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Sansad TV: Perspective- Empowering Women Digitally

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Introduction:

The world celebrated International Women’s Day this year under the theme: DigitALL – Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.

Digital literacy and gender gap:

  • If women are to realize their full potential in the digital age, the government need to target the current gender gaps.
  • Current internet usage by women in India is quite low, especially in rural India. It deprives a considerable number of women from accessing online services including communication and information pertaining to health, education, skill development, participating in the economy etc.
  • Hence, when it comes to making the women of India digital ready, India has a twin challenge of not only increasing the gender parity, but also bridging the urban/rural inequality by means of special attention and appropriate solutions.
  • The women in rural India face multiple issues for accessing internet/gaining digital literacy, such as lack of education, awareness, accessibility and affordability and often restrictions/resistance because of their gender.

How bridging this gap leads to women empowerment:

  • Bridging the gender gap in mobile ownership and digital literacy in both urban and rural India may increase the agency of women and help dismantle social norms that have been holding them back for decades.
  • In fact, addressing the gender divide in digital literacy is perhaps necessary to ensure inequality of opportunity across gender does not widen in an India where the digital economy is expected to multiply by five times.
  • Study from Niger :-
    • Results show that households which received transfers via mobile phones saw a 10% improvement in diet diversity, a one-third increase in children’s meal consumption per day, and an increase in the cultivation of marginal crops that are primarily grown by women. The impact was a result of improved household bargaining power of the women beneficiaries.
    • The mobile-transfer beneficiaries were more likely to obtain the transfer on their own as opposed to relying on their husbands.
    • When women adopted mobile phone services to directly receive cash transfers, it increased their agency in household decision-making. Prioritizing digital literacy for women by combining mobile technology with the array of existing welfare programmes targeted at women can potentially lead to similar empowerment of women in rural India.
  • Case study from Kenya :-
    • M-Pesa is a service that allows users to store monetary value on their phones and transfer to others via text message. Access to M-Pesa has uplifted 2% of Kenya’s households out of poverty. The results are most compelling for female beneficiaries.
    • Impact is driven by change in financial behaviour of these women, particularly saving behaviour, that has translated into their altering occupational choices by graduating from subsistence agriculture and multiple part-time jobs to business ownership.
    • This could be a result of direct access to remittances through M-Pesa, and therefore, increased agency. This could also be because these women may have not been primary earning members in their households, and were constrained before they had access to mobile money.
  • Integrating benefits targeted to the poorest women with mobile phones in this manner could be a promising way to plug leakages and make welfare programmes more effective.
  • Digital inclusion can empower women not only through improving their individual agency, but also by dismantling hostile norms surrounding gender.
  • Reduction of violence:-
    • Studies show that households where women had mobile phones reported lower tolerance for domestic violence and higher women’s autonomy in mobility and economic independence.
  • Monitoring:-
    • Asha workers said that they are able to access information on basic health issues that they are unfamiliar with, especially everyday health problems of adolescent girls.
  • Economic awareness:-
    • Those already skilled, such as in stitching and craft, and currently making clothes and jewellery for self-use are able to access new designs and techniques to incorporate with eye on enterprise.

Way forward:

  • Communities or organizations are suggested to collaborate with each other, so they can expand their training or workshops to cover the variety of age and levels of women’s digital media literacy and also can increase the number of female teachers of digital media literacy.
  • Collaboration is needed among women’s empowerment programs, from government as the policy makers and infrastructure builders, non-governmental organizations as the initiators/creators of women’s empowerment actions, and from communities, as the developers to support and expand women’s empowerment directly, especially to reach out to women who live in rural areas.