The advantages of small-scale telecommunications businesses for potential women entrepreneurs are that there are no educational requirements, except for minimal mechanical aptitude, and that the capital requirements are small enough to be met through micro-credit schemes. Not only do these businesses provide income and employment for the entrepreneurs they also accelerate development in areas where telecommunications were scarce or nonexistent. Source: Hafkin and Taggart, 2001. Governments too have undertaken some initiatives in building up the capacity of women in the area of ict, in particular the korean and Malaysian governments. For example, between 20, the ministry of Information and Communication of the republic of Korea, trained one million housewives in computer and Internet use. The ministry of Labour runs computer training for unemployed women, especially those who are heads of households. The ministry of Education and Human Resource development has a project to enhance ict skills of girl students from elementary through high school. The ministry of Gender Equality has organized programmes at 12 Korean universities for women who want to work in an e-business or to start Small Office-home Office businesses.
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The operators are likely to be married (90 percent and half of them have no formal education. Another quarter has primary education and the planner remaining quarter, some secondary education. Thirty-six percent identify themselves as housewives, and only 6 percent have some kind of formal employment (in government or boyfriend business). The women operate their phone businesses while doing household chores or operating another business. Current Village Phone Operators are likely to become managers of the expanded telecommunications services. Village Phones have made women phone clients and phone business operators. They have created a phone culture among women by enabling their access to communication tools from which they might otherwise be excluded. They have also shown that poor, largely uneducated women can master the skills and run a small business. Women phone operators have achieved economic and social empowerment within their households and communities. The relatively substantial revenue stream has elevated the women operators positions in their own households, particularly in decision-making. As a result of being a phone operator, better-off villagers come to homes they would ordinarily not frequent, thereby raising the status of the operator.
Where women were operators, 82 percent of the users were women; with men operators, women comprised only.3 percent of Grameen Bank phone users. More than half of women users (58 percent) said that they preferred women phone operators. 7, the phones are used primarily for calls relating to financial matters, particularly relating to remittances, which are a significant source of village income. Strikingly, among poor villagers, 38 percent of phone users had one or more family members living abroad. The phones are also used to obtain agricultural gps price information, thereby improving the position of the villagers in bargaining with middlemen and resulting in higher prices for local farm products. Box 6: Grameen Banks Women Phone Operators. The Grameen Banks women phone operators are generally poorer than the average villager. However, the income that they earn is significant, generally accounting for 30-40 percent of household income and averaging US300/year in a country where average per capita income is US286.
The Grameen Bank took a focused approach to gender and development through their model of poverty reduction, serving as a source of micro-credit and literacy training, skills development, and health, family planning, and political consciousness education directed at women. 5, in 1996, the bank set up Grameen Phones, bangladeshs first cell phone network. Grameen Phones is particularly noteworthy because of the economic empowerment that it has brought to poor, largely uneducated women. From among its more than two million predominantly women borrowers, the bank management selects Village Phone Operators to whom the phone is provided as an in-kind loan. The operators resell wireless phone services (incoming and outgoing) to fellow villagers. Some 75 percent of the operators are women, numbering about 2,000 (see box 6). 6, having women operators promotes womens phone usage because women are more likely to use phones when the operator is a woman.
Women empowerment"s rodeostar
In this section, efforts have been made to highlight key initiatives that clearly depict how women can be empowered economically, socially and politically. Considering how womens needs and issues are so interrelated to one another across these three areas, it is not surprising that these initiatives more often than not address more than one area of womens empowerment. Enabling Womens Economic Empowerment edit, in Asia, a number of credible models exist that could be replicated to address womens economic issues through the use of icts. The self Employed Womens Association (sewa for example, has been organizing women in the informal sector in India since 1972. 3, it was one of the first organizations globally to realize the potential of using icts for the productive growth of the informal sector.
Sewa is establishing Technology Information Centres in 11 districts of Gujarat, India to provide computer awareness training and basic computer skills for their barefoot managers, build the capacity of women organizers and leaders, and strengthen their members micro enterprises. It now runs programmes that develop womens abilities in the use of computers, radio, television, video, the telephone, fax machines, mobile phones and satellite communication. Electronic networking is expected to strengthen the connections between the various cooperatives working in different sectors and areas, and currently enables the provision of content tailored essay to the needs and environment of particular groups of villages. In addition, members of sewa are able to access government schemes and tap into new markets. In the second phase, the centres will assignment also support the education of girls. 4, the best known of the ict-enabled businesses with a high percentage of women owners/operators is Grameen Phones in Bangladesh.
The fact that gender is cross-cutting should render these examples relevant as any other, yet they are not. Time and again, gender advocates have had to argue as to why gender is important within each and every forum. Governments do have their obligations and responsibilities which they continuously reaffirm of their own free will at various un conventions and reviews which they are committed or obligated to implement. A more pragmatic approach then may be to design an effective mechanism that will facilitate the various government agencies to actually talk to each other and work together with the national womens machineries. 2, at the least, there must be a mechanism that comprehensively informs all government ministries of the various commitments made at such fora and how these intersect across sectors as well as their implications for policy-making and implementation. However, one unspoken yet often hinted at hurdle may still remain.
There is a general innate fear that remains little spoken of or discussed constructively today, that is, if one promotes womens rights and womens empowerment too strongly, then that person is deemed a feminist and a man-hater. The fear of feminism probably manifests in different ways. One of which, usually, is in the way most policy makers and development programme planners would differentiate gender issues from womens issues, and render achievement of equality in terms of equal numbers between the sexes and, in doing so, fail to pay due attention. It is time to place womens empowerment back into the framework of gender equality, where it has always belonged, the way on-the-ground activists have been doing on a smaller scale. Enabling Womens Empowerment through ict edit. A number of successful initiatives can be cited from all across Asia that demonstrates how women can acquire ict-related skills and use the technology, and at the same time have control over their use.
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Initial investments required to set up a telecentre will start paying off when summary information begins to have positive influences on the community in terms of economic well-being as well as transformation in social relations at community and household levels - as women and the poor. Source: Selected myth from Gurumurthy, anita. Box 11: Telecenters: Some myths in Gender and icts: overview Report. Brighton: bridge, institute for development Studies,.34. However, the pragmatic cost-benefit approach places the burden of responsibility and proof on gender advocates who are not only under-resourced, but do not have access to suitable sex-disaggregated data. Would it be sufficient for gender advocates to point to examples within other sectors such as health and rural development, which have a longer history of data collection and research, in order to exemplify why gender mainstreaming is important? Would ict policy makers take any interest if these are not examples pertaining directly to ict?
Telecentres need not be isolated information stations, but rather can form part of existing facilities and institutions health centres, schools, libraries and community centres that provide a mix of services and potential cost structures based on cross-subsidization. The fundamental issue in reaching poor women is not one of profitability of models, but the creation of a set of technology-mediated services and products that allow women to be part of emerging opportunities. Efficient business models will follow effective technology models. A lopsided focus on financial viability in discussions around telecentres has resulted in the undermining of a committed focus on the transformatory and development capabilities of icts (Gurumurthy and Sarkar, 2003). The private sector does not have the incentive to reach the marginalized and where information relevant to the marginalized is to any degree delivered by the private sector, the telecentre has been treated purely as an information shop accessed rarely and randomly by the marginalized. Governments and ngos trying to harness icts need to view the economics of telecentres within frameworks of justice and equity. Public information delivery has to be guided by the cornerstone of accountability rather than of profit.
Strategy suggests that gender advocates need to take a more pragmatic approach,. In her words, the business case approach (Chamberlain, 2002). Chamberlain maintains that gender mainstreaming is revolutionary in many circles and hence, takes too long to attain if a purely rights-based model is used. While she still promotes using arguments of rights, she strongly suggests complementing these with arguments of essential utility. This is not the first time that gender advocates are asked to speak the language of policy makers. Such has been what womens health rights activists have had to do in showing governments that it costs more to heal a woman survivor of rape compared to ensuring that proper laws are in place and duly enforced (see box 5). Box 5: a cost-Benefit Myth of Telecentres ; Myth : If telecentres have to be economically sustainable, it is not possible to design interventions for the marginalized, including poor women. Fact, new icts are remarkably amenable to addressing aggregated demands at the community level; they are versatile enough to meet not only the diverse needs of various social groups but also the range of demands of every individual in a community. Successful pilots have demonstrated that a diversity of models can be adopted to viably address the information and communication needs of the entire community.
Access to resources refers to both the means and the right to obtain services, products or commodities. Gender gaps in access to resources and services are a major obstacle to womens development. The process of empowerment includes mobilizing women to eliminate these gaps. Therefore, if development efforts are indeed being implemented within the framework of gender equality, it means that development interventions must ultimately be aimed to empower women. Rights Mentality edit, many countries argue that development and the needs summary of the community must come first, rather than providing a preferential focus on womens development needs and their rights. And often, what are cited are values that put the community first. Hence communal rights must come first before individual rights, making many countries reluctant to place any priority on promoting and protecting womens rights and autonomy. What many countries have failed to acknowledge, but is open knowledge to everyone, is the fact that communal rights, once gained, are enjoyed at the individual level. The extent to which these are enjoyed by the wider community depends further on the power hierarchies within that community.
Women, empowerment and Economic development
We must guard against falling into a kind of technocratic approach to gender mainstreaming that governments and agencies can adopt, without actually talking to women particularly women who are poor and disadvantaged. We must guard against regarding gender equality and womens empowerment as a set of technical tools and concepts de-linked from practice, power, and politics. noeleen heyzer, Executive director, unifem 1, contents, the Odd couple: development and Empowerment edit, empowerment refers to enabling people towards self-determination. For women, empowerment emphasizes the importance of increasing owl their power and taking control over decisions and issues that shape their lives. This includes having full access to complete information and to self-discern the quality and credibility of such information in making these decisions. To empower women means to understand and address the various dynamics of power and relationships in a particular society which are intertwined with issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, gender, history and race. Power is identified with equity and equality for women and men in access to resources, participation in decision-making and control over distribution of resources and benefits. Gender equality is addressed at these different levels with the aim of increasing equality between women and men, and achieving womens empowerment.