UNESCO and FEMNET launch resource book on right of African women to information
Supported by UNESCO, the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a pan-African organization working to promote women's rights and development in the continent since 1988, published a resource book Freedom of Information (FOI) & Women's Rights in Africa.
This publication is one of the outputs of the Freedom of Information and Women's Rights in Africa Project, a regional programme launched by FEMNET in partnership with UNESCO. The project aims to demonstrate the relevance of freedom of information in the promotion and protection of women's rights as promulgated in national laws, and regional and international human rights instruments.
The publication, compiled by Carlyn Hambuba and edited by Rachel Kagoiya, collects case studies from five African countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. It thus documents insights from the experiences of women's participation in the processes that have led to the formulation, enactment and implementation of laws and policies enabling citizens to enjoy freedom of information.
"The advancement of African women has been affected by lack of access to vital information that relates to their rights," states the resource book in its preface. Therefore the need for legislation that guarantees free access to relevant and timely information is crucial for African women's empowerment.
The resource book represents a key contribution not only in light of the early stage of FOI development in the region, but particularly considering the very limited participation of women organizations in regards to it. Their low prioritization of the issue often stems from a lack of awareness about the essential link between FOI and women's well-being. That is, beyond being a fundamental right in itself, FOI also crucially facilitates the exercise of other rights. As an interviewed advocate concisely stated, "the linkage between participation and the realisation of almost all other rights cannot happen without information".
Further, women organizations often lack the capacity and experience on how to use FOI legislation, as well as the knowledge about potential sources of advice on it. Moreover, not a few of them erroneously tend to see FOI as exclusively benefiting the media.
Contrary to the above interpretation, however, freedom of information stands to benefit all citizens, and it is of particular relevance for women. It fosters their participation in processes enhancing good governance and strengthens their capacity to demand government responsiveness to their needs. It represents a vital tool enabling their access to information on matters critical to them, such as that related to HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, education, food security, gender violence and income-generating activities. Furthermore, increased access to information held by government can substantially facilitate the efforts of women organizations, positively contributing to their advocacy and research work, and strengthening the legitimacy of their activities.
The resource book, which draws conclusions and recommendations from the showcased experiences, will be disseminated among women organizations as well as other key potential users, including media houses, human rights organizations, research institutions, and journalism and communication students. Expected to stimulate relevant follow-up actions, it aims to be a useful resource towards enhancing the collective participation of African women in lobbying for the enactment and effective implementation of the FOI legal and policy frameworks in their respective countries.
The resource book is available online for free download: <a href="ev.php?URL_ID=29376&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201">click here</a>.
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