So many issues affect women in society regardless of where they are geographically. What is common is that regardless of where you are, you tend to hear the same issues with a slightly different dynamic in different settings.
What happens when you invite women in one room and set them up to brainstorm issues that affect them in society and have them brainstorm how they can design solutions to these issues?
Well, on 8th February 2014 – A group of women gathered at the new Women in Technology Hub (WITU-Hub) to participate in this process.
The event that was organized by Barbara Natali who has been designing and programming for the last 8 years and is currently working on her Master’s degree at the Art Center College of Design in media design.
User Centered Design is an approach that focuses on the user and the design process requires a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and foresee how users are likely to use a product, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regard to user behavior in real world tests with actual users. – This is more of the approach that Barbara used at this event beginning it off with a brainstorming and prototyping session.
A lot of the designing process we did was more about brainstorming ideas on issues concerning women in society. How are women treated in the media industry? What about the women in technology and the workplace? What about women in the economic sector? Are they allowed to own land? What issues are affecting women in governance? What about issues around women and their family expectations?
A lot of women who are passionate about issues above and more really came out and had a great brainstorming session. When you are not involved in this process, you do not realize the underlying issues affecting women.
I was for instance surprised that in the Eastern part of Uganda, It is majority of women that work – while the men sit back and wait for the women to bring the money home so they can go drink alcohol. What can be done to protect the woman’s finances in such a scenario? Why should a woman’s hard earned income be wasted on matters that do not advance the family?
Women at the workplace also face a lot of issues, from stereotypes to straight up being side-lined because of their gender. A lot of discussions also focused on what the role of a woman is in bringing these stereotypes on themselves.
Are women stepping up to say, we know we have the potential and we will do whatever it takes to claim our rightful positions? Is culture playing a major role in enforcing the stereotypes in terms of what a man should do and what a woman shouldn’t do professionally?
The brainstorm process saw a lot of great ideas on this matter resulting to one of the groups designing a solution that would change the cultural aspect of how young girls and boys are sub-consciously guided into what they can or can not do because of their gender.
The solution would include a series of animation that show the process of what an ideal world would be if there were no rules. Imagine if we had no color codes – blue for boys, pink for girls! Imagine if boys and girls would be allowed to choose their own games to play with. Imagine if decisions right from birth were left for these children to decide, how would the world look like?
That shows you how the thinking process was at the Designing event. A lot of women working on different problems came up with great ideas.
The beauty of involving women in the design process is because we know the issues we face in society and we are able to map out what solutions we believe can impact the lives of other women in a positive way.
WITU hub is providing a space where women can go and connect and be able engage in such conversations and activities that affect women in so many aspects. What is really cool about this is that, you do not have to be a technical person to be involved in the process – as long as you use technology in your business or field of work – you qualify.
The designing event was followed up with a Hacking for women event where the ideas from the brainstorming and prototyping sessions were developed further with a hope that they can be real products that can help better the lives of women in Uganda.
These are some of the events that really help engage women to share freely and continue to collaborate on issues that affect them in so many ways. What a way to start great initiatives at their brand new space – WITU Hub.
Looking forward to more great initiatives like these in the future, for women – by women.
Evelyn Namara is a Ugandan technologist and social entrepreneur who is passionate about ICTs for development and empowering women and girls. This article was originally posted on Evelyn’s blog, and is republished here with permission.