2001 APC AFRICA HAFKIN PRIZE WINNER TRAINS WOMEN IN RURAL NIGERIA TO USE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR PEACE AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA -- The first APC Africa Hafkin Communications Prize in recognition of outstanding and creative uses of information and communication technologies was awarded at Wednesday evening's African Communications & Technology (ACT) Summit gala dinner to the Bayanloco Community Learning Centre in Kaduna State, Nigeria, an initiative of the Fantsuam Foundation led by Kazanka Comfort. Ms. Comfort's work on a women-led peace initiative in the villages, where women act as detectors of potential flash-points of communal violence and as peace brokers, made her realize that fast communication among the rural women could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. She had seen email in action while abroad studying and felt it could be a solution. However, the villages she was working in were poor and rural, in many cases without electricity, let alone computer equipment. Her employer, the Fantsuam Foundation, also saw the potential impact that having an email address and access to computers in each village could make, and so did the villagers. So, the Foundation decided to support community-based, community- sustained computer centres as part of their microcredit and poverty alleviation scheme. The first Community Learning Centre (CLC) was set up through the disbursement of loans to women of the Bechechet Bayinring clan of Kpunyai village with Kazanka Comfort providing basic computer literacy classes. Users paid fees to train and use the facilities, sometimes in-kind. "The most amazing aspect about the Bayanloco Community Learning Centre," said Nancy Hafkin, "is that it managed to come into existence at all". Ms. Hafkin, for whom the APC prize was named, should know. As a key pioneer of networking and development information and communications in Africa, over the course of a twenty-three year career, she has seen even promising ICT initiatives fail. In contrast, the Bayanloco Centre had to overcome multiple obstacles, including the initial opposition of an all-male Board of Trustees, technophobia among the rural women who would be beneficiaries of the project, high levels of illiteracy, initial lack of Internet access, no phone and no regular supply of electricity. The project founder and leader was herself no "techie", but simply a woman from Nigeria who realized the potential of the technology to help rural women not only meet their basic needs but also to save lives in times of emergency and communal strife. Largely due to the determination of Ms. Comfort and the enthusiastic reception of the IT training by local communities, eight additional rural communities and two tertiary education institutions have requested partnership with the Fantsuam Foundation in order to start their own CLCs; the Bayanloco Women's Microcredit groups supervise the CLC; and two training colleges are using the facilities for their Distance Learning Programme for teachers in rural communities. There are plans to provide satellite-based email and Internet access financed by a recent grant. "Kazanka Comfort demonstrated that information technology is not an unnecessary luxury for rural women in poor countries, but rather a tool to help them meet their needs. The project was not technology driven; it was woman-driven!" said Hafkin in her award statement, read at the ACT Summit by APC's Executive Director, Anriette Esterhuysen. "The Hafkin Prize winner and the other finalists debunk some common myths about Africa and African women," added Ms. Esterhuysen. "There is a perception that Africa is the 'unconnected continent', bypassed by the so-called 'information age', and that African women are disempowered victims of social and economic equality. What is not adequately recognised is that Africans, and specifically African women are being remarkably innovative, entrepreneurial and courageous in engaging information and communications technologies, in spite of limited access to resources and infrastructure. The Hafkin Prize is as much about promoting African capacity and creativity in the information technology sector as it is about recognising specific initiatives." ABOUT THE PRIZE APC launched the Africa Hafkin Prize to reward outstanding African initiatives that successfully use information and communications technology (ICTs) for development. The theme for the Hafkin Prize in 2001 is: women-led, women-informed, women-inspired initiatives. The USD$7,500.00 Hafkin prize is open to civil society organisations, government institutions, educational organisations, community-based groups, networks, social movements or individuals anywhere in Africa. As well as being women-centred, qualifying initiatives must demonstrate the creativity of their use of ICTs (especially the Internet) and the success of their work in terms of mobilising participation and building capacity. Only initiatives that have been developed and implemented from within Africa, and by people and institutions that are based in Africa, are eligible. The Prize will be awarded again in 2002. ABOUT APC Founded 1990, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) was the first globally interconnected NGO network of groups working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment. Offering e-mail and computer conferencing services to civil society in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a huge leap into the future. There was no faster or more secure way for activists, including South African anti-apartheid groups, to get their messages out to the world and coordinate international action. APC continues to pioneer new ways for civil society to use the Internet strategically. Members and partners across the world continue to work together online, now moving into new areas monitoring ICT policies, linked to issues of freedom of information and access, in Europe, Latin America and Africa, and the role of information and communication technology in developing countries. Our network of members and partners spans the globe, with presence in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. APC: http://www.apc.org. APC's Africa Programme encourages APC's African members and partners to work locally and regionally to interpret our action areas in the region. Strengthening indigenous information sharing and independent networking capacity on the continent are key priorities. APC-Africa-Women, the regional programme of APC's Women's Networking Support Programme (APC-WNSP) gathers and works together with women and women's organisations in Africa and all over the world, focusing on African women's empowerment through information facilitation, regional support, policy and advocacy, training and research in the field of ICTs. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION APC Hafkin Prize Website: http://www.apc.org/english/hafkin [English] http://www.apc.org/francais/hafkin [French] The six Hafkin Prize finalists: http://www.apc.org/english/hafkin/haf_finalists.htm http://www.apc.org/francais/hafkin/haf_finalists.htm The Fantsuam Foundation Website: http://www.kabissa.org/fantsuam E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Contacts: Anriette Esterhuysen APC Executive Director PO Box 31 Johannesburg 2000 South Africa Tel: + 27 11 726-1692 Fax: + 27 11 492-1058 Email: email@example.com Maureen James APC Hafkin Prize Coordinator 53 Parkside Drive Toronto, Ontario M6R 2Y7 Canada Tel: +1 416 516-8138 Fax: +1 416 516-0131 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Photos available: email@example.com Response from the APC Hafkin Prize winner: Kazanka Comfort on behalf of the Bayanloco Computer Learning Centre, Nigeria Dear APC (..) I am still trying to absorb the effects of this prize you have given to us. The recognition you have accorded us through this prize suddenly makes every effort so much more worthwhile. I thank you very much. I never dreamt that what we were doing at Bayanloco would get heard even in Nigeria's capital city, and now we are getting solidarity greetings from all over the world. Your thoughtful consideration and recognition have strengthened my knees, and especially coming from fellow women. The issue of technophobia is one which has been very close to my heart and I was planning to start a new initiative which we have called 'Catch them Young' in which I will be addressing female students in secondary schools and instituting an essay competition. Winners and runners-up will be given scholarships for IT training at Bayanloco. The Hafkin Prize has come at an opportune time as part of it will be used for the scholarships and we would like to have your permission to call these the HAFKIN SCHOLARSHIP FOR WOMEN'S IT TRAINING AT BAYANLOCO. May be the graduation of the first recipients of this scholarship will be an ooportunity for the Hafkin team to also visit us? We will work towards this. The rest of the Hafkin Prize will go towards providing email access for us at Bayanloco - the prize has made a distant dream almost a reality. On behalf of the Bayanloco CLC and Fantsuam Foundation, I wish to thank you all very much for your support. Kazanka Comfort Bayanloco CLC Kafanchan NIGERIA ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director Asociacion para el Progreso de las Comunicaciones Association for Progressive Communications firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.apc.org Tel. 27 11 726 1692 Fax 27 11 726 1692 ========== HURIDOCS-Tech listserv ========== Send mail intended for the list to <email@example.com>. 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