6.1 International policy frameworks
This section describes the most salient international agreements and conventions that address gender-equity and bear on ICT regulations, policies and services.
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
CEDAW defines discrimination against women as: “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women...of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, and civil or any other field.” ICTs are an essential element in enabling women to access their human rights and entitlements in those spheres, and so ICTs are essential to the practical implementation of CEDAW.
The Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are an agreed set of key objectives to address the world’s main development challenges; they were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. There are eight MDGs, broken down into 21 quantifiable targets, which are measurable by 60 indicators. The UN recommends that all indicators should be disaggregated by gender. But in fact, ITU as well as the other UN agencies in charge of MDG indicators face great difficulty in collecting reliable gender-disaggregated data, especially in developing countries. Besides gender mainstreaming for all MDGs, the MDG 3 is specific to women’s empowerment:
MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
ICTs provide an excellent means of opening up opportunities in education, employment, and access to information, and they have the potential to neutralize much of the discrimination traditionally faced by women. The flexibility provided by the use of ICTs in education or work enables women to balance familial and social responsibilities, and it can help overcome issues of mobility. In essence, ICTs increase women’s ability to act autonomously, and enable them to better access their rights. In particular, ICTs can help achieve MDG target 3a: “To eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education...and in all levels of education no later than 2015.” They also can play a significant role in working toward the three indicators under MDG 3, namely:
3.1: Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
3.2: Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
3.3: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament
ICTs are directly relevant to these goals in both cause and effect. That is, increasing women’s access to ICTs will help achieve these goals, and achieving the goals will also help increase women’s access to ICTs. ITU is the line UN agency in charge of ICT related indicators.
MDG 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
ICTs are directly relevant to target 8f: “In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.” ICTs will help achieve three specific indicators under MDG 8, namely:
- 8.14: Increasing the number of fixed telephone lines,
- 8.15: Increasing the number of mobile cellular subscribers, and
- 8.16: Increasing the number of Internet users.
The target date for achieving the MDGs is 2015. Improving women’s access to ICTs cuts across seven MDGs targeted at specific objectives, and appears as a goal itself within the eighth goal.
World Summit on the Information Society Targets
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is an initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Its objective is to "build the framework of an all-inclusive and equitable Information Society," and to find ways to use ICT to advance development goals, such as those contained in the Millennium Declaration.
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) are blueprints for reducing poverty in developing countries, drawn up by the national governments in collaboration with civil society and with input from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They place a great emphasis on social indicators and on building the capacity of state actors to regulate the economy. In the 29 PRSPs analyzed in 2003, 12 countries (Albania, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda and Sri Lanka) define or categorize ICTs as a strategic component for poverty reduction, and discuss it as an independent item in their PRSPs.