Recently I visited my rural home to exercise my civic duty as a Kenyan woman which was to register as a voter in the coming Elections in my country Kenya later this year. I got wind of the voter registration exercise online through friends sharing on twitter and Facebook. Zero or Limited internet access may not be a daily occurrence for some of us who live in semi-urban or urban areas but it is a thorn in the flesh for many youth and women in rural Kenya who are forced to travel for kilometers just to use the cyber café which is very expensive and with unreliable bandwidth connection. I shared their plight during this visit.
I came to face to face with the harsh reality of limited internet access. In my rural home there is only one cyber café which is 20 kilometers from my home. Then came this important call and email that I was to apply for Commission on Status of Women 2017 Youth Forum and the deadline was the very day precisely a few hours short. I quickly called for a motorbike and in tow with my son went to the cyber. I used the cyber for only an hour. The cyber cafe operator claimed that the site I was using used a lot of airtime and it was getting expensive for him, he even disconnected me. I had to plead with him to allow me finish my application as it meant so much to me and the group of youth I was applying for, he did allow me and gave an exorbitant figure as payment. I realized that while in other areas I enjoy cheap internet access in which is less than 60 Kenyan shillings less than (1USD)per hour yet this particular day I was being charged 700 Kenyan shillings (7USD) for an hour!
Being a frequent user of the internet, I questioned his pricing, he got really furious and abusive and I had to call a friend to talk to him. I felt cheated and disrespected. This got me thinking of the daily struggle women go through in the village to make ends meet and how they are losing out on huge opportunities just because they can’t afford and access the internet. African women have issues that need urgent action the issues range from gender disparity, poverty, HIV/AIDS , low representation ,malnutrition, gender based violence against women and girls among others .In as much as this has changed over the years there’s still more to be done when it comes to advancing the women rights. I am of great happiness that this can be done through the internet where organizations are advocating and raising this awareness but we should remember to use other means of raising awareness for grassroots women who have very minimal access to the digital world.
In a world where all information and communication goes through the internet, including selling and buying, sharing of stories and action is taken by activists. Can you imagine how many women are losing opportunities and their potential lies dormant and inactivated? Can you imagine how many women and youth are leaving in poverty and ignorance for lack of access to information? The good news is that in Kenya, we have Huduma Centers which have eased this problem for smaller towns but not the rural areas where access is still not possible. In our Empowerment Training women are encouraged to explore on the opportunities abound online including joining World Pulse, Empower Women and other helpful social media sites.
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