The Justice Gap, Innovation & Technology for Gender Equality

In line with this year’s theme for International Women’s Rights Day, the SLC recognizes the rights of women being affected by large development projects.

Despite the potential benefits of large-scale hydro projects, these projects inevitably have a considerable impact on women and their ability to support their families. In addition to challenges that are presented by patriarchy and cultural stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequality, women’s ability to obtain legal services and obtain access to justice and redress for losses they incur as a result of the projects remains a big challenge. Access to the internet, mobile phones, and stable connectivity constitute a great opportunity for women and organizations working towards supporting them to close the gender justice gap. With mobile devices and access to the internet, communities would be able to gather on-the-ground real-time data including recording the key resources in their areas and specific impact activities that would provide evidence that could support they are seeking formal justice in court.

In Lesotho, especially in the rural highlands where most communities affected by such projects are located, there is no access to electricity as a basic condition to even use a mobile device. In addition, very few people have mobile devices as the costs of these devices and data are restrictive and out of reach for many communities. This requires major and swift changes at the government policy level; in the first instance, Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) and Lesotho-Botswana Water Transfer Scheme (L-BWT) and other such projects in the country should provide communities with electricity. Connectivity is also a major issue within these areas even for those people that do have access to the internet. Action must be taken to ensure connectivity and improved network access. This will require partnerships and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, but it is also mostly an issue of political will.