For many who live in urban areas and regularly access mobile data, the transition to COVID-19 life was a challenge but not an insurmountable one. For others, this was not the case. Many citizens, particularly women, live in areas where the network is not reliable. As a result, they do not have access to many services such as information, health and education, which are becoming increasingly available through online platforms. The digital divide refers to inequalities in access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly the Internet. As the pandemic unfolded, many countries were confronted with this reality. JVE (Jeunes Volontaires Pour L’Environnement) Côte d’Ivoire worked with women on the ground to tackle the matter head-on.
Why the digital divide?
One of the reasons for this digital divide is money. Data is expensive, and the smartphones, computers and other equipment required to make use of the internet and ICTs are pricey too. For women, who are already juggling many demands, and bearing the burden of providing for their families and securing their livelihoods – the additional cost can be too high.
In response to this reality, JVE Côte d’Ivoire implemented a COVID-19 Solidarity Project, striving to reduce this divide by supporting women who work in peri-urban and rural areas to share the issues and challenges they were facing each day using social media and other platforms. For example, JVE Côte d’Ivoire initiated a Dialogue on Women and Climate Change in times of Pandemics. Mrs Badou, a cassava processor in Lokoa village, Josiane Boyo, chairperson of REFEB in Yapokro, Matilde Boko, chairperson of a women’s association in San-Pedro, and Bangbo from Sicogi-Koumassi district were able to engage with each other for two hours using Google Meet. This exchange was facilitated by Nesmond Delaure, a journalist-activist and Larissa YAPO from JVE Côte d’Ivoire.
This experience, a first for many of these activists, was very rich and gave them great courage in these COVID-19 times. Not only did they share news and information from their different villages about the pandemic, but they also discussed the actions and projects supported by JVE in their villages. The women of San Pedro provided updated information on their struggle against the Coal Power Plant. Last year, they visited community in Bargny, Senegal for an exchange on strategies of resistance and movement building. Meanwhile, communities of Yapokro shared how they have been facing a serious drinking water crisis throughout the pandemic, with villagers who have been heavily impacted by destructive agro-industrial plantations.
ICTs can open up vast opportunities for activists in building shared strategy, confronting and exposing corporations, and sharing their actions and mobilisations for justice. As organisations that support movements, JVE is committed to support women’s full and secure access to ICTs in ways that can strengthen organising and impact.
By Nadège GAHY, JVE Côte d’Ivoire