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The Gender Divide in Digital Literacy: Digital Courses and E-learning

Resilience Action International Digital Inclusion Forum
Young women at RAI Digital Inclusion forum at International Women's Day

Kakuma refugee camp is situated in Northern Kenya, in the Turkana West County. The remoteness of the camp presents a challenge for both refugees and locals living in the area, particularly during rainy seasons, which hinder mobile network communications, internet access, and road transport due to poor infrastructure in areas further from Kakuma town. Nonetheless, the region has experienced gradual infrastructural improvements over the past two decades, as a result of the combined efforts of the government and foreign allies in reducing poverty and increasing social development for the inhabitants.

Amidst the national and local challenges faced by the community, refugee women and girls encounter personal battles in their pursuit of self-development. It is challenging for women to make a living when they must struggle against gender discrimination, regressive traditions, societal expectations, personal struggles, and limited resources. These obstacles are even harder to combat in a refugee camp.

To find ways in addressing the gender gap in digital platforms, Resilience Action International hosted an all-female workshop on International Women’s Day at its center, aimed at exploring ways to increase refugee women participation in e-learning and digital courses, such as ICT. A total of 18 young refugee women in Kakuma, across our English, ICT, and professional courses, attended the 1-hour workshop.

During the workshop, the young women raised interesting points based on their personal experiences as to why refugee women and girls shy away from digital courses and e-learning. These included

a lack of awareness about the digital courses available in the camp, limited diversity in digital courses offered to refugee youths at the local level, poor internet connectivity within the camp, lack of personal interest in digital courses among young women, inadequate infrastructure to support e-learning in high schools, little to no support from parents and the community, language barriers inhibiting learners with little to no English writing and oral skills from qualifying for digital courses despite their interest, and early marriages and unplanned pregnancies forcing young women to drop out of school and look for ways to support themselves.

A 2021 study on digital literacy in Kenya titled "Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective" reported that only 35% of women use advanced digital services compared to 54% of men, highlighting the significant gender gap that still exists. More efforts are needed to uplift women's participation in digital platforms.

As a youth-led organization, RAI is committed to young women digital course and e-learning participation

by increasing the level and number of young women participating in vocational and professional courses. We support young mothers through primary and high school outreach programs, provide crèche services for young mothers attending classes at the center, engage the community to advocate for women's reproductive rights, partner with like-minded organizations to foster women empowerment initiatives such as sanitary towel distribution, and encourage young men at the institutions to bring their female relatives and friends to register for course intakes.

The gender gap in digital literacy in Kakuma remains significant. However, with persistent efforts to address the gap, we are confident that no one will be left behind.

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