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AFRO-NETS> APC-Communications Africa Hafkin Prize Winner announced

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> APC-Communications Africa Hafkin Prize Winner announced
  • From: Rebecca Riccio <rriccio@usa.healthnet.org>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2001 14:49:33 -0400 (EDT)

APC-Communications Africa Hafkin Prize Winner announced

PRESS RELEASE August 1, 2001

2001 Associations for Progressive Communication (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 tech-
nologies was awarded at Wednesday evening's African Communications &
Technology (ACT) Summit gala dinner to the Bayanloco Community Learn-
ing 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 communica-
tion 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 vil-
lages 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 Commu-
nity 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 Cen-
tre," 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 commu-
nications 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, techno phobia
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

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 re-
quested 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 fi-
nanced 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 Ester-
huysen. "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 infor-
mation technology sector as it is about recognising specific initia-

ABOUT THE PRIZE APC launched the Africa Hafkin Prize to reward out-
standing 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 ini-
tiatives must demonstrate the creativity of their use of ICTs (espe-
cially the Internet) and the success of their work in terms of mobi-
lising 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 Communica-
tions (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 activ-
ists, 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 communica-
tion technology in developing countries. Our network of members and
partners spans the globe, with presence in Western, Central and East-
ern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. APC:

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, re-
gional support, policy and advocacy, training and research in the
field of ICTs.

http://www.apc.org/english/hafkin [English]
http://www.apc.org/francais/hafkin [French]
The six Hafkin Prize finalists:
The Fantsuam Foundation Website:
Photos available: mailto:khiggs@apc.org

Contacts: Anriette Esterhuysen
APC Executive Director
PO Box 31
Johannesburg 2000
South Africa
Tel: + 27 11 726-1692
Fax: + 27 11 492-1058

Maureen James APC
Hafkin Prize Coordinator
53 Parkside Drive
Ontario M6R 2Y7
Tel: +1 416 516-8138
Fax: +1 416 516-0131

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