Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Thank you for sharing all these interesting insights!  My name is Andrea and I work as part of the Dimitra Team at FAO:

I have read with great attention other comments and I would like to add an important perspective to this conversation which is gender and people’s empowerment in the design and implementation of development initiatives that focus on ICTs.  

The agenda 2030 focuses on “leaving no one behind”, including in the area of ICTs. Unfortunately the gender gap in ICTs is still a major concern worldwide. Constraints such as high costs, social norms and illiteracy hinder women’s chances to take full advantage of these enablers.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 64% of women, representing over 300 million, do not own a mobile phone. Even when women have access to mobile phones, their devices tend to be less sophisticated than those of men and their usage is less frequent as most of the time women tend to borrow mobile phones rather than owning them for self-use.

ICTs are great enablers for prosperity and economic growth but should not be considered as a development objective in itself. This means their usage in development initiatives should be accompanied by empowering processes of change that are inclusive and gender-responsive.  

I just wanted to make sure this gender dimension is not forgotten when addressing ICTs in rural development. And also mention another geographical context (sub-Saharan Africa) in which FAO has been promoting a gender-transformative participatory communication approach called the Dimitra Clubs. These clubs are groups of rural women and men who meet, discuss their daily challenges and identify solutions together to overcome them. Access to information and networking is facilitated by the use of solar powered radios paired with mobile phones connected into a fleet.   Thanks to these clubs, rural women and men and entire rural communities take their own development in hands by identifying their own priorities and implementing local solutions to improve their livelihoods.  

An important element of this approach, worth sharing here, is that by combining capacity development processes with the use of ICTs the Dimitra Clubs greatly contribute to people’s empowerment, women’s leadership, collective action, social cohesion and gender equality.

Today, there are over 45,000 members (two thirds being women) in the 1,530 existing Dimitra Clubs in six countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (Burundi, DR Congo, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal). It is estimated that over one million rural people benefit from the activities of the clubs.

I would like to share a link to some Dimitra videos (in French and English) showcasing the impact of this approach in different areas.