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*GENDER CENTRED: A GenderIT.org thematic bulletin*

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*Access to knowledge, and gender*

I. SMALL THOUGHTS AROUND…Access to knowledge and gender






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I. SMALL THOUGHTS AROUND…Access to knowledge and gender

by Sonia Randhawa

This edition of GenderIT looks at the question of access to knowledge

focussing on Africa. Over the last century, copyright and patents

legislation have penetrated into most countries. Strengthened by

international trade agreements, and often pressure from the United

States, this has had the impact of both shrinking the amount of

knowledge that is freely available, and of legislating what is and is

not 'knowledge'. This has been happening at a time when it is becoming

easier and cheaper to copy and transmit information.

Access to knowledge issues tend to focus on the legal terrain of

copyright and patent law, and related movements such as the CopyLeft

movement, the Creative Commons and the free and open source software

movement. Questions raised in this issue will be how the expansion of

copyright and patent law – geographical, in terms of duration and in

terms of what is covered – have been addressed by women's movements, and

how the commons movement has, or has not, engaged with women's concerns

on control of and access to knowledge, including traditional knowledge.

Other issues include gender disparity in terms of access to knowledge,

the gender-blind nature of legislation on access to knowledge, and lack

of access to decision-making on access to knowledge issues both at the

local and international level, in both governmental and non-governmental


For the full editorial, visit


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*Do copyrights and patents limit access to HIV/AIDS knowledge and

treatment in Africa?*

Access to information on drugs, treatment and prevention is critical to

the survival of sub-Saharan Africans, where two-thirds of the world's

population living with HIV resides. Sylvie Niombo, co-ordinator of APC

African Women, looks at how patents, copyright and a lack of

infrastructure have impeded the free flow of vital information across

Africa, at the role of women as providers of information, and at

initiatives that are being undertaken to address the situation.


*University women struggle for knowledge access in Africa*

New to Gender IT, writer Kathleen Riga examines the difficulty African

women at university face in accessing materials, particularly those

produced in Africa, due to informal constraints on access to computers,

as well as the larger role of copyright legislation. She points out the

need for more work to be done and examines the work of the African

Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) network in scrutininsing

legislation and practice that could be or is discriminatory.


*Challenges of communal copyright: Traditional and indigenous knowledge*

Copyright and patents legislation has spread rapidly over the past

century, both in terms of the jurisdictions covered, the meaning of

copyright and the length of time before intellectual property enters the

commons. This has a particular impact on indigenous women and the

holders of traditional knowledge, as copyright ignores the possibility

that knowledge can be held communally and has definitions of knowledge

that exclude information held in a spiritual context. In this article,

Gender IT examines how women's lives in traditional and indigenous

societies have been affected by the spread of copyright, what is

happening at both an international and local level to address these

concerns and the limitations of these initiatives.


*Access to knowledge in emergency situations: Looking at the situation

in Jordan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo*

As the other articles in this thematic edition of Gender IT show, access

to knowledge literally saves lives. This is particularly true during

emergency situations. This article looks at the very different

situations facing women in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where the

government has a stated commitment to putting the kingdom at the

forefront of ICT access in the region combined with a commitment to

equality of access, and the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where

it is estimated 1,200 people die each day due to the effects of racially

motivated conflict and sexual violence is increasingly seen as a weapon

of war.


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*African Copyright & Access to Knowledge Project*

The African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project examines the

relationship between national copyright environments and access to

knowledge in African countries. The project is probing this relationship

within an access to knowledge (A2K) framework - a framework which

regards the protection/promotion of user access as one of the central

objectives of copyright law. The project works in eight countries,

Eygpt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.


*Intellectual Property Rights in Africa*

Articles on intellectual property rights in Africa have been brought

together by the International Environmental Law Research Centre. The

site includes papers translated from Arabic, and topics covered include

traditional knowledge, farmers rights, patents and comparisons between

intellectual property regimes in different parts of Africa.


*Gender dimensions of intellectual property and traditional medical


This paper examines the discussion on intellectual property rights (IP)

for traditional knowledge (TK) in medicine from a gender perspective. It

argues that a gender analysis of these issues adds to the understanding

of how trade decisions can have important and unintended impacts on the

lives of disempowered people.


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The Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights is a binding

agreement on matters such as copyright, patents and other intellectual

property rights and their enforcement. It was spearheaded by the United

States, the European Union and Japan and met with resistance and concern

by many poorer nations, before coming into effect in 1994. Concerns

raised include the right for multinational corporations to

'bio-prospecting' without the consent of host nations, but paid little

attention to the problems raised by indigenous communities of the rights

to traditional and indigenous knowledge.

All members of the World Trade Organization must agree to enforce TRIPS

provisions as a condition of membership to the WTO.

To understand unfamiliar ICT or gender terms visit the Jargon section:


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*Creative Commons*

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it

easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent

with the rules of copyright. It provides free licenses and other legal

tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to

carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination


The corporation was set up in 2001, and Creative Commons licenses have

been adapted to complement copyright legislation in over 40 jurisdictions.

Creative Commons website: www.creativecommons.org

*HINARI Access to Research Initiative*

The HINARI Programme, set up by the World Health Organisation together

with major publishers, enables developing countries to gain access to

one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health

literature. Over 6200 journal titles are now available to health

institutions in 108 countries, areas and territories benefiting many

thousands of health workers and researchers, and in turn, contributing

to improved world health.

HINARI website: http://www.who.int/hinari

To find out more about key stakeholders in the field of ICTs, visit the

Who's Who in Policy section:


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*Gender Centred Archive*

You can now check all editions of GenderIT.org thematic bulletin,

published since 2006, in Gender Centred Archive:


*Sign up for Gender Centred thematic bulletin*

You can sign up for Gender Centred thematic e-bulletin focused on

topical gender and ICT policy themes and issued in average four times

per year:


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*CopyLeft. 2009 APC Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP)*

Permission is granted to use this document for personal use, for

training and educational publications, and activities by peace,

environmental, human rights or development organisations. Please provide

an acknowledgement to APC WNSP.

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