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Tanzania: Arusha Women School of Internet Governance

My second trip to Tanzania in April 2018 was much like the first I had taken in 2017; challenging, a cultural immersion, and all about Internet Governance. The first time I had traveled to Tanzania was to go to the Embassy of Switzerland to get a visa to attend the Internet Governance Forum in Geneva. The bus trip had taken a combined three days, the anxiety for a response while I returned to Zambia without my passport had been ten days. The struggle had birthed something beautiful through Digital Grassroots, which afforded me the opportunity to visit Tanzania once more.

Mountains and road in Arusha Tanzania
Road trip in Arusha, Tanzania

This time, at least, I travelled by air via Malawi through to Dar es Salaam and then to Arusha, the crown of the Kilimanjaro. Digital Grassroots co-founder and my fellow 2017 ISOC Youth@IGF had organized the first ever Arusha Women School of Internet Governance (AruWSIG) at the Arusha Accountancy Institute (AAI) on the 27th and 28th April 2018. The event was soon after my time in Uganda for emerging African female writers, and I was very excited to be leading a session centered on Women and girls.

“The theme of my session was ‘Building Networks as Youth in Internet Governance’. Internet Governance is not about Machines. It is about people. A healthy Internet reflects a healthy society. This is why networking is important – human networks and community networks.”

My session opened with a brief introduction of youth participation in Internet Governance, giving a practical example of Digital Grassroots; a youth led initiative working with young people to address Internet related concerns in their communities.

Digital Grassroots President Esther Mwema

Thereafter, through a short exercise, participants formed groups according to their stakeholder affiliation in Internet Governance. This included; Civil Society, Government, Technical, and Academia. It was very interesting to see female participants shy away from the Government and Technical groups, and this led into an open discussion on the role of females in bridging the digital divide. We then looked at the general challenges young people face in networking and how to overcome these barriers by building knowledge, confidence, and advice on networking at events.

The 45 minute presenration was concluded with a brief overview of Building Wireless Communities. This was to encourage the young participants and show them the existing opportunities we have to create lasting solutions in our society for a healthy Internet. An open Q and A session closed the first day of AruWSIG.

Digital Grassroots in Tanzania
Founder of Digital Grassroots, presenting on Networking and Community Networks

My presentation on ‘Networking and Building Wireless Networks’ almost did not happen. After nearly refused boarding, I arrived prior midnight in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After arriving at the wrong hotel at midnight, I was graced a room anyway. I hardly slept and awoke in the wee hours of morning by the Mosque call, connecting to Arusha at 5am the next day, arriving at 9, waiting till 10, transferring to the location for an hour long drive and finally at the conference just shy past 11 – I was exhausted, jet lag, ears-blocked, starving and dehydrated. 

The sessions were mostly in Swahili and at least I could get the gist from my limited knowledge of the language. Lunch was delayed so at 3pm I had to give my session without having any respite. Given the event was for two days only, a dinner was organized, and I had no chance to rest or freshen up at any moment.

As an introvert, a moments breath can mean a lot. Even more so because during the ups and downs of my travel, I had also received notice of a scholarship rejection I had been holding hope for. I nearly broke down. The food reception delayed a lot but the company was great.

The most important thing was my presentation had gone extremely well and many reported to have learned a lot. The following day, we closed the School of Internet Governance with an ICANNwiki hackathon.

ICANNwiki Arusha Tanzania
Creating local content through ICANNwiki

First Arusha Women School of Internet Governance
Organizing team of Arusha Women's School of Internet Governance - April 27 and 28, 2018.

But it’s not truly an end until there is pizza and a surprise birthday party.

Farewell dinner and a surprise birthday party for organizer Fatima after AruWSIG

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