mWomen Puts Technology Into The Hands Of Women

Empowering women has taken a technology turn as Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and Cherie Blair, wife of the former UK Prime Minister have launched, mWomen a new initiative to get millions of mobile phones into the hands of women in the third world. mWomen launched early in October 2010 and aims to close the technology gap between men and women in developing countries. According to the mWomen project, the mobile ownership gender gap is most pronounced in South Asia, but is also significant in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The scheme is also backed by the GSM Association, the trade body for the mobile phone industry and already seventeen global mobile phone operators have signed up to the pledging more than $10m (£6.2m) between them. As part of the initiative, there will be tariffs created especially for women as well as the development of a female-specific handset.

It is estimated that in the Third World, 300 million more men own mobile phones than women; this scheme wants to get mobile devices in to the hands of another 150 million women. It recognises the need to close the technology gender gap to empower women. Mobile phones are used to report violence, access health care, and aid efforts in often volatile countries and coordinate disaster relief. Mobiles are also widely used for trade and banking in areas where there is little official infrastructure and often widespread corruption. mWomen has stated that over nine out of 10 women it surveyed felt safer because of their mobile phone, and 85 per cent said they felt more independent while over 55 per cent of business owners reported that they have earned additional income through the use of a mobile phone. Samanthi’s story demonstrates this...Samanthi lives in Sri Lanka and has a small business selling charcoal stoves and says, “It's really difficult to do business without a mobile phone. A phone is an essential item. My customers can contact me anytime, from any place." According to a survey by the GSM Association more than half of all female business owners in poor countries reported earning more money because of their mobile phone.

Helping a woman set up a business and invest in a little bit of technology, you are not just helping her, you are helping her children and her family; it has a ripple effect on the wider community. mWomen will create projects to educate men about the positive aspects of women owning a mobile phone and about embracing technology. Mrs Clinton said, "With a mobile phone, expectant mothers who live nowhere near a clinic can get health advice." While, Mrs Blair said, “If we can reach 150 million women across the world and you multiply the effect of those women reinvesting in their family and in their local community, we are talking a potential transformational effect in development." Mobile phones have led to a remarkable communications revolution, extending and improving the way people connect with each other.

Photo Credit: Raphael Fauveau