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Innovative Mobile Help-Line For Women Tops The 2005 Gender And ICT Awards
Lenka Simerska | 31 October 2005


Pallitathya is an innovative mobile help-line programme that operates through the use of cell phones. The programme was created to support underprivileged women in rural Bangladesh. It outshined 30 other entries from all over the Asia-Pacific to receive first place in this years Gender and Information & Communication Technology (GICT) Awards sponsored by the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) and the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP).


Two other projects were selected as runners-up including Putting ICTs in the Hands of the Poor, which is a community-based ICT centre in India and eHomemakers a network for home-based businesses in Malaysia. The 2005 GICT Awards ceremony will be held at the 10th AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development on October 27-30th in Bangkok, Thailand. A knowledge-sharing session will also be organized in conjunction with the award ceremony.

The 2005 GICT Awards focuses on information and communication technology initiatives, which promote women’s economic empowerment and development in the Asia-Pacific. It defines economic empowerment as the ability to overcome marginalization and oppressive social norms. Obtaining full and limitless empowerment includes the presence of choice and opportunity for women, while enabling them to change their socio-economic and political position in society. Within this focus are three major criteria: the use of ICTs to promote women’s economic empowerment and gender equality, increase in the creation of initiatives and community-based technologies, and the promotion of cooperation and social networking among women and women-related organizations.

GICT Awards Winner: Helping Women Help Themselves

The winning project was the Pallitathya Help-Line Centre and Call Centre for the Poor and Underprivileged. It was established in 2003 by the Development Through Access to Network Resources (D.Net). The project was based on assessment findings that revealed a lack of timely and relevant information was the major obstacle to rural development as well as a leading factor in the exploitation of the underprivileged, specifically women.

In order for the help-line to successfully operate, women in the community were designated as ‘Mobile Operator Ladies’ who travelled from door-to-door encouraging other women to ask questions related to livelihood, agriculture, health, and legal rights via a mobile phone. As the women asked questions a ‘Help-Desk’ operator responded with the use of a database software application and the Internet. To expand the information database people from both government and non-government organizations, health groups, and human rights organizations partnered with D.Net to adequately respond to frequently asked questions. With women’s economic empowerment at the forefront, the Pallitathya Help-Line Centre directly addressed the community’s information needs on issues of health, education, livelihood, employment and agriculture, all while keeping women’s anonymity intact. As ‘Mobile Operator Ladies’ women were consciously given a role as intermediaries increasing self-worth and knowledge about various issues. The women ‘Help-Desk’ operators also enhanced their knowledge of issues and considerably improved their communication skills. The women who used the help-line professed a higher self-regard, realization of their potential and worth in society, and increased authority over spending decisions in the household.

Acknowledging the great success of the project Dr. Ananya Raihan, Executive Director of D.Net explained "I saw the light of inspiration in their eyes. We would like to go a long way. At this early stage this recognition will facilitate us to work more and achieve the ultimate target." For its efforts, D.Net’s Pallitathya Help-Line Centre will receive a cash prize of US$8,000, while the two runners-up will each receive US$3,000. Representatives of each project will also be financially supported to attend the AWID Forum where over 2,000 women’s rights activists, academics, policy makers and students from all other the world are expected to attend.

GICT Awards Runners-Up: Building Business Through ICTS In India And Malaysia

Putting ICTs in the Hands of the Poor is a project in the Seelampur Community ICT Centre. The community centre is a tripartite alliance among Datamation Foundation Charitable Trust, the UNESCO, and the Babul-Uloom-Madrasa, an orthodox Muslim religious school in India. Seelampur is a predominantly Muslim ghetto that is marked by extreme poverty.

A modern ICT centre was established within the Babul-Uloom-Madrasa to provide a venue for Muslim women to learn vocational skills, information about small business, and human and legal rights from interactive multimedia. The ICT centre also established support mechanisms in the form of capacity-building, marketing and financial networking for the women to engage in income-generating opportunities.

Skills and vocational training CDs were made available to the women of Seelampur. The information ranged from tailoring, embroidery, and candle and soap making to management, basic literacy, confidence-building and personality development. The centre also established a local community web site called eNRICH where women were provided basic computer training and could voice their concerns on health, education, livelihood, and other matters related to the community’s needs.

The eHomemakers of Malaysia was founded in 1998 as the Mothers for Mother network, which works to empower home workers, telecommunication workers, and home business owners to improve their socio-economic position. Through the eHomemakers web site community members are able to network with each other via the web site’s Xchange section. They are also able to organize activities to advertise their products and services for free, participate in teletrading and bartering all while working at home. The web site’s Homebiz Management, Home-based Profiles, and IT Tips and Tricks sections enable women to efficiently work from home, pursue entrepreneurial ventures, and sustain home businesses. A forum board facilitates networking and the exchange of ideas and experiences, while experts in business development and entrepreneurship respond to frequently asked questions. The eHomemakers network targets women in the low-income group, including unemployed single mothers with young or disabled children. It also focuses on the disabled and chronically ill through the strategic use of ICTs.

Gender And ICT Awards 2005

The GICT Awards 2005 was open to civil society organizations, community-based groups, networks and social movements in the Asia-Pacific. Its target beneficiaries are women and girls. The awards were founded in 2003.

Sponsors

The Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) is a global network of women who support networking for social change and women’s empowerment through the use of ICTs.

The Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is the leading international multi-stakeholder network committed to harnessing the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) for sustainable and equitable development. Ranging from grassroots practitioners to policy-makers, GKP members and partners are innovators in the use of ICT for development.

The Gender and ICT Awards is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Department for International Development (DfID) United Kingdom.

For more information about the Awards, please write to: Mylene Soto Coordinator mylene@apcwomen.org.





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