Women’sNet was launched in March 1998, as a joint initiative of South African Non-Governmental Organisation Network (SANGONeT) and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). This collaboration was born out of a desire to develop a network that would facilitate the promotion of gender equality in South Africa by using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
The launch was the result of work done in 1997, where women from NGOs, statutory bodies, and academia came together to set out their vision for Women'sNet as an organisation. Says Jennifer Radloff, who was there: "It was a powerful, interactive and valuable opportunity for women and gender activists at that time in our herstory as South Africans, as activists and as women aware of the need to harness ICTs.Women’sNet was officially launched in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Durban launch took place at the Commission for Gender Equality and South African Department of Justice Conference on the Prevention of Violence Against Women in the SADC region. In Cape Town, Women’sNet was launched in Parliament at a high profile lunch hosted by the Parliamentary Women’s Group. The Johannesburg launch took place in the SANGONeT offices and was attended by more that 40 women from NGOs and government agencies throughout Gauteng. Approximately 300 people together attended all three launches.
From 1998 until October 2002, Women’sNet operated as a project of SANGONeT, and was located within and operated as part SANGONeT. In light of restructuring plans with in SANGONeT, Women’sNet was granted approval by the SANGONeT Board to set itself up as an independent organisation. Women’sNet moved offices in November 2002, and became formally registered as a Section 21 company (a not-for profit organisation, in terms of South African company law) in January 2003.
Highlights of our work include:
1999: Creating the first online space for South African Women to reflect on and strategise in the lead up to the 1999 national elections
2000: Winning the Highway Africa Award for Innovative Use of New Media
2000: launching a project to develop audio/radio content with women's organisations. This project grew into the current (S)he-bytes project which trains producers at community radio stations to develop and broadcast quality content on gender
2002: Being part of the formation of the World Summit on the Information Society Gender Caucus
2003: Participating as core partner in the first Africa-wide Women and Electronic Networking Training (WENT), hosted by the Association for Progressive Communications' Women's Networking and Support Programme (APC-WNSP)
2004: Hosting the first African workshop on Free and Open Source Solutions (FOSS) for women's organisations in partnership with Ungana-AfriKa and the Association for Progressive Communications' Women's Networking and Support Programme (APC-WNSP)
2004: Hosting a regional workshop on ICTs in the Service of Good Governance, Democratic Practice and Development for Rural Women in Africa in partnership with Dimitra
2004: Launching Girls'Net, a programme that gets girls actively involved with technology for their own development.
2005/6 Women'sNet participated as trainers and resource persons in the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women's (UNDAW) process to build capacity and establish an African network of Gender Machineries to engage with ICT policy in their countries
2006: Innovating the Digital Story Telling Workshops to train women and girls in story telling, combining audio, images and text into a short documentary about their lives
2006: Participated in research project on stimulating the participation of women in high level ICTs in South Africa (as researchers and writers). Women'sNet's Executive Director, Natasha Primo is one of the authors of the final report.
2006: the launch of our new printed and online newsletter: "Intersections: Feminist in Action" covering the intersection of gender and ICTs
2006: Putting Feminist on The Agenda. A conference to follow up the groundbreaking Putting Women on the Agenda held in 1994. Women'sNet, joined with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, and Canadian partners for the conference
2007: For UNICEF, undertook a Rapid Assessment of Cell phone Technologies for HIV/AIDS prevention Treatment and Care in South Africa and beyond
2007: We collaborated with Agenda Feminist Media to produce a journal dedicated to ICTs titled: ICTs- Women Take a Byte
2007: Launch of GIST ("Girls Identities superior in Technology") - girls develop content including graphics. 2008 sees another issue, following a workshop against violence.
2007: We developed digital stories with Fancy Stitch - a women's livelihood project in rural KwaZulu Natal. We trained 23 women to make their own movies, in local language. The stories went on tour with Oxfam Australia and solicited support for the project.
2008: We developed digital stories in partnership with Gender DynamiX and the Gay and lesbian Memory in Action project. The stories focused on transgender people and will be used for awareness raising and to address hate crimes against people who transgress gender boundaries
2008: We trained a number of South African NGOs in citizen journalism as part of an Open Society funded project. participants produced multi-media content touching issues of importance to them.
2009: We trained 60 female members of the new Zimbabwe coalition parliament in partnership with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, to use ICTs in their work, and especially to make sure women are included in the making of the new constitution
Women'sNet is a member of the Association for Progressive Communications andthe APC Women’s Networking Support Programme