Acknowledging the vital role of gender empowerment in any nation's holistic development, the “Forum on ICT and Gender: Optimizing Opportunities”, was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was hosted by the Government of Malaysia jointly with various partners including the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), Asian Pacific Women's Information Network Center (APWINC), Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), International Development Research Centre (IDRC),
International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In the course of the three day event, the following four plenary sessions were held.
- setting the stage for the forum.
- access to ICTs.
- 'soundbytes' depicting for 4 themes.
- presentation of summary reports and recommendations.
The objectives of the conference were to increase awareness on the gender dimension of information and communication technology to provide input to the WSIS process on important aspects of ICT with implications for women, in the areas of confidence and security, education, entrepreneurship for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and, rural and disadvantaged groups.
The participants of this forum emphasised upon the need for all stakeholders, including governments, organizations and specialized agencies of the United Nations system, international organizations, civil society organizations, private sector entities, research and educational institutions, academia, media and other stakeholders to recognize:
- the importance of ICT as a tool to promote women's empowerment, rights and dignity and full participation in the information society
- that ICT offers immense possibilities for enhancing women's participation in socio-economic and political development that will reduce poverty and improve quality of life
- the potential of ICT to overcome women's isolation gives all women a voice and improve governance with a view to achieving gender equality
The Forum urged WSIS delegates to make commitments to increase women's access to and participation at all levels of the information society, especially in decision-making processes and to address the needs of women and girls including the indigenous, persons with disabilities as well as those in least developed countries, small island and land-locked countries and economies in transition.
The Forum especially called upon government representatives to WSIS to take into consideration the following recommendations from this conference in the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action for the WSIS in December 2003 and beyond.
At the end of the proceedings, the Forum released a draft Declaration that features recommendations under the following sub-headings:
- Confidence and security in the use of ICT
- SME entrepreneurship
- Rural and disadvantaged groups
A total of 43 issues, spanning the aforesaid sub-areas were released, addressing specific sectors that involve gender issues. The Declaration can be accessed on the world wide web at the following link: