Women and IT in Lilongwe

Women and IT in Lilongwe

Alice Violet Nyamundundu (Skyway University, Malawi)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch296


The purpose of this paper was to investigate and describe why women in Malawi and Africa at large are underrepresented in IT despite the wide spread availability of IT either through cell phones, institutions and general computer hardware and software. Gender discriminates women in education and world of work. The gender issue is all rooted, promoted and strengthened in cultural beliefs. Literature reveals that for their part, African women have internalized the so called inferiority position through their culture and society. Critiques of these beliefs commonly agree that there is need for mental rewiring on gender equity roles. Women need to believe in themselves and shun the positional gender differences which are causing severe imbalances in education and workplaces across Africa. The findings led to the overarching conclusion that African culture is not really changing with the times and it pushes women on the edge. One recommendation will be arrived at, there is need to include to a larger scale gender equity and justice system in education and workplaces across Africa.
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When the word gender is mentioned it seems to refer to women only simply because women are the most affected between the two. According to Unesco 2004 gender differences are ‘manmade differences’ and can change and vary from region to region. Both men and women are born with a ‘clean slate’ on the issues of gender; it is society which construct them. Sex is a ‘biological difference’ (Mbiti 1997). The physical differences are interpreted differently and at most to the disadvantage of the other. One’s sex at birth will either give power or poverty. According to the African culture, contrary to the western culture, the fact that one is born a boy means intelligence, IT skills, fame, riches and high positions. On the contrary, being born a girl means inferiority, submission, poverty, lack of IT skills and second class position. There is need for a powerful mental rewiring for women to be emancipated from this hard shell.

Conversely women on their part have internalized the inferiority complex to the extent of enduring abuses, protecting the abusers and dying under the hands of their abusers. According to Haralambos et al (2004) socialization is ‘ the process of learning roles, norms and values appropriate to the people of that particular society’. The process enhances the inferior gender roles of women and the superior gender roles of men. If girls display the so called ‘masculine behavior’ they are discouraged. Social negative sanctions can be applied to them, sometimes as names for example ‘sissy’ for boys and ‘tomboys’ for girls (Haralambos et al2004). This mentality discourages women to embark on acquiring IT skills.

In Africa and Asia, it seems being born a girl is a ‘curse’. Female sex is traditionally perceived as inferior to male sex. In Chinese families with a feudal tradition, girls are ranked as low as pigs and dogs (China’s Ministry of culture 1984, Unesco2004). Since socialization is a strong process most girls end up lacking confidence in IT, fight for their rights or to better themselves.

In families, men become tough with their wives in marriage as tradition considers tenderness ‘unmasculine’ (Soetan 2001). Women are viewed as mothers and wives and not technical experts. Women are considered ‘stay at homes’ (Fields 2004) although sometimes educated. If men try to help their wives they are ridiculed by friends, relatives or even their parents. This African perspective has brought detrimental effects to women in Lilongwe in all areas including IT, education in general, world of work, politics and in families. All this is reflected in the Malawian society where legal marriage age of girls was only thirteen years until recently in 2015 when a bill was passed to push the legal age of majority to 18 years. The responsible authorities are now trying to review the marriage age of girls from thirteen years to eighteen years. They take Gandhi’s view that ‘men can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her”(www.google). Globally, women should be viewed as hard workers who deserve to be rewarded and women should view themselves as such too. According to Schaefer (2010) “there are no innate or biologically determined gender roles for men and women,” society constructs them hence it is the same society that can correct the anomalies to achieve gender balance in IT. Women need support to showcase their IT abilities (Sadc protocol 2013). Unless there is mental rewiring on both sexes, women will remain IT illiterate, poor, abused and in low and non profitable positions both in Lilongwe and Africa in general.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Corporate Organizations: Large organizations with a surmountable number of employees.

Gender Oppression: Denial in terms of privileges and advancement to a certain group of people.

Socialization: Upbringing instructions, norms and values from society.

Gender: Socially constructed roles.

Gender Empowerment: More consideration and support given to a particular sex.

Gender Equality: Same treatment of women and men.

Gender Sensitive: Awareness in terms of interests of both sexes.

Discrimination: Unfair treatment.

Gender Stereotype: Portrayal of women and men as occupying certain positions in society.

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