Mobile Phones Helping Women in Restrictive Cultures

Gender inequality is not a new concept. Particularly, gender inequality is high in areas where women are restricted due to societal norms, cultural practices or religious beliefs. Robin LLyod’s article,Mobile Phones for Women: A New Approach for Social Welfare in the Developing World ,outlines how decreasing this divide can increase opportunities. He tells the story of a Palestinian girl, looking for employment, who has had trouble finding work due to the fact she is unable to leave her home without the accompaniment of a male. With use of her mobile phone she “posted a “mini-resume,” browsed for suitable jobs via text messages, and then interviewed in person after an appointment was set. On September 22nd, she started a data-entry job with the German aid agency GTZ.”

The use of mobiles greatly influenced her employment situation. The article continues to explain that though Salameh had access to a mobile phone this is not typical. Gender inequality when it comes to ICTs (in this case mobile phones) is even more extreme in restrictive cultures. The London-based telecom industry advocacy group GSMA (for Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initiated the mWomen Program which plans to “half the number of women in the developing world who lack mobile phones within three years by putting phones in the hands of another 150 million women.” They believe this initiative is important not only because of Salameh’s story and the resources mobile phones can provide, but also because women with phones tend to feel safer, more empowered and independent and more connected.

Although I believe ICTs and mobiles can provide all of the above, I hope their plans have instilled protections against the issues we’ve discussed in class with mobile phones. What about theft? Cost? Reception? Providing phones is only one step; who will be paying for the minutes?

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4 responses to “Mobile Phones Helping Women in Restrictive Cultures

  • elladove

    Another question intiatives like this raise, in my opinion, is how do we change cultures where it is simply not the norm for women to have access to mobile phones, internet, and other technologies in a sensitive and culturally competant way?

  • jdywest7

    – Although cell phones are a large tool for empowerment for women, the allocation of cell phones to women in sex discriminating & restrictive cultures area can be dangerous and short lived. My question is what approach is GSMA going to take to achieve their goal? Its very intrusive and ineffective if organizations distribute phones to women without understanding the dynamics of the culture. In order for programs esp. ICT programs to be successful and sustainable the program must first observe the community and its culture. Then work with members of the community to find the most beneficial way ensuring female empowerment and safety.

  • eturner1

    I think this is a great article that details the beneficial aspects that ICTs have in shortening the gender divide. Like the two previous comments, I wonder how they plan on making this initiative sustainable, but I think that this is a small step in the right direction.

  • mattbrandeburg

    I want to jump on the last couple of comments and say that perhaps some of the funding these organizations get to promote mobile phone usage can also go toward advertising and media campaigns to try to change the dialogue in countries where it is not the norm for women to have their “own” technological device. I would be curious to see if any grassroots organizations are trying to tackle just that, and if there is any relation between these movements and campaigns to promote mobile phone usage among women.

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