Empowering rural girls through technology
This article is the 8th in a series of articles related to Wikiprogress.
When we talk about progress from a qualitative point of view, we often talk about life satisfaction. When we talk about gender equality, we often talk about helping women and girls achieve the same opportunities as men and boys. Another dimension, however, is how to reach life satisfaction and gender equality for all – those living in urban areas and those living in rural areas. This progress series will look at how Gender Equality and Web 2.0 can help bridge the divide between rural and urban girls, so that all girls benefit from current opportunities brought by new technologies – and be satisfied with their lives.
Table of Contents
- 1 Starting point: a focus on rural girls
- 2 Communication for Development (C4D) Programmes
- 3 An example in practice: Ureport in UgandaSee the Ureport website: http://ureport.ug/
- 4 Recommendations to policymakers and donors
- 5 See Also
- 6 Other progress-related articles
- 7 References
- 8 External Links
Starting point: a focus on rural girls
The (CSW), which ran from 27 February until 9 March 2012, focused on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. Many organisations also took the opportunity of to focus on rural women, for example the FAO. Many ideas and facts from this section below came from a session Wikigender attended during the 56th CSW: “Rural girls and urban migration: the role of communications for development in bridging the divide“. There are many reasons why there is so much focus on rural women – in this progress series Wikigender will focus specifically on rural girls and their integration in cities. Why?
- Urbanisation and ICTs are two major agents of rapid change today: by 2050, it is estimated that 70% of the world population will be living in citiesUN-HABITAT, Press Release for the State of World Cities Report 2008/9, available at: http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?cid=6040&catid=7&typeid=5; however, some figures indicate that every week, of the 3 million people moving to urban areas, 1 million end up living in slums, and 55% of the slum population are women.UN-Habitat (2008), State of the World Cities Report 2008-2009
- A focus on rural girls: About 40% of the population in slums are girls under the age of 12. By 2030, approximately 1.5 billion girls will live in urban areas.
- Cities represent a world of opportunities for rural girls: it means access to better education, employment, information, but also escape from traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) or early marriage. According to a survey in slum areas of Addis Ababa, one in four young women migrants between the ages of 10 and 19 came to the city to escape child marriage.Plan International (2010), Because I am a Girl Report: Digital and Urban Frontiers: Girls in a Changing Landscape, p. 37 – available at: http://plan-international.org/girls/resources/digital-and-urban-frontiers-2010.phpCities can be places of inclusion and participation, but also places of exclusion and marginalisation, with the incidence of crime and violence. How can we ensure rural girls’ safe transition and inclusion into cities?
Moving to a city is not at all easy: better policies need to be put in place to help the integration of these rural girls into cities, so they can be empowered, but also so they can return to their families and empower other girls. This means not only providing access to technology, but also ensuring that such access to technology – and information – matches the expectations of rural girls, i.e. in finding a job.
Video: Growing up in rural communities
Watch this video below posted by Plan International in March 2012, where you can hear girls speaking out about growing up in rural communities. Plan supported girl delegates from Cambodia , Cameroon , Malawi , Pakistan and Sierra Leone to attend the 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN to campaign for girls’ rights.
Communication for Development (C4D) Programmes
C4D was used since the 1970s to integrate children’s rights and social transformation perspectives with communication planning – it has a strong focus on building dialogue, enhancing community participation and ownership. In terms of girls’ rights in the cities, C4D appears as a powerful tool as it gives adolescent girls a voice and an active role in helping to develop safe urban environments – since they are best positioned to know what issues matter to them.UN-Habitat, Women in Cities International, Plan International (2012), Adolescent Girls Creating Safer Cities: Harnessing the Potential of Communication for Development (C4D), p. 4, available at: http://plancanada.ca/Document.Doc?id=265
There are many ways in which C4D can be used by girls: face to face, broadcast media, print media, the Internet and mobile phones.UN-Habitat, Women in Cities International, Plan International (2012), Adolescent Girls Creating Safer Cities: Harnessing the Potential of Communication for Development (C4D), p. 17, available at: http://plancanada.ca/Document.Doc?id=265
Today, numerous organisations use C4D in their participatory planning processes involving local communities and government bodies, such as the partnership between United Nations-Habitat, Plan International , Women in Cities and Huairou Commission. This partnership started to develop a programme framework in 2010 to test and validate Plan’s 8-point Call to Action on Girls’ Rights in the City – all girls have the right to:
- Access safe education in the city
- Be free from violence in the city
- Secure and decent housing
- Move safely in the city
- Age-appropriate and decent work in a healthy urban environment
- Safe spaces in the city
- Participate in making cities safer, more inclusive and more accessible.Plan International (2010), Because I am a Girl Report: Digital and Urban Frontiers: Girls in a Changing Landscape, p. 91 – available at: http://plan-international.org/girls/resources/digital-and-urban-frontiers-2010.php
However, C4D approaches are still not fully understood by all development stakeholders; they are not adequately supported by community leaders and government structures; they need to be able to reach all levels, including the family, the community and the city; and they need to be better monitored and documented to add to the body of evidence and plan more effectively in the future.UN-Habitat, Women in Cities International, Plan International (2012), Adolescent Girls Creating Safer Cities: Harnessing the Potential of Communication for Development (C4D), p. 19, available at: http://plancanada.ca/Document.Doc?id=265
An example in practice: Ureport in UgandaSee the Ureport website: http://ureport.ug/
This is a programme using both new technology and traditional media – it is a free SMS-based system allowing young Ugandans to speak out on issues that matter to them the most, such as: access to healthcare, early marriage, FGm, dropping out of school, etc. Local communities then work together with other community leaders for positive change – and the key messages are taken to the Government so appropriate action can be taken.
- Weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of Ureporters
- Regular radio programs that will broadcast stories gathered by Ureport
- Newspaper articles that will publish stories from the Ureport community.
There are over 90, 000 members to date.
Of course, the programme faces a number of challenges, such as the language barrier, literacy issues, and lack of phone ownership. But it is well received by the different communities and is very successful in bringing people to think together about creative solutions and how to put them into action.
Video: Ureport on early marriage and violence against children
Watch the U-report television show that was posted in January 2012 on the issues of early marriage and violence against children:
Recommendations to policymakers and donors
So what can be done?
Policy recommendations should be based on the following international conventions and commitments:
- UNESCO and UN-Habitat Right to the City
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- CEDAW (CEDAW)
- Plan’s 8-Point Call to Action on Girls’ Rights in the City (see section above)UN-Habitat, Women in Cities International, Plan International (2012), Adolescent Girls Creating Safer Cities: Harnessing the Potential of Communication for Development (C4D), p. 22, available at: http://plancanada.ca/Document.Doc?id=265
A number of interesting recommendations were given by the panellists fromn the session on “Harnessing C4D Innovations: Transforming the lives of marginalised girls through ICTs” (at the 56th CSW):
- New ICTs should be integrated in all policies, in such a way that it respects both the participation and the protection of rural girls
- There is a need to increase the mobile phone coverage and the literacy rates, to accelerate girls’ empowerment (a note to the private sector: there are huge business opportunities there to expand mobile phone networks)
- Engage with women, girls, men and boys and work with the whole community to transform social norms and discriminatory attitudes that hamper rural girls’ opportunities
- Give rural girls the chance to innovate with new ICT tools: support small projects over the long-term via a participatory approach.
One key recommendation: Count girls and measure progress
There is a lack of quality and comparable data on adolescent girls in developing countries: some of this information is collected via censuses and national surveys such as demographic health surveys, but this is not enough.Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies, A Girls Count Report on Adolescent girls, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, p. 15, available at: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/UserFiles/File/GlobalAgDevelopment/Report/GirlsGrowReportFinal_v9.pdf What is needed is more data on adolescents and young people, with particular focus on disaggregated data on rural adolescent girls.
Efforts should be focused on:
- Recording all births and collecting/disaggregating gender and age-data
Birth registration is central to be able to defend rural girls’ rights efficiently – this includes defending against early marriage, but also accessing health care, social services, and legal rights. This may include capacity building in rural areas, and household and population data should be disaggregated by age, gender, martial, educational and socioeconomic status and geographic location. The same applies to national censuses, demographic health surveys, and labour surveys.
- Establishing benchmarks and reporting progress regularly
International organisations and national governments need to establish benchmarks for each action that are specific to rural girls’ circumstances, and progress should be reported regularly. Ideally, benchmarks and progress should be discussed at a regional level, and country strategies should be carefully monitored and supported.Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies, A Girls Count Report on Adolescent girls, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, p. 99, available at: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/UserFiles/File/GlobalAgDevelopment/Report/GirlsGrowReportFinal_v9.pdf
- Gender Equality and ICTs
- Iphones and Gender Equality
- Access to internet and computers
- Female Migration
- Women and Migration
Other progress-related articles
- See [Wikigender Progress Series|Wikigender Progress Series]
- Cambodian women’s pink tech revolution – see also: “Pink telephones – using technology to empower women in Cambodia”
- At CSW56, discriminatory social institutions matter!, 8 March 2012, ProgBlog