IGF 2021 DC-Gender Tangled like Wool: Gender, Social & Digital Inequalities

Friday, 10th December, 2021 (12:50 UTC) - Friday, 10th December, 2021 (14:20 UTC)
Hall A3

Dynamic Coalition on Gender and Internet Governance

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min


Social inequality and the pandemic: What can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic context about the relationship between digital inequality and social and economic inequality? Similarly, what lessons can be drawn with respect to the pandemic and Internet-related human rights? What does this suggest about policy approaches for digitalisation and digital inclusion?
Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?


This session of the Dynamic Coalition on Gender and Internet Governance is strongly intertwined with a question that is integral to IGF 2021: How can we understand and address the links between digital inequality and social and economic inequality in the context of the Covid pandemic to strengthen gender-equal, rights-affirming digital policies and internet governance? The session will explore these social inequalities through the lens and lived experiences of gender, surfacing gender inequality as a key driver that results in digital inequality and vice versa. According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020, 54 per cent of women in low- and middle-income countries now use mobile internet and the gender gap is narrowing. Despite this progress, the gender gap in mobile internet use in low- and middle-income countries remains substantial, with over 300 million fewer women than men accessing the internet on a mobile. Without access to the mobile Internet, women, trans and non-binary persons, specially in low-income communities and contexts, faced multiple access threats: of not having access to food, healthcare, state subsidies, education, critical information, employment, counselling, helplines and freedom from violence. There are stark gender inequalities around access, ownership of digital devices, digital fluency as well as the capacity to make meaningful use of the access to technology. Even though affordability is a key source of exclusion, there are also significant socio-cultural norms that restrict access and use for women and other marginalised genders. Through country-specific examples, civil society speakers from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America will delve into multiple aspects of this issue: from privacy and increased surveillance due to contact tracing apps, online education and gender, how digital tools mainstreamed gender, and the ongoing shadow pandemic of online violence.

1) How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for the online and on-site participants? The session will be organized as a roundtable discussion with all speakers being given a certain amount of time to share their experiences with their communities. This will make sure that all speakers get their due time to speak and since the entire conversation will be online, we will make sure that we will inform the order of speakers to all the speakers beforehand.

2) If the speakers and organizers will all be online, how will you ensure interactions between them and the participants (including with on-site participants)? At the end of the roundtable and plenary discussions, we will have opportunities for the audience to share their discussion points. We will also share a common Google doc where people can add questions anonymously . In addition, we will have polls and interactive elements to share with the online participants.

3) Are you planning to use complementary tools/platforms to increase participation and interaction during the session?

Yes we will use tools like polls, Google docs to increase participation and interaction during the session.


Bishakha Datta, Point of View, Civil Society, India (Asia-Pacific)

Debarati Das, Point of View, Civil Society, India (Asia-Pacific)


Name: Mona Shtaya Organizational Affiliation: 7amleh - Arab Center for Social Media Development Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Palestine (Asia-Pacific)

Name: Avis Momeni Organizational Affiliation: Protege QV Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Cameroon (Central Africa)

Name: Caleb Olumuyiwa Ogundele Organizational Affiliation: Internet Society, Nigeria Chapter Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Nigeria (West Africa)

Name: Florencia Roveri Organizational Affiliation: Nodo TAU Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Argentina (Latin America and the Caribbean)

Name: Mallory Knodel Organizational Affiliation: Independent Technical Expert Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: USA (North America)

Name: Poncelet O. Ileleji Organizational Affiliation: Jokkolabs Banjul Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: The Gambia (West Africa)

Name: Sadaf Khan Organizational Affiliation: Media Matters for Democracy Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Pakistan (Asia-Pacific)

Name: Velina Barova Organizational Affiliation: BlueLink Stakeholder Group: Civil Society Regional Group: Bulgaria (Eastern Europe)

Onsite Moderator

Bishakha Datta

Online Moderator

Shohini Banerjee


Riddhi Mehta


5. Gender Equality

Targets: With multifold issues around access to the internet for women and other marginalized genders, we think that it is essential to discuss meaningful access to the internet. Our session will address the issue of technology and using information technology for the benefit of women and girls especially for marginalized backgrounds. Our session will also touch on more intersecting issues related to internet and gender rights such as issues of from privacy, surveillance and online violence.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The gender gap has become stark, the pandemic has resulted in further exclusion of women from access to digital tools and platforms. Due to patriarchal social forces, they have been pushed further back, For instance girls who could earlier access technology through educational institutions lost access to those. In households with single mobile devices, women’s access to technology is not a priority hence they can’t acquire information about healt

During the pandemic, governments have been pushing for normalizing excessive surveillance. Under the pretext of health and safety ,more and more data is being collected in places where consent is not considered. This poses severe safety and privacy issues for women.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

How content is generated, how it is circulated needs to be addressed. It needs to be created in local languages and needs to be meaningful to those it caters to. Most mainstream content that is circulated is in written English format, this excludes people who can't read or do not understand english. This also creates an accessibility issue with language as well as ability to read. Use of local languages in voice format can help to tackle this .

Grassroot driven programs need to be created which rely on a community based approach. Raising awareness and involving stakeholders should precede policy solutions and implementation. Local women's groups have a strong presence in most regions of most countries and supporting them through structure can ensure that policies are implemented efficiently.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Sadaf Khan reflected on how during the pandemic, the digital gender divide expanded due to patriarchal societal structure: In households having single devices, male members are in control. The pandemic further cut off women from digital access, where they could access it in places such as educational institutions. In the pretext of safety, women were not allowed to access public resources such as wifi while men were allowed to access them. In such a context, we need to rethink how GBV is defined, advocate for an environment that is not inherently hostile to women or inflicts violence on women.

Mona Shtaya deliberated on how hate speech and harassment have increased in intensity in online institutes- women are withdrawing from online institutes and leaving the internet. Moreover, issues around stereotypical portrayal of women damage the cause and advocacy of women’s rights. The governments are using and normalizing surveillance to oppress women: for example, in Arab spring, officials took private photos of women from their phones and in Jerusalem, women feel surveilled within their homes due to the CCTV cameras everywhere. There's a need for collaborations between local women’s organizations and social media platforms to combat GBV, it has worked in the past when private photos of women were shared. Platforms consult women’s groups to understand the local context to derive solutions to GBV on a case-by-case basis till policy solutions are found. Policy solutions without raising awareness campaigns for people to understand GBV and surveillance; will not be efficient. People need to know and understand the issues. The movement needs to be grassroots-driven.

Mallory Knodel spoke about the privacy enhancement and assessments research group: Insight required into spouseware (Apps that track movement of your partners) -There is a need to understand where the vulnerabilities are being exploited. A better understanding of secure protocols; Eg internet routers are trusted to be secure but can actually be used to exploit by those who have the technical knowhow. Double exclusion in a digitized world: people are excluded by not having access to the internet, as well as not having the option of access to resources physically. Eg driver’s license. Poeple are entitled to the right to be disconnected, a world that is enhanced by connectivity but not replaced by it. For accessibility of daily life to be available to everyone, not having to be “online” to access them. There is a cost to the digitization of government services: It creates a huge gap that civil society has to step in to fill in. Community organizations have to devise mechanics that cost time and resources. The platforms and services need to take more responsibility. Community-based spaces serve an important function of supporting women. They are not informal structures and need to be considered more seriously. If the internet is designed to be safer for those who are most vulnerable then it’s secure for everyone.

Poncelet O. Ileleji spoke from the perspective of living in a developing country (Gambia) in terms of what has been done to get women more included in programs: 55% of voters are women but two factors that get overlooked are: the cost of data is affordable only for certain people, so women were excluded from not being aware due to this; they had to rely on the male members to form their opinions. Women were excluded from accessing information that was relevant for health or children. There is a need for developing countries to have community networks that will support women. Women have very strong collective groups but they were not utilized to create awareness in local communities. Women not being able to access data on health, their children etc have been affected by the cost of the internet; reducing the cost of internet can resolve this. It is important to have a community networks that supports women.

Avis Momeni spoke about the inaccessibility of information about COVID in rural areas, not having access to the internet. Severe issues of misinformation regarding sanitization, hygiene, High cost also prevent certain populations from accessing the internet and digital devices and spaces.

On strategies and tools that have been helpful in being rights affirmative, and which have not been

  • Avis Momeni:
    i. Govt conducted several consultations to provide information from the ministry of health, to prevent the spread of misinformation
    ii. Telecom sector reduced cost of internet to make it easier for people to communicate
    iii. Some actors developed websites to provide collated information to make it easier for people to find it.
    iv. Civil society needs to advocate for national geographic coverage of telecom infrastructure.
    v. There should be revised law on freedom of assembly and association taking in a non-digital aspect
    Implementation of African declaration on gender rights and freedoms and national level in African countries 
    v. Implementation of the digital bill as the use of ICT to enable sustainable development goal
  • Sadaf Khan
    i. Bringing agency to women collectives needs to be strategized on priority. Agency on how speech on the internet is governed along with the (policy)process through which the governance is done such as affordability.
    ii. Treating the internet as a utility instead of a luxury, making it accessible for all, gender-neutral.
    iii. There is a need to have feminist influence in corporate governance. As well as a need to demand more accountability for corporations and platforms on how they behave since they hold private data, It will also affect how GBV is dealt with. 
    iv. Regarding local content in terms of ability to use, meaningfulness and format (text, audio) determine accessibility and inclusivity. How content is generated, how it is passed on in the media. It’s all in English text, this hampers the success of women's collective. There’s a drawback of using easy methods- English, catchy flashy content to get attention but it makes it inaccessible. This is a complicated issue to resolve due to intersectionalities Eg- certain intersectionalities are criminalized (LGBTQ).
  • Poncelet O. Ileleji:
    Local content perspective: one rule does not apply to all in terms of digital inclusion. Programs need to be grassroots-oriented, as more women and girls interact with the digital world. But the content that is available online is not catering to local audiences  (rural) Lang- French, Portuguese, etc It excludes women from rural areas.