In Mali’s Kayes region, 89%¹ of women and men have access to the internet. These are promising figures since the internet is a gateway for women to get involved in politics.
Djouldé Seck is thirty-nine years old; she is a divorced mother, a farmer and an entrepreneur. Despite her short (primary) school career, Djouldé feels comfortable with computer applications and spends much time at the Kayes internet café. She is also active in a WhatsApp group called Sugu Teliman or 'quick market', which sells products online that are usually sold on the market.
Djouldé Seck is one of many global young innovators; she is involved in civil society and politics and aims to motivate and encourage young people to do business and engage in politics.
Brainstorming within the Connected Space of Kayes 2. Djouldé Seck is in the middle. (© Ousmane Makaveli)
Why is citizen engagement so important to you?
Every day, I see things that I strongly dislike. So, I'm trying to change this. When you want things to improve, you must initiate actions that bring about change.
I deplore the high cost of living, the challenges we face in educating children, the lack of adequate health facilities, unhealthy living conditions and, above all, widespread corruption. So, I try to be an example and provide solutions, including passing on my knowledge and skills to women and girls.
Do you think that digital technology can promote women's participation in the public debate?
Today, everyone has a phone and uses it for communicating. But it has also become a tool for working and for citizen participation. Digital technology puts women on an equal footing with men. The most remarkable achievement today is that we have access to information and we can voice our opinions. That was more difficult in the past. Forty-eight women who are active in civil society organisations (CSOs) are trained by the project on digital solutions, on setting up digital citizen projects and on planning. They must now pass on this knowledge to other women in their organisations.
We learned much thanks to our internet café. I found my way to the internet café and got to know the “Gafé” and “Mon Elu” applications in July 2020. I immediately mobilised the members of my network of innovators. We set up a meeting on youth entrepreneurship at the Kayes internet café. The goal was to share our experiences with young people and encourage them to become entrepreneurs. I registered six people, including four girls, in an IT initiation course (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). I also conducted an awareness session with 60 women of a savings group. It was about sharing my experience as an entrepreneur in using digital technology. I go to the internet café at least three times per week. We even have some of our meetings at the internet café, where we get support of the facilitator.
I encourage women to go to the internet café and get training on the “Mon Elu” and “Gafé” app. With these applications they learn to express their views on issues they have with paying taxes, managing urban waste, getting involved in governance, monitoring the commitments of elected officials, etc.
Training for actors on the role of digital technology in conflict prevention and management.
(© Ousmane Makaveli)
“Gafé” is a mobile app on Android for French, Soninke, Bambara and Fula literacy. These languages are widely used in the Kayes region. The app consists of twenty standard modules (reading, writing and numeracy) and six functional literacy modules on community management, digital technology and local development, sustainable development and gender issues. More than 411 users are registered with "Gafé"; it is estimated that 30% of them are women.
Of the 274 users of the "Mon Elu" application", 56 are women who actively participate in the debates. Unfortunately, elected officials do not always respond to messages. Nevertheless, even if elected officials do not respond, they now know that they are being watched by citizens.
With digital technology, women are gradually becoming aware that they have power, that they can initiate and even be part of the change that they want to achieve in their community.
How can we encourage women to take an interest in digital technology?
My children and I regularly go to the internet café and my daughter now explains features of my own computer to me, which makes me very proud of her.
I find there should be more internet cafés and also that the programme to involve women in local governance should be continued.
Development is not possible without women and every woman who has access to digital technology is one more woman who can participate in the development of her community because she has access to information, and more broadly, to all the knowledge of the world.
1. Analytical study on digital inclusion in the region of Kayes, Grdr - Tuwindi, March 2019.