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A majority of internet users are oblivious to the risk of giving out personal information on the internet. There is a current buzz about Face App, a catchy meme creator dominating social platforms that applies artificial intelligence based filters to change the appearance of uploaded images.

The App shows users how they will look when they age and because it is fun, users do not question what they are getting themselves into.Tech experts say by clicking ‘allow’ on all permissions the app asks for, they do not realise that the app can access photos, send notifications and activate their cameras. And without knowing, users end up giving the App full access to personal images of not just themselves but of their loved ones. This is just but one of the many that are available on the world of internet.

Alice Munyua, Mozilla Policy Advisor in Africa says it is important not to share vital personal data on the internet. This usually happens when one opens an account on applications including facebook and whatssup. Munyua worries that once given out, such platforms or applications can use the data in whatever form they want. “Such apps will ask you questions like; are you married, your religion, age and others, and most people answer everything without realising that they are voluntarily giving away their personal data.

“People also don’t realise that data is an extremely valuable thing right now,” Munyua told The Midweek Sun Monday on the sidelines of the 7th Africa DNS Forum held in Gaborone.
The forum is held under the theme; ‘Building Trust in the African DNS industry for a Thriving Digital Economy.’ She added that data is kept for the longest time and the longer it’s kept the more valuable it becomes, and illustrates that if one goes to their medical doctor, for example, they may divulge personal medical information needed by the doctor for a correct diagnosis.

However, thereafter they may never know where the data is kept and how it would be used in the future. She said that it may then be used for medical research, for example, that patients have not consented to.

“In the event that you have a terminal disease, you might realise that all of a sudden medical aid companies are not willing to cover you because your medical data is out there,” Munyua said.
According to Munyua, whose organisation is a global community of technologists, thinkers and builders working to keep the internet open and accessible, while ensuring safety and security, most African countries don’t take data protection seriously because they think it’s a western problem.

A case in point – in 2014 the African Union came up with an instrument, the Malabo Convention that was to help African countries harmonise data protection, among other issues. This according to Munyua would also help ease economic activity across the region. However, to date out of 55 African countries, only 24 have data protection laws including Botswana. She has observed that African countries are rushing to get their people in the digital economy however they are not willing to do all the necessary work to ensure safety and security for end users.

“The way we go about implementing the digital economy is going to determine whether technology empowers Africans or exploits us. The more we give out our data the more it’s exploited by companies that have got nothing to do with us,” Munyua said.Although Botswana passed the Data Protection Law last year, it has not yet commenced, according to Chief Technology Officer at Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Tshoganetso Kepaletswe.

Munyua said that in countries like Botswana where the law is in existence, it is important for users to know and understand it, and enforce their rights.

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Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments



Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.

Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.

He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.

“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.

“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.

“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.

Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”

She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.

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Safe communities for our women and girls – Moalosi



Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been identified as one of the critical issues that impede women, girls and men from fully enjoying their human rights and unleashing their potential. Delivering his State of the National Address (SONA) on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the rising statistics of those affected.

The National Relationship Study of 2018 revealed that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime, which occurred within Intimate Partner Relationships.

To address this problem, President Masisi says government will intensify the implementation of the National Strategy Towards Ending GBV. The Strategy focuses on the comprehensive care and support of GBV survivors; the Prevention of new GBV incidences; Strengthening national capacity to address GBV; Improving efficiency and effectiveness of the coordination and management of the national GBV response; and Strategic information and knowledge management on GBV.

Just last week, Botswana Non-Governmental Organisations represented at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, committed to ensuring that all is done to end GBV.CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, Lorato Moalosi who was presenting on behalf of Botswana NGOs said having reflected on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda since 1994 and on what has changed on Sexual GBV, they are equally disturbed by increasing levels of SGBV in Botswana communities.

Her desire is to empower communities to come up with their own solutions to end SGBV. Moalosi told participants at the Summit that NGOs in Botswana commit to contracting and ensuring robust community engagement, including starting indigenous and disability movements on SGBV to galvanise and mobilise communities to prevent and respond to SGBV. Their plan is to also develop sustained gender transformative programmes that mainstream HIV and GBV, as well as to expand reach and coverage of services and create community safe spaces for the hard to reach, as well as improve services in urban areas.

“We commit to utilising social contracting and ensure NGOs lead in the prevention of SGBV and in the response to ending SGBV at community level,” Moalosi said, adding that they also commit to mainstreaming gender equality conversations and break the silence on SGBV.

“We can no longer hold back. Our communities have to be safe for our women and girls,” she said. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 that concluded hursday last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi represents a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver.

“Together, we will make the next ten years a decade of action and results for women and girls, keeping their rights and choices at the centre of everything we do,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

Denmark’s Special Envoy for the ICPD25, Ambassador Ib Petersen said there will be no ICPD50 because women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices.

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