As technology continues to advance and grow more accessible, women around the world are increasingly gaining access to a cell phone for the first time. Though it is taken for granted in much of the developed world, cell phone use opens multiple doors that were not there before. According to Africa in Focus, technology can be thought of as a tool that creates opportunities for women. Specifically, technology has permitted women entry into the realms of finance, education and health and employment, thereby encouraging female empowerment and democratization in low-income countries.
Firstly, cell phone ownership gives women the ability to be financially independent, because they can open an online bank account separate from their husbands’. Impatient Optimists claims that “A private account gives women in developing nations control over their money as well as the ability to put food on the table.”
Currently, 1.7 million women in low-income countries don’t own a cell phone, according to the GSMA (an association representing mobile operators worldwide). Women are also 14 percent less likely to own a phone than men. Therefore, technology is a vital component of big-picture solutions to gender inequality and female disempowerment.
Secondly, cell phones are beneficial in the realm of women’s education and health. Impatient Optimists notes that “The East African nation has rolled out an ambitious program allowing parents to register their child’s birth via mobile phone. Under the program, midwives can request a child’s birth certificate by sending a text message.”
The East African program will save women time and money because they will not have to travel to the capital to acquire a birth certificate for their child. The Millennium project reported that most women live on less than 1 dollar per day. Under such conditions, the option of an online birth certificate can have a dramatic impact. Significantly, children in Africa need a recorded birth certificate in order to access schools, medical care, and, eventually, a bank account.
Thirdly, cell phone access can increase employment for women in Africa. Impatient Optimists points out that having a mobile phone allows women to open their own businesses in remote villages, as opposed to walking a great distance in order to register the business.
The New York Times recognizes that, “economically empowered women are one of the most important engines of growth in developing countries, and they play a central role in building prosperous communities.” That is why women in Africa must have their own phones, instead of sharing with family members.
When women have access to their own phones, bank accounts, and financial situations, they often invest in health-care, nutritious food and education. In fact, The New York Times reports that, “A child born in a household where the mother controls the family budget is 20 percent more likely to survive and much more likely to thrive.”
Women in Africa should be given the power and authority to make financial decisions for their family, given that they tend to prioritize moral and just causes. A mobile phone in the hands of a determined woman could benefit not only the economy, but the daily lives of families across Africa.
– Megan Hadley