law enforcement to bring sexual offenders and murderers to justice.
“See the recent #JusticeforUwa and #JusticeforTina movements seeking justice for Tina Ezekwe and Vera Uwalia Omozuwa, for instance,” she declared.
Morenike pointed out that technology mostly through the Internet seems to be shaking the traditional hierarchies that have subjugated Nigerian women as a whole for centuries.
“Social media has also spearheaded a large-scale societal shift in beliefs around rape and victimhood through hashtags such as #SayNoToRape,” she said, calling for more infrastructure deployment in rural communities across the country.
As said by her, the digital era has revolutionised democracy and political consciousness in Nigeria, stressing that for the first time in her history, Nigerians have an accessible platform from which to share their thoughts to the public, thus information has now become currency literally.
“For those who can afford it, N200 provides about 1 Gigabyte (GB) of data. They can use this data to log onto Twitter or Facebook and share their take on anything, in spite of the government’s attempts to silence them on digital platforms through the Hate Speech Bill and the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and other Related Offences bill,” she said.
Nigerian youths and women, she said, could call in to their favourite radio shows and let their On-Air Personalities (OAPs) know what their local governments have been up to on the ground.
“They can even communicate directly with governors, local government officials, and national offices through their official social media channels. These provisions represent huge strides in political communication and liberty in Nigeria,” she asserted.
Adebayo also noted that in several cases, Nigerian women are largely deprived of access to these benefits, particularly in Northern Nigeria, where around 60 per cent of the female population is unable to access the internet due to social and cultural barriers.
She buttressed her point, citing a recent study by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) which showed that 55 per cent of men in Northern Nigeria do not want their wives to use the internet and 61 per cent of fathers discourage their daughters from using it.
“Apparently, educated women are not immune to these barriers either,” she said, underscoring that a report from Bauchi and Kano State showed that over 60 per cent of educated women in the North do not have access to the internet.
This report found that the factors hindering Northern women from using the Internet included inadequate infrastructure, computer illiteracy, negative perceptions about the Internet as well as religious and cultural concerns, among others.
Furthermore, she said, rural communities often lack the connectivity and internet access enjoyed by their more urban counterparts.
Additionally, she quoted the World Bank estimated that about 51.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population lived in rural areas as of 2016. Thanks to the low cost and long-range of cell towers, some rural areas in Nigeria receive some cell phone coverage.
However, others are left in the dark, which means that rural individuals and households are largely left out of the national conversation on government and policy, noting that rural women and girls often face domestic barriers that limit their access to internet connectivity.
“The challenges of managing a rural household create a heavy daily workload for women and girls, leaving them with hardly any spare time to become familiar with new technologies. Even women who have access to computers at home face similar struggles, as the demands of the combined responsibilities of paid work and domestic life can make it difficult to find time to go online,” Adebayo concluded.