Media Newswire, 9 March 2011
To mark International Women's Day 2011, today March 8, we look at how the mobile phone can empower women in developing countries through the GSMA mWomen Programme.
Trina DasGupta, the Programme Director, says the initiative is giving women a voice and opening doors to learning, entrepreneurship and financial independence.
The GSMA mWomen Programme was formed following a joint research project carried out by the GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, covering access to, and use of, mobile phones by women in developing countries. Ericsson became involved through the Connect To Learn program. DasGupta says the results showed how much women were missing out owing to their lack of access to mobile phones.
That research was presented at the Mobile World Congress ( MWC ) in Barcelona, Spain, in 2010. DasGupta also attended this year’s MWC in February, chairing a seminar on the initiative. She repeated the message that about USD 13 billion in missed business opportunities had been identified as a result of the estimated 300 million women who are missing out.
She says mobile access has direct benefits in terms of personal safety, getting access to education and health care, as well as providing a potential new means of financial independence through entrepreneurship. DasGupta says women are more likely to generate income for their businesses if they have access to a mobile phone.
Ericsson is leading the education workstream of the mWomen program to bring operators from around the world into the Connect To Learn initiative.
Elaine Weidman, Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson says: "When a girl is educated, she can earn up to 25 percent more income, 90 percent of which she’ll invest back into her family and community.
"We strongly support GSMA’s mWomen Program because we understand the importance and impact it can make in women’s lives, the lives of their families and communities."
More than 20 operators in 115 countries are taking part in the GSMA mWomen Programme. DasGupta says the initiative aims to involve 150 million women within three years and reduce the gender gap in mobile-phone ownership by 50 percent.
She says the initiative will also bring women in developing countries into the networked society.
"A networked society to me means that women who have never previously had access to anything now have access," she says. "Being networked means empowerment in your hands."
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