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Report of the Expert Workshop "Global Information through Computer Networking Technology in the Follow-up to the FWCW"



      Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 - 26

I.    CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 - 95

      A.    Advocacy and mobilization through electronic 

            communications. . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 - 43

      B.    Partnering and partnerships. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 - 47

      C.    Content of WomenWatch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 - 63

      D.    Access, delivery and redissemination . . . . . . . . . .64 - 89

      E.    Next steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .90 - 95

II.   HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GENERAL DISCUSSION . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 - 129

      A.    Experience and best practices with electronic communication

            networking technology and its use as a tool for follow up to

            the Fourth World Conference on Women . . . . . . . . . 96 - 113

      B.    Improving access, training and links with other communication

            tools and networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114 - 121

      C.    Principles for Non-Governmental Organizations and United Nations 

            co-operation in the conceptualization and implementation of the 

            WomenWatch project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 - 129


I.    List of Participants

II.   WomenWatch Presentation


1.    The Expert Workshop on "Global Information through Computer Networking

Technology in the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW)"

took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on 26 - 28 June

1996.  The Expert Workshop was jointly sponsored by the Division for the

Advancement of Women (DAW), the United Nations  Development Fund for Women

(UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the

Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). 

2.    The objective of the Expert Workshop was to contribute to the

development of WomenWatch, a project aimed at facilitating global information

exchange for monitoring the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action

through the use of computer networking technology. The Expert Workshop

resulted in recommendations for the development of WomenWatch and related

electronic information networks on global women's issues.   

3.    Participants included Internet users and potential users, and producers

from developed and developing countries, including non-governmental

organizations concerned with women's advocacy.  United Nations partners in the

use of computer networking technology also participated. 

4.    In the past twenty years, the world has seen an explosion in the field

of communications. With the advances in computer communications, global access

to information continues to increase and expand, creating new opportunities

and challenges for the participation of women in mainstream activities for

women's equality and for dissemination of information about women's issues in

developed and developing countries. The Internet has more than doubled in size

in 1995 and  has done so every year since 1988, becoming the fastest growing

communications medium ever.  At the Fourth World Conference on Women in

Beijing in 1995, the importance of this new technology to promote greater

communications by women was stressed. 

5.    The experience gained as a result of the Conference revealed the power

of the Internet as a tool for use by women for mobilization, for information

exchange and empowerment. There were a total of 158,722 visits to the Internet

space at the Conference from 68 countries. The Internet activities at the NGO

Forum Beijing'95 were also a demonstration of the interest of women in the new


6.    During the course of the Expert Workshop participants held wide-ranging

discussions which revolved around the following broad themes:

      -     Experience and best practices with electronic computer networking

technology, and its use as a tool for follow-up to the Fourth World Conference

on Women and related conferences;

      -     Improving access, training and links with other communication

tools and networks;

      -     Principles for cooperation between NGOs and the United Nations in

the conceptualization and implementation of the WomenWatch project.

7.    The WomenWatch project was presented in a computer demonstration by Ms.

Oliva Acosta, DAW (see annex III).  A demonstration of a preliminary version

of UNIFEM's Web page was presented by Ms. Melanie Roth, UNIFEM, and Ms. Julia

Tavares presented a prototype of a web page for INSTRAW.

8.     The discussions provided information and insights from the perspective

of various regions, expertise and organizations represented at the workshop.

The participants shared information, technical advice and experience and

arrived at a common understanding regarding the potential for and practice of

using electronic communication for women's empowerment, including suggestions

for the WomenWatch initiative.


9.    Part I of the report contains the workshop's conclusions and

recommendations based on practical suggestions formulated by  three working

groups. Part II contains highlights of the main themes discussed.  Annex I

contains the list of participants and Annex II the WomenWatch presentation.

Opening statements

10.   The Expert Workshop was opened by Ms. Angela E.V. King, Director of the

Division for the Advancement of Women; Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, Director of UNIFEM;

and Ms. Marta Due�as-Loza, Acting Director of INSTRAW.

11.   Ms. King welcomed participants to the workshop and noted that one of the

common goals of the three partners, DAW, UNIFEM and INSTRAW, in the endeavour

was to ensure that the programme on women in the United Nations was on the

cutting edge of the new technology, and eventually to bring together other

entities of the United Nations system to provide a gateway to key information

available on global women's issues and gender.  

12.   She also noted that the Beijing Platform for Action had identified the

need for access to, training of, and network development by women, and that

the Division currently maintained a World Wide Web/gopher - based site, the

experience with which had led the Division to consider the possibilities of

joining forces with UNIFEM and INSTRAW to jointly manage an Internet space on

global women's issues.  She emphasized that the United Nations was presently

faced with a financial crisis and would therefore need to find cost-

effective approaches to the development of its communications strategies. 

13.   Ms. King pointed out that in developing its World Wide Web (WWW) site,

the Division had become increasingly aware of the importance of monitoring and

influencing the development of this tool so that it would truly serve women in

all parts of the world in a positive and equitable way, but noted the

limitations currently imposed by lack of access on the part of many who would

wish to take advantage of the Internet. She emphasized the importance of the

new networking technologies as a tool for international dialogue and

information exchange, but cautioned that their development should allow for

equal participation by women and men of all income and linguistic groups and

in all regions. 

14.   She stressed that it was not enough to merely design WomenWatch as part

of a communications strategy. It must be kept up to date; it must be

responsive to real needs, and it must be linked to other sites and off-line

networks in such a way that it was navigable and informative. It should also

offer opportunities for exchanging ideas and information and for mobilizing

support globally for the goals and objectives agreed by the international

community last year in Beijing. 

15.   Ms. King acknowledged the presence of the many knowledgeable experts on

computer networking technology, including members of the Association for

Progressive Communication, which had worked with the Division, UNDP, and the

organizers of the NGO Forum prior to and during the Beijing Conference to make

it possible for a large number of people to participate in the Beijing

Conference electronically, i.e. "without leaving home". This type of

partnership offered a model of what might be done in future.

16.   In her statement, Ms. Heyzer pointed out that in its agenda for

empowerment, the Platform for Action emphasized three important tools of

empowerment: financial resources to ensure women's and family survival ;

women's access to political systems; and women's effective channels of

communication for sharing information for and about women globally. 

The workshop was focused specifically on communications and information

sharing as tools for women's empowerment.

17.   Recognizing the speed and importance of technological changes in

information technology for the advancement of women, the Platform for Action

called on organizations to increase participation and access by women to

decision-making in and via the media and new technologies in order to

strengthen their participation in democratic processes.

18.   The challenge for workshop participants was to further the gains made in

Beijing by strengthening the linkages and facilitating opportunities for

information and mobilizing across national and regional boundaries.  Only when

positive systemic changes in women's daily lives and societies at large become

visible will work in this field have come to fruition. Women needed to

continue mobilizing, organizing and making policy to ensure women's

empowerment.  Networks and infrastructure which bring women's and

organizations of the UN system and policy makers together must be

strengthened.  New information technologies were instrumental to furthering 

these goals.  As the world embarked on the information superhighway,

communities and social relationships must continue to be put first.

19.   UNIFEM recognized the importance of using the information superhighway

as a tool to ensure women's perspective at all levels of development planning

and practice.  Information sharing and networking via the Internet were

important empowerment tools, providing a forum for all women's voices,

whatever their circumstances or aspirations and enabling them to support and

be supportive of one another.

20.   UNIFEM hoped that the result of this workshop would be a focused

strategy using the Internet as a tool for women's empowerment.  How could a UN

internet space facilitate women's efforts to mobilize, build coalitions, share

experiences and lessons learned?  How could women from the South play an

active role as producers on the Internet?  What pathways could be strengthened

and partnerships forged to increase women's access in the South?  How could

this web site ensure that the commitments made in Beijing become reality

for women everywhere?

21.   Ms. Heyzer concluded that this workshop provided unprecedented

opportunity to advance women's economic and political empowerment through the

development of information outreach and networking strategies.

22.   Ms. Due�as-Loza indicated that since 1988 INSTRAW had been involved with

communications for women.  Following a consultative meeting convened by

INSTRAW in 1988, INSTRAW had conducted a programme on "Development of

communication materials on women and development" aimed at mainstreaming women

in development issues in the media.  INSTRAW, in co-operation with other

United Nations bodies, had sought to gather information on existing new

communication technologies and to make this information available to all those

working on women in development issues.

23.   In particular at the NGO Forum, Beijing '95 in Huairou, China, INSTRAW

conducted research to examine some of the existing and potential uses of

computer networking technologies for women's organizations and institutes and

the obstacles they faced in terms of access and use of these technologies.  It

was found they had a great potential for research, training, advocacy and

development work for women's organizations and institutes.  As to their

potential for research and training, she noted that the new technology could

help avoid duplication arising from the lack of adequate dissemination of

existing research and could contribute to making the results of research more

widespread rather that limited to a few scholars.  The speed through which

ideas and information and even electronic texts could be exchanged could

enrich and facilitate research in ways never before experienced.  

24.   Obstacles such as sexual stereotypes, lack of adequate training, cost of

technology, needed to be further addressed and overcome in order to increase

the access and use of these technologies by women's organizations and

institutes working for the advancement of women.

25.   In its work programme for 1996-1997, Ms. Due�as Loza stated that INSTRAW

had a programme on "Empowering women through the use of computer mediated

communication technologies".  The main objective of this programme was to

identify the potential and obstacles of CMC's for research, training,

education, advocacy, networking and development work by women's organizations

and institutes in order to prepare, in a second phase, motivational,

user-friendly, audience-targetted manuals to promote their use.  The programme

was focused on Latin America and the Caribbean and would produce both

electronic and print manuals in English and Spanish.

26.   She pointed out that INSTRAW had also aimed to establish and maintain a

system of information, documentation and communication to respond to the need

for disseminating information world-wide on women's issues.  The joint

INSTRAW, DAW, UNIFEM project - WomenWatch would contribute to this, as it was

a significant attempt to provide a core Internet space aimed at facilitating

global information exchange for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for



27.   The Expert Workshop adopted the following conclusions and


A.  Advocacy and mobilization through electronic communications 

28.   Recognizing that global electronic communications tools were important

for advocacy and mobilization and formed part of a broader advocacy programme

to achieve the objective of women's empowerment, it was suggested that there

were three priorities for WomenWatch in order for it to serve its communities:

(a) providing vital information resources, (b) serving as an organizing tool

and (c) facilitating outreach activities.

29.   Of these three priorities for the WomenWatch proposal, it was recognized

that a primary objective is the provision of information, particularly

information provided by the United Nations through the Internet.

30.   WomenWatch, in its design and implementation, should be interactive and

provide direct feedback to users. It must be seen as a site of on-going

dialogue, partnership and feedback.

31.   It was also agreed that for the initiative to be useful, it had to be

global in scope, and not restrictive in terms of access, especially as a

result of language. Moreover, the initiative should be based on the principle

of affordable access.

Information resources for advocacy and mobilization

32.   To be a useful resource, the information the service provides should be

timely, comprehensive, and link with other existing resources.  The resource

base should be well-organized for easy access.  The information base should be

constantly evaluated and maintained.  

33.   The information resources should draw on the strengths of the UN as a

source of legitimate, credible information which is authoritative and

wide-ranging in scope.  The information resources of the United Nations system

are particularly valuable on the questions of the implementation of the

Beijing Platform for Action.

34.   More specifically, the information resource system should link to other

document resources and should include calendars of events as well as

information on the Fourth World Conference on Women and beyond.


35.   It was recommended that the WomenWatch initiative could also be a direct

means of outreach to the public and the media. It could ensure that the

momentum of Beijing continued and that women's issues remained visible. It

could provide information to both media and to other disseminators. 

Specifically, in addition to being a resource, part of WomenWatch could

aim to provide for the specific needs of the media by, for example:

      (i)   Re-engaging the media in the issues following Beijing including

quotations and stories, project descriptions, highlights of story ideas;

      (ii)  Creating a special listserv for media -- to provide timely

material, contacts and resource details;

      (iii) Presenting material in the point and counterpoint structure (best

communications practices).

Organizing tools

36.   The growing value of electronic communication as an organizing and

mobilization tool was emphasized. It was recommended to use best practices and

lessons from initiatives like E-mail campaigns, joint event/issues promotion

and information sharing on new models for organizing on-line. 

Influencing telecommunications policy 

37.   It was recommended that the WomenWatch initiative play a proactive role

in the telecommunications and information policy process within the United

Nations system and vis . vis other multilateral and regional organizations, to

ensure that gender considerations become and remain an integral part of those

discussions and decisions. This would include a voice with groups like the

World Bank, the International Telecommunications Union, European Union and the

United Nations Commission for Science and Technology.

38.   WomenWatch should also play a role in the creation of a hospitable

environment on- line for women, including software development activities and

public policy formulation around security, privacy and intellectual property


Facilitating factors

39.   It was recognized that there is a need to create and stimulate a

facilitating environment for the WomenWatch initiative. To facilitate the

advocacy and mobilization component of WomenWatch, it was recommended that

several initiatives be undertaken to ensure those functions could be

implemented, as follows:  

      (a) Research

40.   Research is essential to identify existing resources on-line and for

identifying resources which could be on-line and to define women's needs for

various forms of communications and information.

      (b) Training and technological development

41.   The training level of those involved in developing the potential of the

electronic communications must be maintained.

42.   It was recommended that there be a policy of promoting women as active

participants in implementation of the WomenWatch initiative.

43.   There was need to sensitize all partners to respond in a timely manner

to substantive on-line queries, and, for a commitment to technical support for


B.  Partnering and partnerships

44.   It was recommended that parallel and linked processes be established for

envisioning and building a beyond Beijing on-line initiative.  The major focus

should be on advocacy and mobilization.  There should be a parallel NGO

initiative conceived by an initiating group.  In order to bring both aspects

together, there should be a planning committee with limited scope and a time

limit made up of persons with multisectoral expertise to link WomenWatch with

the NGOs.

45.   Partners in the WomenWatch initiative should include: media (alternative

and mainstream), private sector, NGOS, women's organizations, United Nations,

governments, academics, libraries, redistributors, funders and new users.

46.   Active participants would vary according to how they interacted with the

WomenWatch initiative including: disseminating, receiving, retrieving,

exchanging and repackaging information, funding, dialoguing and technical


47.   The following objectives/guidelines for partnering were proposed:

      *     Facilitate advocacy;

      *     Build capacity and draw on unique strengths of partners whether to

            gather and present information, provide information, leverage

            funds, influence official

            processes, etc.;

      *     Build complementarity;

      *     Sustain momentum of Beijing by building on process that developed

            and evolved in preparation for Beijing, continue

            information-sharing and policy dialogue culminating in a global

            women's conference on line in the year 2000 to assess


      *     Strengthen women's voices within the UN system, reform process,

            policy and action;

      *     Build NGO-UN partnerships into all projects; all projects should

            have a collaborative component. 

C.  Content of WomenWatch

48.   In considering the compilation and organization of information for

WomenWatch, the following recommendations were formulated.

49.   It was recognized that the content would be complex, involving different

partnerships.  Materials should be targetted at country delegations (Member

States), media, NGOs, UN system, intergovernmental organizations, and civil

society of all age groups.

50.   Criteria for selecting information should include:

      *     Responsiveness to the target group/audience;

      *     Specific recommendations on types of information required by the

            different groups;

      *     The sort of information needed by the target groups for monitoring

            and advocacy purposes;

      *     Promotion of change and being strategic, thus furthering the goals

            of the Platform for Action;

      *     In the long term, educating the public including school children;

      *     Relevance and motivation for NGOS.

Scope of information

51.   The information provided by WomenWatch should include the following:

      *     National Action Plans, regular national reports by governments;

      *     United Nations reports (material from the United Nations,

            governments, and NGOs);

      *     Information that would help NGOs to lobby and monitor the

            implementation of the Platform for Action at the national level,

            (eg. Commission on the Status of Women agendas), including

            information on ways in which NGOs can monitor the implementation

            of the Platform for Action;

      *     Documents on gender that deal with pertinent issues (from NGOs,

            IGOs, universities, etc);

      *     Regular up-dates on country and United Nations progress. 

            Non-Governmental Liaison Service updates were also crucial;

      *     Retrospective documents (eg. Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies

            and other relevant convention and treaties);

      *     Calendar of up-coming meetings and how these related to the

            implementation of the Platform for Action, agenda and documents;  

      *     Information on follow-up to Beijing activities, including on the

            groups that were involved in follow-up;

      *     Information from women's media services;

      *     Information on information technology policy initiatives;

      *     Relevant publications, case studies and project information.

52.   The Expert Workshop recommended that sources of useful information on

the follow-up to Beijing should be identified, eg. Economic and Social Council

documents (Department of Public Information input, available in the six

official languages, in text form). Where possible advanced unedited texts

should be made available.

53.   Information should be put out in a user-friendly jargon-free form.

54.   Groups should be identified that were already involved in follow-up to

Beijing activities.

55.   Databases could be shared between projects to develop prototypes on

modelling NGO work. (eg. Habitat NGO profiles).

56.   Successful work by NGOs on implementing Beijing should be profiled and

reports should be standardized.

Information management

57.   WomenWatch should link the home pages of UNIFEM, INSTRAW and DAW. It

should include UN material, links with NGOs and eventually develop a matrix

relationship between general information from UN organizations and information

specific to women issues.

58.   Information should be extracted and repackaged for WomenWatch. (eg.

AMNESTY International and other organizations willing to do the same might

repackage their information for this site).

59.   WomenWatch could link up with national machineries on the advancement of


60.   Information should be regularly updated and old information should be

archived rather than deleted.  For example, archives would be more helpful

than `What's new' sections.

61.   WomenWatch should adopt a recommended thesaurus such as ISIS

International, the United Nations thesaurus, and it should be linked to

relevant library resources.

62.   A format was suggested for the WomenWatch page which would include news,

events, information by critical area of concern from the Beijing Platform,

information on the regional plans for action, information on DAW, UNIFEM and

INSTRAW, and information on other United Nations entities, NGOs and the media.

Information sources and linkages

63.   Links with women's media services should be established.   Multi-media

could also be used, for example proceedings of meetings should be taped and

redisseminated by radio; video tapes used; and links to post-Beijing campaigns

should be established. 

D.  Access, delivery and redissemination

64.   In discussing the problems of access, delivery and redissemination, the

following conclusions were drawn.  

65.   The active participants in this initiative should be: United Nations

agencies, governments, women's NGOs, civil society, women's media

organizations both mainstream and alternative, academics, researchers and


66.   It was noted that there were varying problems with women's access to

electronic communications worldwide.  Disparity in terms of access exists

across urban/rural, class, gender, age, ethnic lines, and North/South lines. 

In many countries obstacles existed to women's access to electronic

communications. Some of the existing obstacles were:

      *     Inadequate telephone and electricity supply;

      *     Lack of computer and other necessary technical equipment;

      *     Lack of adequate training;

      *     Insufficient staff;

      *     High cost of telephone connections and equipment;

      *     Unavailability of information in local languages.

67.   Owing to existing obstacles, and the danger that those without access to

electronic communication would be further marginalized, it was important to

consider off-line distribution strategies.  Therefore, various modes of

multi-directional communication of information needed to be established.  

Tools for simplifying on-line retrieval of information

68.   Recognizing that WomenWatch should strive to provide a comprehensive

information strategy to facilitate the monitoring and implementation of the

Platform for Action, the following components were identified as the main

tenants of the strategy:

      *     Dissemination of United Nations information resources;

      *     Information contribution from partners (NGOs, Community-Based

            Organizations's, governments etc);

      *     Dialogue.

69.   Given the diversity of access to electronic communication tools, a

multi-pronged strategy needed to be adopted to allow for maximum participation

in and access to WomenWatch.

70.   In support of a broad electronic information strategy that will really

reach a wide range of electronic users, it was proposed that the following

strategy for the distribution of information related to the Fourth World

Conference on Women be developed.

71.   In relation to the movement of documents, information should be stored

and disseminated to and from a "data warehouse".  This would allow for maximum

flexibility in translating information into appropriate formats, e.g. WWW,

conferencing, e-mail, CD Rom/diskette and fax.  Such a warehouse could be

constructed to allow each agency to control its own information resources.

      (a)  E-mail

72.   It was recommended that the e-mail message be recognized as the primary

working tool for the majority of women users of electronic communication


73.   Without going into unnecessary technical details, the e-mail message

must be able to both share and retrieve information to and from the data

warehouse in a timely, targetted and economic fashion. An electronic mail

delivery should be developed.

74.   E-mail tools could include but not be limited to mailing list

distribution systems. Mailing lists could be easily established based on

automatic coding of documents according to specific theme (e.g. the themes of

the Platform) by country, by function (e.g. monitoring of the Platform) or

other criteria.

      (b)  Conferencing

75.   It was recommended that WomenWatch store its information in electronic

conferences (e.g. un.csw.doc, un.cedaw.doc exist already and provide

immediately available locations for WomenWatch information). E-mail query

tools already exist (Almanac is one example) to allow reasonable access to UN

information if it were stored in electronic conferences. Furthermore, the

Expert Workshop recommended that the United Nations explore the use of a

more user friendly naming convention for its documentation (e.g. information

about language, subject, country etc).

      (c) World Wide Web

76.   It was recognized that the World Wide Web (WWW) was important as a tool

to raise awareness, has educative value, and potential as an extremely

powerful tool through its capacity to support hypertext links, graphic images,


77.   WomenWatch should consider the following in the concept and design of a

WWW component of a broad strategy:

      *     Interactivity;

      *     Speed of up and downloading of files;

      *     Density of graphics and sound files;

      *     Capacity for text only loading;

      *     Localized search tools;

      *     Tight, "shallow" hierarchy of menus to allow fast access to target


      *     Navigation tools to facilitate ease of movement within the

            WomenWatch WWW site;

      *     Mirroring of sites.

      (d)  CD Rom/Diskette

78.   Repackaging information into CD Rom and diskette formats allowed

"mirroring" of large information resources for women, organizations and

dissemination sites in locations with off-line access only.  Although many

networks did not have access to full Internet connectivity, it was possible to

provide localized access to information resources.

79.   Decisions about file formats would need to be addressed.

      (e)  Fax server/fax trees

80.   The Expert Workshop recognized that there was need to automate and

facilitate the dissemination of selected information from the data warehouse

via fax-on-demand, fax trees etc.

81.   Further consideration and evaluation should be given to potential use of

facsimile as a means to contribute information to the data warehouse.


82.   The Expert Workshop recommended that a range of tools that would support

the dialoguing component of the strategy be evaluated. Such tools might


      *     Electronic conferencing;

      *     Mailing lists;

      *     Interactive WWW fora;

      *     Real time chat;

      *     Other newly emerging tools.

83.   It was suggested that those tools be evaluated with the point of

departure being lack of access to electronic communications as a formidable

barrier to effective dialogue.  

84.   Some design and planning considerations included:

      *     Filenames need to be dos formatted to allow migration across

            platforms (e.g. platform.doc). This would facilitate off-line 

            browsing of html documents on a variety of computer platforms

            (e.g. PC, Macintosh);

      *     In relation to Web design criteria - the presence of links to

            remote sites presented difficulties when translating information

            to off-line browsing environments (e.g. CD Roms/ diskettes/


      *     The system required sophisticated, local search capability; a

            WomenWatch specific search tool would be needed;

      *     Work was needed to identify existing multilingual translation

            software and how to handle non-latin character sets (eg Arabic, 

            Chinese, Japanese, some Asian languages, Cyrillic, etc).  Much of

            this information existed and needed to be shared more widely with

            electronic communication users;

      *     Publication in the English language only would continue to prevent

            participation and deny access to many women; it was recognized

            that resources to allow translation of information into UN

            official languages was a priority and all possible efforts to

            mobilize resources were recommended. However, when translations of

            information already existed, it was recommended that efforts to

            "recycle" the translations back to the data warehouse for

            subsequent retrieval by others also be prioritized.

85.   The suggested model allowed for maximum flexibility and could be

implemented in a "modular" fashion. Recognizing the problem of resources and

resource allocation, this model would allow for certain tools and applications

to be developed as resources became available.  The inherent emphasis on

automation of many of the mechanisms, would contribute in the long term, to a

very powerful tool providing maximum access and potential for participation. 

Also, by building strategic partnerships, certain aspects of the model could

be implemented by partners the United Nations could identify.

Off-line alternative communication and distribution networks

86.    Off-line, human to human distribution of any WomenWatch information

should be given equal priority to the development of any on-line initiative,

and such an initiative must be designed accordingly.

87.   The Expert Workshop stressed that interactive participation should be an

integral part of the WomenWatch initiative, ensuring that women's information

and voices were not just disseminated in a one-way chain.

88.   It was strongly recommended that the WomenWatch initiative should either

provide funding, assist in securing donors, and lobby governments to support

this aspect of local communication and networking. 

89.   To better disseminate information provided by Women Watch -Women's

Electronic Networking space, the Expert Workshop recommended:

      *     NGO redissemination and repackaging of information to, for

example, illiterate populations and to populations without on-line facilities;

      *     The establishment of an information infrastructure with key

contacts in countries and or regions who would act as information

facilitators.  Such partners must be determined according to their

information-sharing capability: 

              -   Part of an existing women's network;

              -   Alternative media - radio, bulletins, street theatre;

              -   Reproducing information in more accessible format;

              -   Translating into local languages;

              -   Fax-phone-email "tree" networks.

      *     The support (finance, lobby, motivate)  of women's  use of

            electronic communications technology by:

              -   Supporting local training initiatives that are gender

                  sensitive and hands- on;

              -   Development of user friendly motivational training and

                  educational manuals in appropriate languages;

              -   Local user support for women.

      *     Initiatives should be explored to support redistribution and

            delivery of appropriate hardware to networks and organizations: 

              -   Provision of information facilitators with on-line access in

                  the UNDP offices to efficiently and at no or limited cost

                  download information for re-distribution;

              -   Provision of WomenWatch information in different formats:

                  diskette, hard copy, or CD for redistribution.

E.  Next steps

90.   The Expert Workshop concluded that there was need to undertake the

following, possibly by setting up working groups or other mechanisms: (a)

needs assessments and establishing mechanisms for evaluation and ensuring

feedback of information needs and of existing electronic resources; (b)

monitoring and catalyzing within the UN, assisting with establishing the

process, (c) monitoring governmental action in the follow up to the Platform

for Action, such as through the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination

Against Women.  Such information should be archived as official information

from Members States.

91.   It was proposed to work towards a virtual or on-line global women's

conference in the year 2000.

92.   It was recommended to designate an electronic focal point in each

partner organization.

93.   Mailing lists should be established to begin discussions and development

of proposals, begin with partners present.

94.   Criteria should be developed for partnering and mutual commitments


95.   Promotional materials about the WomenWatch initiative should be prepared

and disseminated widely. 


      A.      Experience and best practices with electronic communication

              networking technology and its use as a tool for follow up to the

              Fourth World Conference on Women

96.   During the discussion, it was generally considered that the

technological changes created by the advent and advance of computers and the

development of electronic communications had had a major impact on individuals

and societies and offered a wide range of possibilities for the future.

However, women had largely lagged behind, both as users and producers. It was

essential for women to get involved and to use computer communication

technology to their advantage. While noting the problems of access in many

parts of the world, the Internet was considered to be an important potential

channel for making women's voices heard and for disseminating and exchanging

useful information for advocacy in the follow-up to Beijing and other global


97.   Women should position themselves to use the new communication technology

to articulate their interests and promote their causes, both locally and

globally and should participate actively in defining communications policy. 

98.   Warnings were given about the need to be vigilant in ensuring that

electronic networking technologies reflected the realities and aspirations of

women as well as men.  Currently the medium was dominated by men and

interactions included, for example, hate messages, pornography and sexual

harassment messages.  Its pattern of development mirrors that of the

traditional media.  Norms and ethical guidelines would need to be

established to prevent stereotyping and pornography in on-line communications.

Women should help to shape the uses of that new form of communications to

ensure that was it gender sensitive.

99.   While recognizing current difficulties in accessing the Internet through

certain tools such as the WWW mainly in the South, its value for educating

users in the North could not be underestimated.  The experience of One-World

On-Line was cited in this regard as a "super site" that linked Commonwealth

and other countries and provided guides for students and others on issues such

as development, human rights and women's rights.  An example of a virtual

blackboard created on the WWW on International Women's Day 1995, was also

cited. A Canadian audience was invited to define the term "women".  This

experiment, along with posting a UNIFEM icon on a number of non-traditional

sites, had successfully increased awareness in Canada about UNIFEM. 

100.  Participants discussed many examples of how the new computer networking

technologies could be used as a tool for advocacy. The Internet had, for

example, been used in former Eastern Europe to petition on behalf of women

participating in Parliamentary elections. Moreover, during the Beijing

process, the Internet had been used effectively to exchange information and

prepare participants to influence the formulation of the Platform for

Action by Governments and to shape strategies of NGOs at the Forum.  That had

been the beginning of a community developed around the Beijing Conference

which included Governments, international organizations and NGOs.

101.  The reality of women using the Internet as a tool for economic

empowerment was discussed.  It was agreed that this should be explored by

women along with the potential need for corporate partnerships in developing

computer networking technology and for marketing purposes.  Women could use

the Internet to obtain information on prices, markets and trade and tap into

resources from the corporate sector, possibly through alliances with the few

women occupying power positions in the corporate world.  In that connection,

the representative of Engender, described a project based in Singapore to

construct a resource bank on-line.  It was designed to build a cyberspace

bridge between the resource-rich and the resource-poor, enabling women from

the South to organize themselves as an economic force in the global market. 

It sought to make market intelligence available to women, especially

women engaged in micro-enterprise to sell their products.  

102.  Participants stressed that the United Nations had a useful role to play

in promoting greater understanding and use of computer networks by women and

in providing information about the Fourth World Conference on Women and its

implementation through electronic means. The Expert Workshop felt that every

effort should be made to undertake this important work in close partnership

with NGOs and others in civil society.  Joint endeavours like that proposed by

the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and INSTRAW, demonstrated

the potential for partnership and efficient use of resources in

this area.

103.  The WomenWatch project was designed to maintain the visibility and

momentum of the Beijing Conference process and to assist with the achievement

of the objectives of the Fourth World Conference on Women for women's

advancement and empowerment. The project was initially designed as a joint

endeavour among three UN institutions dealing exclusively with women and

gender issues: that is, the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and

INSTRAW with a view to expanding it in future to encompass other parts of the

United Nations system.  Its primary goal was to create access to global

information resources on women's issues and stimulate discussion and

strategizing toward implementation of the Platform for Action and related

recommendations from other global conferences. 

104.  The notion of WomenWatch as simply a Web site containing information of

interest to women was questioned.  Participants emphasized that to realize the

potential value-added from the WomenWatch initiative, it was necessary to

conceive of the project in the fullest possible way as part of a broad

communications strategy, to clearly define a set of services which

WomenWatch would provide, and to identify activities that the project would

stimulate or encompass.  Concrete suggestions were made in this regard (see

Part I of this report).

105.  It was noted that experience in developing gateways to information from

various sources suggested that information should be presented with careful

co-ordination so as to avoid fragmentation and duplication.  Several

information providers were identified as important sources including

libraries; specialized agencies such as the International Labour Organization

and the World Bank; the United Nations Statistical Office (e.g. The World's

Women: Trends and Statistics); the United Nations Department of Public

Information, and United Nations documentation centres.  National women's

bureaux, donors, research organizations and civil society were also identified

as excellent information sources.

106.  Some participants had had positive experiences with the gateway approach

to the Internet which allowed users to find valuable information through

well-organized, up-to-date sites.  Others advocated a more dynamic approach

based on collaboration and research into users needs and opportunities for

information sharing.  Sharing information, however, meant more than putting

information on-line.  There needed to be a careful attempt not to generate

information overload, to select and organize information carefully so as to

enable users to find it easily, to access it quickly at least cost, and to

provide help to users. 

107.  Generally, the importance of state-of-the-art navigational tools was

stressed as well as the need for assisting academics and others to continue to

research and develop improved navigational techniques and tools.  While it was

recognized that a number of such tools already existed, it was noted that most

of them were based on national networks largely in the North.  There was

therefore need for specific tools on global women's issues encompassing

sites available worldwide.  In this connection, there was need for greater

attention to developing search engines based on keywords, as well as creating

appropriate interfaces with e-mail query to facilitate locating women's

information resources on the Internet.

108.  Based on experience, participants identified the following criteria for

judging an electronic networking service: attractive computer-user interface;

ease of use; interesting, clear presentation of information and effective

balance between content and design; a degree of interaction between users and

service managers through regular and innovative feedback mechanisms;

cost-effective distribution of information through practices such as mirroring

of information off-line and use of creative dissemination/publicity strategies

which use traditional non-electronic technologies as appropriate.

109.  Information systems should be designed with built-in mechanisms to

continuously plan, review and evaluate all aspects of operations.  Support for

the development of computer- based evaluation tools and techniques for on-line

consultation with users was important in developing computer based systems.

110.  It was noted that the medium lent itself to advisory processes, and

while experience had shown that bringing cooperating partners together

physically from time to time was essential, on-line and e-mail consultations

had also been used successfully.  In this regard, the positive experience of

the Network of East-West Women in holding on-line consultations with

partners was cited.  

111.  Participants noted experiences in meeting human and financial resource

requirements for developing and maintaining Internet spaces.  They underlined

the importance of capacity- building to digitize materials and carry out

on-line research, in addition to designing spaces and maintaining interactive

modes.  They noted that sufficient funding and staff resources were needed to

ensure that an Internet space was consistently up-to-date, and had built-in

help mechanisms and possibilities for e-mail response both through selected

listservs and more generally.  Priority needed to be attached to linking with

related sites, and to partnerships with NGOs.  Cooperation between providers

of information and projects aimed at increasing connectivity and providing

training were considered desirable.

112.  Participants also identified adequate networking capacity as a priority.

To achieve this, systems needed to be designed so that their technical

requirements are provided at satisfactory levels and with acceptable quality. 

The standards for technical requirements should be set so as to sustain a

network at present levels and at forecasted levels of growth.  Parameters

would include - transmission capacity, network management tools, server power

and storage capacity.  The United Nations as a whole should develop effective

networking capacity combined with off-line means for information retrieval.  

113.  The importance of ensuring that the concerns of women were being

addressed at policy-making levels whenever the issue of telecommunications or

information technology policy was being addressed by the United Nations, was

also emphasized.

      B.    Improving access, training and links with other communication

tools and networks

114.  An important subtheme throughout the discussions was that of the urgent

need to widen and otherwise improve access to electronic communication

networking systems particularly for women in the South.

115.  Several participants noted that while the Web was a useful way to

organize information for those who had access to it, there was still an

important interdependence between electronic networks on the one hand, and

more traditional media and informal information dissemination systems, on the

other. This was particularly true where access by women was concerned and in

those countries that were not yet able to access the Internet easily if at

all. For women, links with alternative media were essential,

including human rights media.  The example of the World Association of

Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) was described.  AMARC was an association

of alternative community radios which retrieved information from the Internet

and repackaged it for broadcast for local consumption, thus increasing

communications services for rural communities in particular.

116.  Noting the difficulties of full access by many women's groups to the

Internet, participants gave examples of successful use of locally-based

networking initiatives as an alternative to global Internet access.  These

included local networks successfully connected to the Internet through the use

of tools such as e-mail query for information retrieval.

117.  Access by women to the Internet was also inhibited by a lack of gender

sensitivity.  It was noted that the openness of the medium encouraged

anonymous communication.  Moreover, key search words and categories had been

largely developed by men and show male bias thus making it more difficult for

women to find relevant information.  In addition, browsing the Internet was

time-consuming and time was a commodity often in short supply for most women.

118.  The need for training in the use of the technology was emphasized, as

well as access to hard technical training to enable women to solve problems

that arose and not leave this to male technicians.  Experience in providing

training to women was discussed, in particular by participants from ALAI in

Ecuador, EcoNews in Kenya and GreenNet in England, as an essential component

of any communications strategy aimed at empowering women. 

119.  In order for women to use computer networking tools, they required at

minimum access to a telephone and a computer.  Participants from developing

countries identified major constraints to access as being affordability of

equipment, non-availability of required software and hardware, and inadequate

and/or unreliable telecommunications infrastructure.  The importance of

facilitating distribution of equipment to developing countries through bulk

procurement/subsidized distribution programmes was mentioned.

Projects for improving access

120.  The UNDP representative described the Sustainable Development Networking

Project (SDNP) as an example of a project which was helping to increase

connectivity in the South and in former Eastern Europe.  SDNP is currently

operational in 24 countries, and has provided access to close to 7,000

institutions.  It was suggested that collaboration between SDNP and WomenWatch

in field activities should be explored.  SDNP could offer access to its

current sites and stakeholders and one or two existing SNDP sites could be

selected for a pilot test for WomenWatch networking activities.

121.  Other projects for improving access were cited, including PROJECT SCOPE,

a North- South partnership which aims to widen access to information and

communication technologies by developing telecentres.  SCOPE was active in

South Africa and had been successful in facilitating improved public access. 

The telecentres gave priority to women and children and had contributed to

improvements in quality of life of people in the user communities.  Another

example was the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) which

specialized in helping NGOs working for social and environmental change to

connect to the Internet.  It was a consortium of networking groups that

exchange e-mail and participate in selected electronic conferences with over

50 partner networks worldwide.  The APC network provided navigational tools to

help their users access information otherwise difficult to locate on the


      C.    Principles for NGO and United Nations co-operation in the 

            conceptualization and implementation of the WomenWatch project

122.  A strong desire was expressed for close collaboration and partnership

between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in the

WomenWatch initiative as well as with Governments.  Governance of such an

important undertaking should include: fair and appropriate division of labour

among partners and NGO involvement and consultation in the process of design,

planning and implementation. 

123.  A useful example of the effectiveness of such partnerships had been

revealed in the preparations for and during the Beijing Conference.  The APC

had worked with the United Nations and the NGO Forum to broaden the

participation of NGOs from different parts of the world in the preparations

for the Fourth World Conference on Women, and at the Conference itself. 

Together with the FWCW Secretariat and UNDP, they created an Internet

connection between the site of the NGO Forum and the official site of the

Conference to cover the events as they take place, making information

available to both sites and worldwide.

124.  Participants in the workshop suggested that the United Nations should

seek advisory input from civil society through a flexible process rather than

through a rigid committee structure.  The benefits of that approach would

include ability to source expert advice on a variety of topics on short notice

as required; ability to match advisors to the specific topic rather than

nomination of a number of individuals on a standing basis; and avoidance of

the burdens which rigid regional representation criteria impose on such

committees when structured formally.  

125.  The Expert Workshop also endorsed the principle of decentralization and

suggested that regional working groups be established to take forward the

ideas and the agenda for electronic communication for women's empowerment.

126.  In discussing what kind of information WomenWatch should disseminate, it

was suggested that NGOs needed access to government information on the

follow-up to Beijing and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of

Discrimination against Women timely and user-friendly.  In situations where

the United Nations could not provide such information, it was suggested that

WomenWatch should partner with other sites where non-UN information was

posted.  In particular, WomenWatch could link to sites being developed by

women, and use those links to direct users to information which it would not 

be possible for the United Nations to post, but which was essential for women

in following up the Beijing Conference.

127.  There was strong support for the United Nations to work to overcome

traditional barriers to communication between Governments - as represented in

the United Nations, and the NGO community. It was recognized that the United

Nations might face certain constraints in providing information. The three

initial institutional partners in the WomenWatch project should nevertheless

explore all possibilities to overcome such obstacles in order to make

relevant information from various sources available taking into account in

particular the needs of women to monitor government commitments made at


128.  In order to work effectively with NGOs worldwide, WomenWatch should be a

system that combined effective use of the Internet, World Wide Web, Gopher,

e-mail, faxnet, CD Roms, diskettes, electronic mailing lists and mirror sites.

It should also be developed taking into account that electronic communication

would not replace other means of communication, but could be used as a new,

faster way of supporting pre-existing communication channels, such as radio.

129.  Reference was made to other United Nations electronic information

initiatives.  It was suggested that WomenWatch and those other initiatives

should be linked with a view to ensure cost-effective development of sites,

close interaction with NGOs, and to maximize the comparative advantage of each

as part of the overall efforts of the United Nations to provide information


                                    ANNEX I

                             LIST OF PARTICIPANTS


DAW/DPCSD                     UNIFEM                       INSTRAW

Two UN Plaza             304 E 45th Street              (Liaison Office)   

DC2, 12th Floor          6th Floor                      One UN Plaza

New York, N.Y. 10017     New York, N.Y. 10017           DC1-1106

Fax: (212) 963-3463      Fax: (212) 906-6705            New York, N.Y. 10017

e-mail: daw@un.org       e-mail: unifem@undp.org        Fax: (212) 963-2978

WWW location:


Angela E.V. KING         Noeleen HEYZER                 Martha DUE�AS-LOZA

Director                 Director                       Acting Director

e-mail: king@un.org      e-mail:noeleen.heyzer@undp.org Fax:1-809-685-2117


Kristen TIMOTHY          Maxine OLSEN                   Borjana SCHIEBER

Deputy Director          Deputy Director                Social Affairs Officer

e-mail: timothy@un.org   e-mail: maxine.olsen@undp.org e-mail:schieber@un.org


Oliva ACOSTA             Achola PALA OKEYO              Julia TAVARES-BUCHER

Information Officer      External Relations             Associate Social

                                                        Affairs Officer

e-mail: acostao@un.org   e-mail: achola.okeyo@undp.org  Fax: 1-809-6852117


Janet BEILSTEIN          Melanie ROTH

Associate Social         Information Officer

Affairs Officer          e-mail: melanie.roth@undp.org

e-mail: beilstein@un.org    

Elena FARINA             Anru LEE

Administrative           Intern


e-mail: farina@un.org         



e-mail: hutchinsonC@un.org


Reference Centre

e-mail: gumapac@un.org



Director, NGO Department

Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation

Palestine Authority

Jerusalem, Israel

Tel: (97-22) 5747-045

Fax: (97-22) 28 00 89

e-mail: alia.el-yassin@papp.undp.org


Project Coordinator, GreenNet

393 - 395 City Road

London EC1V 1NE, England

Tel: (44-171) 713-1941

Fax: (44-171) 837-5551

e-mail: karenb@gn.apc.org


Isis International

Manila Women's Information and Communication Service

P.O. Box 1837, Quezon City Main

Quezon City 1100, Philippines

Tel: (632) 96 72 97 / 411 1526

Fax: (632) 924-1065

e-mail: isis@Phil.gn.apc.org


President, Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion (ALAI)

12 de Octubre 622 y Patria, Edificio Bossano Of. 503

Casilla 17-12-877

Quito, Ecuador

Tel: (593-2) 528-716

Fax: (593-2) 505-073

e-mail: sally@alai.ecx.apc.org


Liaison Director, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

North American Regional Office

P.O. Box 29904

San Francisco, CA 94129-0904, USA

Tel: (415) 561-6100 ext. 120

Fax: (415) 561-6101

e-mail: efarwell @igc.apc.org


Director, Women's Studies

911 S. 6th Street

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA

Tel: (217) 333-2990

Fax: (217) 333-0151

e-mail: cheris@uiuc.edu


Programme Officer, African Women's Development and Communication Network


P.O. Box 54562

Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: (254-2) 741-320

Fax number: (254-2) 742 927

e-mail: femnet@elci.gn.apc.org and/or femnet@elci.sasa.unon.org


Consultant, Technology for Development

38 Clanricarde Gardens (Flat #1)

Notting Hill Gate

London W24JW, England

Tel. & Fax: (44-171) 229-1307

e-mail: gmarcelle@dial.pipex.com


Programme Associate for Science, Technology and Environment

International Women's Tribune Centre (IWTC)

777 United Nations Plaza

New York, NY 10017, USA

Tel: (1-212) 687-8633

Fax: (1-212) 661-2704

e-mail: alicemg@pipeline.com

Barbara Ann O'LEARY

Director, Virtual Sisterhood

31 Home Street

Matuche, New Jersey 08840, USA

Tel: (1-908) 548-3422

Fax: (1-908) 548-0131

e-mail: vsister@igc.apc.org

Maria Victoria POLANCO

World Association of Internet and Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Bogota, Colombia

e-mail: mavipo@mafalda.univalle.edu.co


Vice Chairperson, ZARD, ZamNet

UNZA Medical Library

Box 50110

Lusaka, Zambia

Tel: (260-1) 250 801

Fax: (260-1) 253 952 / 250 753

e-mail: medlib@unza.zm


Coordinator, Women's Networking Support Program, LaNeta

Alberto Zamora # 126

Colonia del Carmen, Coyoacan

Mexico City, Mexico

Tel: (525) 554-1980

e-mail: erika@laneta.apc.prg


Co-Director and Editor

One World On-Line

Hedgerley Wood, Red Lane

Chinnor, Oxford, OX9 4BW

London, England

Tel: (44-171) 494-481 629

Fax: (44-171) 494-481 751

e-mail: anuradha@oneworld.org

Victoria VRANA


Network of East-West Women

1601 Connecticut Ave., NW - Suite 701

Washington, D.C. 20009, USA

Tel: (1-202) 265-3585

Fax: (1-202) 265-3508

e-mail: newwdoc@igc.apc.org


Coordinator, Electronic Networking Programme

EcoNews Africa

P.O. Box 76406

Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: (254-2) 605 127

Fax: (254-2) 604 682

e-mail: econews@FORM-NET.COM

Vivienne WEE

Programme Director

Centre for Environment, Gender and Development (ENGENDER)

14c Trengganu Street

Singapore 058468

Tel: (65) 227-1439

Fax: (65) 227-7897

e-mail: engender@pacific.net.sg


Director, Information Technology

Amnesty International Secretariat

1 Easton Street

London WC1 8DJ, England

Tel: (44-171) 413-5500 / 956-1157

e-mail: pwhaley@amnesty.gn.apc.org



e-mail: sty@undp.org

United Nations Departments and Bodies

Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis

Erlinda GO

Statistical Division

e-mail: go@un.org 

Robert MAYO

Statistical Division

e-mail: mayo@un.org


Population Division

New York, U.S.A.

e-mail: susan@undp.org

Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development


Information Support Unit

e-mail: marulli@un.org


Information Support Unit

e-mail: spearing@un.org

Department of Public Information

Mahbub AHMAD

Electronic Communications Unit

e-mail: ahmad@un.org

Non-Governmental Liaison Service

Barbara ADAMS

e-mail: ngls@undp.org

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


Sustainable Development Network Programme

e-mail: raul.zambrano@undp.org

Non-Governmental Organizations

Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL)

New Brunswick, New Jersey, US


e-mail: cwgleigc.apc.org


Santiago, Chile


e-mail: asc@igc.apc.org

Flora Tristan

Lima, Peru


e-mail: sofia@flora.org.pe


e-mail: astrid@flora.org.pe


Washington, D.C., USA

Andrea CALISE     

e-mail: acalise@interaction.org


e-mail: skindervatter@interaction.org

International Women's Tribune Center

New York, USA


e-mail: wsource@igc.apc.org


e-mail: iwtc@igc.apc.org

Women's Environment and Development Organization

New York, USA


e-mail: wedo@igc.apc.org


e-mail: wedo@igc.apc.org

Other Observers

Black and White Communications/Canadian Committee for UNIFEM


Kathryn WHITE

e-mail: kwhite@ccs.carleton.ca

Earth Times Foundation

New York, USA


e-mail: syyoon@aol.com

Ford Foundation

New York, USA


e-mail: r.nichols@fordfound.org

GLUK Network, APC

Kiev, Ukraine


e-mail: anna@gluk.apc.org

Information Habitat: Where Information Lives

New York, USA


e-mail: rpollard@igc.gpc.org

OneWorld Online   

Chinwar Oxfordshire, UK


e-mail: peter@oneworld.org

Project SCOPE Inc

Boston, MA, USA


e-mail: xur@tiac.net

The African-American Institute

New York, USA


e-mail: jmartin@nywork2.undp.org

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