SADC PF wants Model Law on Digital Economy SADC PF Secretary General Ms Boemo Sekgoma speaks at the PAP meeting in the United States of America recently. Photo: Contributed

Moses Magadza

THE SADC Parliamentary Forum is proposing to develop a Model Law on the Digital Economy to pave the way for the upscaling of digital practices and increase women’s participation in the sector at national level.

Some of the delegates at the PAP meeting in the United States of America recently. Photo: Contributed

SADC-PF Secretary General Ms Boemo Sekgoma revealed this when she addressed a Pan-African Parliament meeting on margins of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, at the AU office in New York, United States of America on 14 March, 2023.

The meeting was held under the theme: The role of African Women Legislators to bridge the gap between the policy framework and the realities of African women in Innovation and technological change, and digital education for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

“This is perhaps an opportune occasion for the Forum to invite partners to collaborate on this new endeavour and share ideas on how to accelerate the transition of Africa to an acceptance of digital norms that facilitate businesses, reduce transaction length and heighten economic growth,” Sekgoma said.

She explained that the aim is to provide expert information on this critical topic with a broad range of recommendations for all actors, and to ensure that women and girls – irrespective of their age, race, geographic location, country of origin or economic background – have an equal opportunity to safely and meaningfully access, use and design technology.

Sekgoma said it is, therefore, imperative that PAP engages stakeholders towards the advancement of women on the continent.

Sekgoma highlighted that the SADC PF is the main inter-parliamentary entity of southern Africa which complements efforts of the PAP to pursue democratisation across the continent.

“I would like to applaud the PAP for holding this side session which speaks to the dire need of bridging the gap between policy and reality with regards to African women partaking in innovation, technological change and digital education,” she said.

Sekgoma said SADC-PF is supportive of Africa Agenda 2063, and has also identified the need for men and women to equally take part in opportunities provided by the digital era.

“In line with the objectives of Africa Agenda 2063, there is a need to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life, including the digital sphere,” she reasoned.

She added that the regional goal under the auspices of the Africa Agenda 2063 is to engage and empower youth and children to promote access to digital education.

She said in the wake of COVID-19, the SADC PF and other organisations switched to online meetings and the inequalities in accessing digital platforms among women quickly came to the fore, especially for citizens who were called to attend online sessions such as public hearings or to give live testimonies.

If COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for organisations to move their operational activities online where appropriate, there is need to ensure the preparedness of women for the process and guarantee sustainability for access to the digital space, Sekgoma said, adding that in Sub-Saharan Africa, digital platforms have become a gateway to the world.

Citing the Broadband Commissions’ report on Gender equality, she said 259 million more men than women were using the internet in 2022. The report also highlighted that progress to bridge the digital gender gap in Africa has been insignificant in the last few years.

“The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022 further states that 192 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to mobile internet.  While the policy is to nurture a society free from discrimination, it is still clear that there are huge obstacles preventing women from easily accessing digital facilities,” she said.

Sekgoma said while probing robots are being launched to planet Mars through the use of Information and Communication Technologies, there are regions in Africa which still do not have electricity, let alone internet access.

She said while people talk of the digital age and innovation for women and young girls, they must also realise that some regions need more infrastructural support to engineer their way towards cyber facilities.

According to Sekgoma, parliaments are thus expected to examine and respond to access to the digital space in a holistic manner with the realisation that different regions are at different developmental levels and while ensuring an optimum inclusiveness for people of all age groups, gender and cultural backgrounds.

“The time to act is now, and it is important for all legislators in Africa, and in particular women legislators, to push for the reinforcement of legal and policy frameworks to empower both men and women through ITC to ensure women are not left behind in the digital revolution.”

To achieve this reinforcement, Sekgoma said people must be inspired by regional agendas and guiding legislative benchmarks which provide for legal provisions to be enacted to achieve gender parity in the digital space.

In this regard, she held up the SADC Model Law on Gender-Based Violence, which was recently developed by the Forum, saying it provides some important benchmarks to be adopted through legislation.

Firstly, the model Law is predicated on equality of access to resources by both men and women under the human rights principle of equal treatment before the law.

Secondly, it extends the definition of gender-based violence to include behaviours that target women and young girls which can occur in the digital space, such as the cyberbullying, cyberstalking and phishing of information etc.

The model law prohibits such behaviours and calls on member states to amend domestic legislation to protect women and girls accordingly. Furthermore, prosecution for such offences will also be afforded as with other GBV offences under the model law, including handling confidential data of victims, training of enforcement personnel, ensuring privacy of complaints.

The SG told her audience there were thus immense gains to be made in closing the digital gender divide with the progressive implementation of the SADC Model Law on GBV.

She urged parliamentarians within or outside the SADC region, to take cognisance of the provisions of the model law in view of closing the digital gender gap in their respective countries.


You Might Also Like