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My Experience in GRACE Women’s Worlds International conference Panel presentation July 2011 Susan Bakesha Hello. My name is Susan Bakesha . It was in July 2005 when I first got introduced to the GRACE Network. I attended the methodology and analysis workshop in Durban, South Africa. This was during the first phase of the project. I come from a social science background and I already had undergone training in gender and women’s empowerment. However, I had limited knowledge and exposure on gender and ICT. This is an area I though was reserved for scientists. I perceived ICTs to be totally a scientific subject with attendant complexities. I was also a novice on the application of feminist research methodologies. Therefore, for the first 5 days of the workshop was an eye opener to me. The process was quite different from what I was accustomed to. Although I was willing to learn, I was hesitant to let go of my prior training for fear of getting things wrong. This contradiction made me anxious. Sometimes I got worried since I thought that I was only me that did not understand the whole process. I purposed to invest more time to read the literature given to us by the team leaders, and slowly by slowly I noticed the difference and was able to complete the GRACE One journey. I was the lead author of my team’s chapter, titled, ICT as agents of change: a case of grassroots women entrepreneurs in Uganda. It is the 13th chapter in our book, African women and ICTs: investing in technology, gender and empowerment. GRACE is a virtual network, and hence much of our work and interaction is done online. This is complemented by face to face group meetings once a year. This calls for commitment and passion to one’s work in order to meet the deadlines. One of the things that has kept us intact and committed to our goal is the researchers mailing list. I call it ‘live’ conversation platform because it is where we share our experiences, challenges and advancements as well as receive support from each other. In fact, I have become attached to the mailing list since it connects me to each of the graciousness’s every time and every day. Through the list, I see the faces and connect with each one of the researchers that makes a contribution, and I often hear their voices in my mind as I read their messages. How powerful. It is one big family……. a global family. Talking about global family, I am reminded of the graciousness from the northern Africa and the Middle East. We call it the MENA group. They became part of the network during our second journey which started in 2008. They bring on board a unique perspective of women’s issues from the Arab world. My interaction with the MENA group exposed me to the ‘other’ world. Through their sharing I have become aware of the issues that women from the MENA region are grappling with and the role of ICTs in addressing them. I look forward to read their experience in our upcoming book. Back to my experience, the journey with GRACE has been full of new discoveries. Some quite challenging though. I have however learned to confront my challenges ……….at least I fail after trying but not failing


to try. In some cases, I have made significant progress that even surprised myself…. I have been able to face the fears and identity challenges that had possessed me for a long time. I have had the courage to knock on the doors of policy makers, academicians and university administrators, the media to share our work. This became eminent during the launch of our book that attracted people from diverse backgrounds. I was amazed by the response………..all the books at launch were sold and more people became interested in our work…………… In regard to my field experience, I have learned the following: Qualitative research demands a lot of patience and cross checking for clarification. Sometimes, the information given after the formal interview may not be the real truth. As a researcher I have had to create confidence of the respondent and comedown to their level in order to get to their hearts. Non-conventional research methods like using illustrations and drawings are powerful tools for gathering information that would otherwise not been given during a formal interview. I have introduced these methodologies to my respondents and found them more revealing. I have built a relationship with some of my respondents a resulting from our interaction during the research. I have been part of their experiences and shared in their initiatives towards empowerment of communities and themselves. Everyday is a learning experience. Both the researcher and the respondents are learners and through the research processes the get to discover their weaknesses as well as strengths to confront their challenges. I am still on the journey and looking forward to our next publication. I hope that the information will inform the ongoing policy process on ICTs from a gender perspective. Thank you


Susan's Panel discussion