In a modern world, the economic upliftment and the development of any society depends largely on the ability to access information, a privilege that many unknowingly take for granted.
As a 21st century woman I have access to a large array of devices and tools that allow me to access information and do my job efficiently. Car radios, television sets with a decoder for more viewing choices, a laptop with Wi-Fi connectivity, a landline and a smartphone with unlimited usage. I have an endless choice of apps, I can find out about the weather, load shedding or the latest specials. I can shop, bank, book and access entertainment and stay in touch with my family and the world. I use five or six different Social Media platforms, store and retrieve data and I can send an email any time of the day or night… oh and I, (most times!) have electricity to power my extensive digital domain. I am a connected woman!
I am, however (sadly), in the minority! This is why the Wot-if? Trust is proud to be hosting 67 Days of Digital Activism. Our entrepreneurs and project participants have to consistently overcome connectivity hurdles to maintain relevance in today’s society. Imagine their day – radio or a TV with limited channels are your only form of news and outdated but cheap mobile phone which don’t have the newest and greatest capability. Limited cash to purchase airtime and no access to data bundles, you are prevented from reaching the unlimited amounts of open source information that lies just out of your reach. For most rural and urban poor, particularly a high percentage of women in informal settlements, this is a daily reality.
Little to no access to our connected world leaves individuals intimidated when they finally do connect. But oh the possibilities if we’re patient! New thought processes, changed mindsets, open learning opportunities, reduced violence and innovative solutions to local problems. Moreover, their story, told with their own voice, can be accurately depicted through their lens, teaching the connected that our way is not always the right way.
Access to consistent connectivity and information means that women can:
Become bankable. Access loans or credit and obtain insurances.
Prepare for success. Find out about business ideas, entrepreneurial opportunities and business services
Analyse markets and access online market opportunities. Integration into larger markets is easier when small-scale entrepreneurs in townships have access to online business resources on marketing and investment decisions.
Enhance their children’s lives. Women who are connected to technology can advocate for their children, educating themselves on issues, investing time in their children’s school work, and supporting the continued advancement of their child’s education.
Live Healthier. Women who are unable to admit to their partners their fear of health risks can research health issues and information on nutrition.
Invest in their future. Technology allows women to set goals for themselves, increasing their standard of living and taking control of their destiny.
Engage in Dialogue. Discuss issues that are sensitive and pertinent to women, allowing them to recognize they are not alone and gender equity is theirs to ask for.
At the 2014 Social Good Summit, a panel of women concluded that social media and other digital tools are transforming the roles of women and girls across the world. Graca Machel herself stated that connecting communities has the power to change long-held ideas or traditions, including the kind that lead to child marriage, which affects 15 million girls each year.
Technology is an enabler at the most basic level, allowing women access to information that not only improves potential professional skills, but individual self-esteem and curiosity of the unknown. It is the combination of the two that increases sustainability.
Leave your phone at home tomorrow. Remind yourself how difficult it is to maneuver through our 21st century world without it. When you pick it back up after your long day of searching for the convenience, join our 67 Days of Digital Activism and commit to spreading the word on connectivity for the unconnected.
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