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Women, Poverty and ICT: Mediating Social Change

25-03-2005 (Paris)
Two documentary films on women and ICT are now available online. They were produced in the framework of UNESCO’s pilot project “Putting ICT in the Hands of the Poor”, which examines the information needs of poverty stricken communities in South Asia, with a special focus on gender issues.
The gender divide is one of the most significant inequalities reflected within the digital divide which cuts across all social and income groups. UNESCO’s concern about women’s marginalisation from ICT is based on the assumption that women will benefit less from new educational and employment opportunities.

Women in many rural areas do not have structured local communication networks or access to information and knowledge, barriers that compound and enhance poverty. This is why UNESCO has helped to develop a number of potential models to address this issue through innovative use of ICT. Three of these experiences are depicted in the films:
  • Nabanna community network in Baduria, West Bengal,
  • ICT Learning Centre for Women in Seelampur, a poverty stricken area in New Delhi, and
  • Namma Dhwani Local ICT network in Budikote, Karnataka, India.
The Nabanna information network, one of the nine project’s targeted groups, provides poor women with access to information in Bengali (the local language), which allows them to discuss and exchange their experience with other women trough off-line group activities. It uses grassroots processes to build information–sharing networks among low-income, rural women. Focus areas include agriculture, environment, health, sanitation, family planning, education, literacy and law.
As changes occur - enhanced awareness, opportunities for networking, possibilities to increase incomes – women’s decision capacity is seen as fundamental to enhance their empowerment. This enables women to question the given norms and potentially challenge existing hierarchies based on gender.

The findings of these new models and innovative approaches of applying ICT for poverty reduction at grassroots level have been carefully researched and documented in the two UNESCO publications: Profiles and Experiences in ICT Innovation for Poverty Reduction and Research ICT Innovations for Poverty Reduction.
Related themes/countries

      · Role of Women in Communication and Information
      · India: News Archive 2005
      · Gender and ICT: News Archives 2005
      · Asia and the Pacific: News Archive 2005
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