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Telecentres serve various communities in many beneficial ways, youth for instance access digital skills, entertainment, communication, social media and reproductive health information among others while special groups like farmers get information on new agricultural technologies, agricultural extension services, market information, weather partners and information on climate change. Others like the aged would use it to communicate with their loved ones abroad or in other towns.

Among all different categories of users, women use the telecentre minimally because of the nature of their roles in our society, this may be true in some areas like rural regions and not necessarily in urban, where women are more enlightened and exposed.

In light of this TCF and ITU have initiated the Telecentre Women Digital Literacy Campaign globally to empower women through ICT. Read more about this and how you can be part of the campaign here.

We are honored to have Rita Mijumbi moderate this discussion and look forward to the telecentre family valuable input and active participation. 

This December we are interested in hearing from our esteemed online telecentre.org community members about the following:
1. Do you experience low participation by women in your telecentre? Why in your view?
2. What ways can we use to influence women especially from rural areas to use telecentres more?
3. Are there any exiting case studies or experiences you can share from your respective telecentres on how women use them?

 

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I think the access to the Internet must be defined in terms of "ROLES" rather than based on gender, age, race, or such like. However, all humans alike can be benefited by this access - access to valuable, authentic, and valid information about nutrition, health, education, family matters, and what not. Each and every person must be made available the resources on a fair basis, their utilization being at the discretion of people - of course this includes each segment of the society including women.

Why do I emphasize that fact in the first instance? It seems that the society is heading towards kind of doing things just for the sake of utilization of the technology. When you have a hammer in your hand, you see the entire world as "nails" ; likewise, when you talk about the Internet, you tend unconsciously or not, to view the functioning and organization of the world centered on that thing - it's a political matter in this regard as well then. Therefore, we must have more comprehensive thoughts and considerations when we try to change habits, lifestyles or processes of life.

Empowering the women in terms of ICT is actually a sensitive matter, specially when it is taken a global perspective. As I learn, the WHO (through APA of USA) is listing a new mental disorder related to the addiction of Internet in its coming list of mental disorders. Lots of researchers find escalating number of stress conditions among the Internet users. Personally I have seen many women (and men too) having family problems just because of improper use of the Internet. This list is ever increasing sadly. Does that mean we should refrain from accessing the Internet? Of course not, yet, my simple question is what steps or actions are being taken to mitigate such newly cropped-up problems giving an adequate gravity?

Therefore, it is not just women, but the entire human race face this grave situation. However, in most part of the world (specially the Asian regions) the stability and sustaining of the society is centered around the woman. What if we make this sensitive group vulnerable to bad effects at large? What special provisions or safeguards are there while leveraging the new marvelous technologies? Shouldn't we focus more on that ("procedural" part) too rather than just talking about the "substantial" part of access to the Internet always? I am all for empowering the women, yet am much more concerned about the stability of society. At last I would like to remind you the evolutionary concept of "grandma theory" when they try to explain how this modern human came to this level - that grandma is our grandma, and she is of course a woman. Still she is there, and who denies her ever continuing factor in defining the human.

Thank you Sumith for your submission. You raise quite pertinent issues. One of your points about whether or not we should refrain - We should not refrain but should use the Internet in moderation. The saying goes that too much of anythign is bad and I believe once one goes beyond the productive use of the internet then the misuse and abuse steps in, which will have gross impact on the user and their immediate networks.
In terms of the efffects, the telecentres should endeavor to make the users aware of the bad effects so that they do not become victims.
Otherwise the programs and activities offered must be designed to offer practical solutions that respond to the real needs of the users.
Thank you once again and all the best with your work

Thanks Rita. Yes, "Moderation and awareness" is the absolutely appropriate word. :)

Many thank Cleopa,
Indeed this is a very good forum the first question is very interesting. Women participation depends on the Telecentre packages. Women have no time to wast they value their time so much. This year we have been having a group of women participating in ICT training and our focus was to empower Rural women to have access to agricultural and market information using various tools like frontline SMS and Social media ( facebook)https://www.facebook.com/groups/332744883486948/

2. there several ways to attract rural women, one I would suggest is to create activity that earn them something because many of them are self reliant . they need activities like crafts, tailoring and knitting , Drama and skills that can generate them more income if a Telecentre does connect women to such activities they will find it relevant.

Women in Nakaseke do come to share their based practices on our Radio at least once a week. they also meet at the Telecentre to save and loan them selves in the Community VSLA group.

We have engaged women in the civil society to come together and share knowledge on the ICT user Club facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/151911871612047/

Thank you Peter for sharing with us your experiences and we applaud you for providing a platform where you engage the women of Nakaseke and provide them opportunity to explore their potentials.
I do agree with you that women are special and have a number of undertakings and therefore they do not have much time to waste. Every time must be accounted for. Telecentres must therefore have relevant programs for women - programs that will contribute solutions to their needs - whether it is in terms of simple information like family planning, parenting, improving children's nutrition or advanced information concerning how to improve their business or what to do to increase their household incomes among others- all must be relevant and beneficial.

I recently visited women groups who are mainly farmers and their main problems are poverty, hunger and malnutrition. My Telecentre now has to design programs that will eliminate those problems through equipping the women with information and skills for productive livelihoods. What we do with our internet, social media, resource centres, emerging technologies has to make sense to the women. This calls for our creativity and innovativeness all linked to the reality on the ground. That way the women will be proud of telecentres because they "work".
Thank you Peter and continue with your good work

Women need some guidance on the Utilization of ICTs

Very Interesting perspectives from Sumith and Peter, thanks guys! I'm sure our moderator will give her input on the areas you touch on and we look forward to more from the rest in the coming days and weeks.....

 

I just came across a very interesting post by Dr. Dorothy Okello, and wish to share it from CTA's ICT Update current issue focusing on Women and ICTs.

Women’s access to ICTs has grown during the last decade. However, there remains a need to address affordability and the perception and attitude towards the use of ICTs by women.

In the decade since ICT Update published an issue on gender and ICTs in 2002, there has been tremendous change in the availability of and access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). By 2002, it was already clear that ICTs can transform activities in support of improved agriculture and rural development.

Since 2002, the growth of the telecommunication sector worldwide has been explosive. For example, as reported by eTransform Africa, in 2000 there were fewer than 20 million fixed telephone lines across Africa and a waiting list of a further 3.5 million. With the growth of mobile networks over the years, there are now over 500 million mobile subscriptions in Africa in 2012.

This means that more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean water, a bank account or electricity. Similar trends have taken root in the Caribbean and the Pacific where at least 98% of the population is covered by a mobile cellular network, as reported by the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The growth in accessibility of ICTs, and mobile phones in particular, has led to a plethora of services and applications: for example, for financial services in Kenya, for agricultural market information services in Ghana, for the electronic filing of taxes in South Africa and for sensor-based irrigation systems in Egypt. In 2002, the primary ICTs in use by the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), which aim is to promote and support the use of ICTs by women in Uganda, were email and the web, which limited the outreach to the primary target audience – women and women organizations in Uganda. Fast forward to 2012, and the range of ICTs has broadened and mobile phones are one of the key ICTs enabling a variety of activities including information alerts and farming tips via SMS, telephone call-ins into radio programmes, and SMS-based advocacy campaigns during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Ownership

So the question now is whether there is still a need to focus on the issue of women and ICTs. WOUGNET’s own experience in addressing the access and utilisation of ICT services in current times can provide us with some answers. In 2011, with support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) branch office in Uganda, WOUGNET trained three Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in northern Uganda to access market prices using a combination of ICTs – the mobile phone, radio and the use of a Rural Information Centre. Groups of 25 farmers composed of women, youth and men from each of these FFS participated in these trainings.

In the remote villages of Amuru and Anaka, mobile phones are a means of linking up with friends and loved ones. Occasionally the phone is used to call the local radio talk shows to send greetings or to contribute to on-air topical discussions. When WOUGNET asked local farmer Angelina if she had ever used a phone, she said ‘Yes, I use it to call my relatives and friends sometimes.’ Did she own it? ‘No’, she said, ‘it is my husband’s phone. When I need to use it, I ask him for it.’ So, there is still a problem with ownership, especially in remote villages.

Research ICT Africa (RIA) data from 2007 revealed that in 11 of 16 African countries in their survey, men and women with similar incomes, education and employment status were equally likely to own a mobile phone. In fact, in South Africa and Mozambique, women were more likely to own a mobile phone, and only in Senegal and Tanzania were women less likely to own a phone. In all cases, however, the survey found that while men spend more on communications than women, women’s expenditure on communications was a greater share of their income. Furthermore, taking into account factors such as age, education, income, rural area, status of employment, membership of a social network and country differences, the RIA survey showed women have less knowledge of the internet and used it less, and fewer women have an email address. The survey also revealed that radio – the primary source of information among low-income and rural populations – is listened to by more men than women.

Ease of use

During one of WOUGNET’s training sessions for women farmers, one participant called Christine was told, ‘with ICT knowledge you will be able to get your rice to the market very quickly!’ She remained reluctant to post the information about her rice on the public notice board set up for the project, however, despite the encouragement. This stresses the importance of perception, attitude and change in addressing the relevance and affordability of ICTs in a gender sensitive manner.

In other words, it is indeed necessary to focus on the issue of women and ICTs and understand people’s reasons for deciding to use ICTs, since this has been shown to be different by gender. Where men’s use of technology was reported in 2000 to be largely influenced by their perception of usefulness, women tended to be swayed by perceptions of the technology’s ease of use. How has this situation changed, now that there is increased awareness of how to use ICTs and improved user-friendliness? What are the implications for software and hardware developers and innovators as they seek to meet the ICT needs of both men and women?

The situation with rural and low-income women in ACP countries is particularly interesting. While technology options have changed significantly over the decade, to a point where we now have a proliferation of mobile phones, Web 2.0 and so on, the key concerns and special needs for rural and low-income women have not changed as dramatically. In 2012, the GSMA mWomen Programme released a research report, Striving and Surviving: Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid. More than 2,500 women took part in this research from four countries – Egypt and Uganda from Africa, Papua New Guinea from the Pacific and India from Asia.

Value-for-money

The countries were chosen because of their diverse social, cultural and market contexts. Given India’s great diversity, 1,000 women were selected from there and 1,500 from the other three countries. The key research findings, while primarily focused on mobile phone use, are being used to illustrate special needs for ICT access and use by rural women or bottom of the pyramid (BOP) women living on less than two dollars a day. It first concludes that ICT services and applications need to be accessible and relevant to these women’s daily livesThis means SMS services should have a clear value-for-money proposition, as only 37% of the women had used SMS compared to 77% that had made a phone call. Mobile health (and other) applications will need to be well integrated into these women’s daily lives in order to generate uptake. Of the 84% of women who were in need of better healthcare information, less than half of these were interested in receiving this information via their mobile phones.

The second conclusion is that a lack of or limited ICT literacy skills hampers the use of ICT services and applications. About a quarter of the women interviewed were not interested in owning phones because they did not know how to use them. About a quarter of the women did know of mobile internet, however. Only 2% of these women had ever used mobile internet, so this constrains the potential use of mobile internet-based services. But there is also a need to integrate gender issues into ICT services and programmes so as to promote equitable access for men and women in the communityAs has also been highlighted by studies on ICTs and violence against women, over 80% of married women reported that their husbands were very suspicious of them because they owned mobile phones.

So the availability and access of ICTs have grown, as have their services and applications, there remains need to address fundamental issues related to access in terms of infrastructure, relevance and affordability, along with perception and attitude towards the use of ICTs by women in rural communities. There is also a continued need for policy advocacy to ensure gender equitable access to ICTs.

Thanks Cleopa for the article.

One of my quick responses is that we should not tire to train, counsel, encourage and create awareness. There are no quick fixes in rural development. We are not dealing only with the physically nicely dressed women we are seeing for these two hours you have organized for a meeting or few hours a day. Along with her is illiteracy, no confidence, no money and probably no meal for supper or even no meal up until the meeting so you have divided attention. Reluctance will come definately if i have half a dollar and a long list of needs that require money. We have to deal with the root needs. The need is money which will help that woman afford the extra services. As you introduce the ICT knowledge is that need catered for? Are these women engaged in productive activities? If they are and are still relunctant - find out why. Attitude change will come by deliberately targeting it. Hold training sessions on behavioral and attitude change. It has to be the starting point with the community.

I mentioned earlier in my responses that time is precious - therefore ease the technology for the women and explain to them the benefits.
Lastly I believe we have to change approach and tactic - target the entire household not just individuals. As a unit, explain the gender roles so that they are understood and appreciated. Children too have a role to play especially in helping the women with ICTS and at Telecentres. If the empowering targets the household as a unit and is collective we shall mitigate some of the issues raised in the article.
As you can see we have work to do to put money into the women's pockets. Telecentres can still effectively do that.

Keep sharing the experiences. we can go back and change a thing or two to be more effective.

I see you have seen through the entire vicious cycle. We must take into consideration the new "lights" from disciplines like psychology, microfinancing too in order to devise sound working productive plans and activities. That does not mean each participant woman (or any person for that matter regardless of gender and age) must be formally given education about psychology, ecology, and so on, but the administrators at various levels are entrusted with that responsibility to engage all related intellectual parties when planning and "activitizing".

Because the woman is so intricately connected with the family members, it's not just "her" that must be factored in, but the entire family just as you said it correctly. "Money" takes a bigger role in such situations, whether we like or not to admit it. Therefore, we must try to implement activities that target both increasing her knowledge, and of course increasing her income. If she is to be empowered, it should make the woman more independent, contented, and feeling worthy.

I propose you to join hands with micro-financing movements, and the synergistic effect would be so greater. Food security is a grave problem in this world today; you can encourage "garden cultivation" (growing vegetables, fruits, etc in their own lands), by giving them knowledge about the proper use of simple technologies and techniques; you can help them find buyers (and suppliers too) "competitively". This is just one example, and there are many others they can do.

We can leverage the already existing free platforms and services like twitter, facebook. For example, a particular center in an area can maintain an fb or twitter page where the participants can follow/add (mobile phone is readily available now) so they can receive sms messages with the hottest news and details about new happenings, price fluctuations, new buyers, new trends, diseases spreading and affecting the crops in the area, and remedies or prevention steps they should immediately take, etc. (the administrators in that telecentre thus must update the page.) You should take the burden as much as possible from them (at least in the initial phase) in presenting, analysing, finding the information (knowledge for them), because they may not be confident about the technology, and about themselves in the first instance.

At last I must mention this. All the activities they are supposed to do must be given in simple terms, and must not be complicated, and must be easily action-able. (most probably we are not here talking about women in developed societies, so literacy and intelligence levels cannot be expected to be higher) Moreover, when conducting sessions, trainings, or meetings, they must not be made feeling "aliens" or "stupid". You know what I mean. So, getting some local women from that area itself for conducting and carrying out the activities would be more beneficial. Thanks.

Thank you Sumith for the great ideas and sharing practical ways of handling women at Telecentres. I totally agree the handling matters and you will be amazed at the response! Cheers

Thank you for your stories!

I would like to invite you to read the story about the telecentre that helps housewives to communicate and share useful tips:
http://community.telecentre.org/profiles/blogs/skype-the-new-source...

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