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.
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
I. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
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
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
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:
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
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
* 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
* 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
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.
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);
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.
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
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:
* 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
- 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
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.
II. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GENERAL DISCUSSION
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
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
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
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: email@example.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (212) 963-2978
Angela E.V. KING Noeleen HEYZER Martha DUE�AS-LOZA
Director Director Acting Director
e-mail: email@example.com e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Fax:1-809-685-2117
Kristen TIMOTHY Maxine OLSEN Borjana SCHIEBER
Deputy Director Deputy Director Social Affairs Officer
e-mail: email@example.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail:email@example.com
Oliva ACOSTA Achola PALA OKEYO Julia TAVARES-BUCHER
Information Officer External Relations Associate Social
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail: email@example.com Fax: 1-809-6852117
Janet BEILSTEIN Melanie ROTH
Associate Social Information Officer
Affairs Officer e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena FARINA Anru LEE
Director, NGO Department
Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation
Tel: (97-22) 5747-045
Fax: (97-22) 28 00 89
Project Coordinator, GreenNet
393 - 395 City Road
London EC1V 1NE, England
Tel: (44-171) 713-1941
Fax: (44-171) 837-5551
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
President, Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion (ALAI)
12 de Octubre 622 y Patria, Edificio Bossano Of. 503
Tel: (593-2) 528-716
Fax: (593-2) 505-073
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
Programme Officer, African Women's Development and Communication Network
P.O. Box 54562
Tel: (254-2) 741-320
Fax number: (254-2) 742 927
e-mail: email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
Consultant, Technology for Development
38 Clanricarde Gardens (Flat #1)
Notting Hill Gate
London W24JW, England
Tel. & Fax: (44-171) 229-1307
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
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
Maria Victoria POLANCO
World Association of Internet and Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
Vice Chairperson, ZARD, ZamNet
UNZA Medical Library
Tel: (260-1) 250 801
Fax: (260-1) 253 952 / 250 753
Coordinator, Women's Networking Support Program, LaNeta
Alberto Zamora # 126
Colonia del Carmen, Coyoacan
Mexico City, Mexico
Tel: (525) 554-1980
Co-Director and Editor
One World On-Line
Hedgerley Wood, Red Lane
Chinnor, Oxford, OX9 4BW
Tel: (44-171) 494-481 629
Fax: (44-171) 494-481 751
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
Coordinator, Electronic Networking Programme
P.O. Box 76406
Tel: (254-2) 605 127
Fax: (254-2) 604 682
Centre for Environment, Gender and Development (ENGENDER)
14c Trengganu Street
Tel: (65) 227-1439
Fax: (65) 227-7897
Director, Information Technology
Amnesty International Secretariat
1 Easton Street
London WC1 8DJ, England
Tel: (44-171) 413-5500 / 956-1157
Stela Maris NEGRO LUCERO
United Nations Departments and Bodies
Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis
New York, U.S.A.
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
Information Support Unit
Information Support Unit
Department of Public Information
Electronic Communications Unit
Non-Governmental Liaison Service
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Sustainable Development Network Programme
Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL)
New Brunswick, New Jersey, US
Adriana SANTA CRUZ
Astrid BANT HAVER
Washington, D.C., USA
International Women's Tribune Center
New York, USA
Women's Environment and Development Organization
New York, USA
Black and White Communications/Canadian Committee for UNIFEM
Earth Times Foundation
New York, USA
New York, USA
GLUK Network, APC
Information Habitat: Where Information Lives
New York, USA
Chinwar Oxfordshire, UK
Project SCOPE Inc
Boston, MA, USA
The African-American Institute
New York, USA