Mobile Phones for Women’s Empowerment

It’s amazing how prevalent the use of mobile phones has become in the developed world as well as the developing world. In communities where people may not have access to clean drinking water or electricity, you can still see mobile phone usage. It is estimated that there are around 3.9 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. (Informa Telecoms & Media 2011). What is even more amazing is what an impact these mobile phones are having on the developing world, especially the women.

Mobile phones are being used to empower women worldwide. In a article “Woman’s Empowerment? There’s an APP For That” the author, Alice Newton, recalls her time working in Madagascar, and how the women used their mobile phones to empower themselves. She saw mobile phones as “one of the most powerful tools for development” especially for women. Mobile phones allow women more economic opportunities. In many rural countries, women have very particular family commitments. By using mobile phones, these women can do their family duties and still have time to work. Without mobile phones, to communicate with customers, these women would have to walk long distances. Business owners can now receive mobile payments, without neglecting family duties. She also states that communicating through mobile phones improves the safety of these women because walking to meet customers can be very unsafe for women. They can also utilize mobile banking which allows women to save money and build credit.

Mobile phones are also great ways for women to receive information. There are apps and games that teach women’s health. They give information on pregnancy and sexual health. Women are often time unable to receive this information and can not care for themselves and their children as well as they could. They are also able to receive information on politics. This information keeps women from having to rely on others, and allows them to be more self-sufficient. Another important role of mobile phones for women that Newton mentioned was the use of mobile phones to combat domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a common problem, and now women can connect directly with authorities.

Though there has been an increase overall in phone usage in the developing world, there are still gender gaps. Newton states that “women are 21% less likely to own mobile phones, rising to 37% in some regions.”


2 responses to “Mobile Phones for Women’s Empowerment

  • jboleky

    I never even thought about the fact, that by simply having mobile phones, the technology itself could empower them. My thoughts after reading this article mainly revolved around, how as a development major could we get more phones to women sustainably? When dealing with soooo many cultural, social, and gender factors it would be very difficult to simply pass out phones to women without encountering resistance from any number of sources. and i would love if anyone reading this comment found any programs where they did just that, because the major problem seems to me; that even if someone got past all the social, cultural, technological and other factors both the men and the women would need to have a phone. Otherwise their could be jealousy or the man would just take it. Obviously I’m not an expert and simply thinking, your thoughts?

  • mjurczuk

    The blog post addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership in the developing world discusses the obstacles in giving women in the developing world communication technologies. Ideally, since knowledge is power,” mobile phones that provide all of the information you mentioned would be empowering. Perhaps given all this information, women in the developing world will be able to fight their own battle for gender equality, influencing the mindsets of the men in their world themselves, instead of the developed world trying to change their outlook for them. An intrinsically initiated social change would be much more effective than an imposed one.

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