Gender and ICT/Placing Women's Empowerment Back Into the Gender Equality Framework

…we must guard against falling into a kind of technocratic approach to gender mainstreaming that governments and agencies can adopt, without actually talking to women – particularly women who are poor and disadvantaged. We must guard against regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment as a set of technical tools and concepts de-linked from practice, power, and politics.

- Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, UNIFEM[1]

The Odd Couple: Development and Empowerment


Empowerment refers to enabling people towards self-determination. For women, empowerment emphasizes the importance of increasing their power and taking control over decisions and issues that shape their lives. This includes having full access to complete information and to self-discern the quality and credibility of such information in making these decisions. To empower women means to understand and address the various dynamics of power and relationships in a particular society which are intertwined with issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, gender, history and race.

Power is identified with equity and equality for women and men in access to resources, participation in decision-making and control over distribution of resources and benefits. Gender equality is addressed at these different levels with the aim of increasing equality between women and men, and achieving women’s empowerment. Access to resources refers to both the means and the right to obtain services, products or commodities. Gender gaps in access to resources and services are a major obstacle to women’s development. The process of empowerment includes mobilizing women to eliminate these gaps.

Therefore, if development efforts are indeed being implemented within the framework of gender equality, it means that development interventions must ultimately be aimed to empower women.

Needs vs. Rights Mentality


Many countries argue that development and the needs of the community must come first, rather than providing a preferential focus on women’s development needs and their rights. And often, what are cited are values that put the community first. Hence communal rights must come first before individual rights, making many countries reluctant to place any priority on promoting and protecting women’s rights and autonomy. What many countries have failed to acknowledge, but is open knowledge to everyone, is the fact that communal rights, once gained, are enjoyed at the individual level. The extent to which these are enjoyed by the wider community depends further on the power hierarchies within that community. This ebb and flow of development priorities and choices, however, have yet to fully integrate a gender perspective that is aimed towards the achievement of women’s empowerment. Louise Chamberlain in her paper on ‘Considerations for Gender Advocacy vis-à-vis ICT Policy Strategy’ suggests that gender advocates need to take a more pragmatic approach, i.e. in her words, the ‘business case’ approach (Chamberlain, 2002). Chamberlain maintains that gender mainstreaming is revolutionary in many circles and hence, takes too long to attain if a purely rights-based model is used. While she still promotes using arguments of rights, she strongly suggests complementing these with arguments of essential utility. This is not the first time that gender advocates are asked to ‘speak the language’ of policy makers. Such has been what women’s health rights activists have had to do in showing governments that it costs more to ‘heal’ a woman survivor of rape compared to ensuring that proper laws are in place and duly enforced (see Box 5).

Box 5: A Cost-Benefit Myth of Telecentres
;Myth: If telecentres have to be economically sustainable, it is not possible to design interventions

for the marginalized, including poor women.

New ICTs are remarkably amenable to addressing aggregated demands at the community

level; they are versatile enough to meet not only the diverse needs of various social groups but also the range of demands of every individual in a community. Successful pilots have demonstrated that a diversity of models can be adopted to viably address the information and communication needs of the entire community. Telecentres need not be isolated information stations, but rather can form part of existing facilities and institutions – health centres, schools, libraries and community centres – that provide a mix of services and potential cost structures based on cross-subsidization.

The fundamental issue in reaching poor women is not one of profitability of models, but the creation of a set of technology-mediated services and products that allow women to be part of emerging opportunities. Efficient business models will follow effective technology models. A lopsided focus on financial viability in discussions around telecentres has resulted in the undermining of a committed focus on the transformatory and development capabilities of ICTs (Gurumurthy and Sarkar, 2003).

The private sector does not have the incentive to reach the marginalized and where information relevant to the marginalized is to any degree delivered by the private sector, the telecentre has been treated purely as an information shop accessed rarely and randomly by the marginalized and not as a potential force for change. Governments and NGOs trying to harness ICTs need to view the economics of telecentres within frameworks of justice and equity. Public information delivery has to be guided by the cornerstone of accountability rather than of profit. Initial investments required to set up a telecentre will start paying off when information begins to have positive influences on the community – in terms of economic well-being as well as transformation in social relations at community and household levels - as women and the poor start leveraging information and communication resources.

Source: Selected myth from Gurumurthy, Anita. 2004. ‘Box 11: Telecenters: Some Myths’ in Gender and ICTs: Overview Report. Brighton: BRIDGE, Institute for Development Studies, p.34.

However, the pragmatic cost-benefit approach places the burden of responsibility and proof on gender advocates who are not only under-resourced, but do not have access to suitable sex-disaggregated data. Would it be sufficient for gender advocates to point to examples within other sectors such as health and rural development, which have a longer history of data collection and research, in order to exemplify why gender mainstreaming is important? Would ICT policy makers take any interest if these are not examples pertaining directly to ICT? The fact that gender is cross-cutting should render these examples relevant as any other, yet they are not. Time and again, gender advocates have had to argue as to why gender is important within each and every forum. Governments do have their obligations and responsibilities which they continuously reaffirm of their own free will at various UN conventions and reviews which they are committed or obligated to implement. A more pragmatic approach then may be to design an effective mechanism that will facilitate the various government agencies to actually talk to each other and work together with the national women’s machineries.[2] At the least, there must be a mechanism that comprehensively informs all government ministries of the various commitments made at such fora and how these intersect across sectors as well as their implications for policy-making and implementation. However, one unspoken yet often hinted at hurdle may still remain. There is a general innate fear that remains little spoken of or discussed constructively today, that is, if one promotes women’s rights and women’s empowerment too strongly, then that person is deemed a feminist and a man-hater. The fear of feminism probably manifests in different ways. One of which, usually, is in the way most policy makers and development programme planners would differentiate gender issues from women’s issues, and render ‘achievement of equality’ in terms of equal numbers between the sexes and, in doing so, fail to pay due attention to affirmative measures that need to be undertaken to ensure women’s empowerment. It is time to place women’s empowerment back into the framework of gender equality, where it has always belonged, the way on-the-ground activists have been doing on a smaller scale.

Enabling Women’s Empowerment through ICT


A number of successful initiatives can be cited from all across Asia that demonstrates how women can acquire ICT-related skills and use the technology, and at the same time have control over their use. In this section, efforts have been made to highlight key initiatives that clearly depict how women can be empowered economically, socially and politically. Considering how women’s needs and issues are so interrelated to one another across these three areas, it is not surprising that these initiatives more often than not address more than one area of women’s empowerment.

Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment


In Asia, a number of credible models exist that could be replicated to address women’s economic issues through the use of ICTs.

The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), for example, has been organizing women in the informal sector in India since 1972.[3] It was one of the first organizations globally to realize the potential of using ICTs for the productive growth of the informal sector. SEWA is establishing Technology Information Centres in 11 districts of Gujarat, India to provide computer awareness training and basic computer skills for their ‘barefoot managers’, build the capacity of women organizers and leaders, and strengthen their members’ micro enterprises. It now runs programmes that develop women’s abilities in the use of computers, radio, television, video, the telephone, fax machines, mobile phones and satellite communication. Electronic networking is expected to strengthen the connections between the various cooperatives working in different sectors and areas, and currently enables the provision of content tailored to the needs and environment of particular groups of villages. In addition, members of SEWA are able to access government schemes and tap into new markets. In the second phase, the centres will also support the education of girls.[4]

The best known of the ICT-enabled businesses with a high percentage of women owners/operators is Grameen Phones in Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank took a focused approach to gender and development through their model of poverty reduction, serving as a source of micro-credit and literacy training, skills development, and health, family planning, and political consciousness education directed at women.[5]

In 1996, the Bank set up Grameen Phones, Bangladesh’s first cell phone network. Grameen Phones is particularly noteworthy because of the economic empowerment that it has brought to poor, largely uneducated women. From among its more than two million predominantly women borrowers, the Bank management selects Village Phone Operators to whom the phone is provided as an in-kind loan. The operators resell wireless phone services (incoming and outgoing) to fellow villagers.

Some 75 percent of the operators are women, numbering about 2,000 (see Box 6).[6] Having women operators promotes women’s phone usage because women are more likely to use phones when the operator is a woman. Where women were operators, 82 percent of the users were women; with men operators, women comprised only 6.3 percent of Grameen Bank phone users.

More than half of women users (58 percent) said that they preferred women phone operators.[7] The phones are used primarily for calls relating to financial matters, particularly relating to remittances, which are a significant source of village income. Strikingly, among poor villagers, 38 percent of phone users had one or more family members living abroad. The phones are also used to obtain agricultural price information, thereby improving the position of the villagers in bargaining with middlemen and resulting in higher prices for local farm products.

Box 6: Grameen Bank’s Women Phone Operators
The Grameen Bank’s women phone operators are generally poorer than the average villager.

However, the income that they earn is significant, generally accounting for 30-40 percent of household income and averaging US$300/year in a country where average per capita income is US$286. The operators are likely to be married (90 percent), and half of them have no formal education. Another quarter has primary education and the remaining quarter, some secondary education. Thirty-six percent identify themselves as housewives, and only 6 percent have some kind of formal employment (in government or business). The women operate their phone businesses while doing household chores or operating another business. Current Village Phone Operators are likely to become managers of the expanded telecommunications services. Village Phones have made women phone clients and phone business operators. They have created a ‘phone culture’ among women by enabling their access to communication tools from which they might otherwise be excluded. They have also shown that poor, largely uneducated women can master the skills and run a small business. Women phone operators have achieved economic and social empowerment within their households and communities. The relatively substantial revenue stream has elevated the women operators’ positions in their own households, particularly in decision-making. As a result of being a phone operator, better-off villagers come to homes they would ordinarily not frequent, thereby raising the status of the operator. The advantages of small-scale telecommunications businesses for potential women entrepreneurs are that there are no educational requirements, except for minimal mechanical aptitude, and that the capital requirements are small enough to be met through micro-credit schemes. Not only do these businesses provide income and employment for the entrepreneurs – they also accelerate development in areas where telecommunications were scarce or nonexistent.

Source: Hafkin and Taggart, 2001.

Governments too have undertaken some initiatives in building up the capacity of women in the area of ICT, in particular the Korean and Malaysian governments. For example, between 2001 and 2002, the Ministry of Information and Communication of the Republic of Korea, trained one million housewives in computer and Internet use. The Ministry of Labour runs computer training for unemployed women, especially those who are heads of households. The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development has a project to enhance ICT skills of girl students from elementary through high school. The Ministry of Gender Equality has organized programmes at 12 Korean universities for women who want to work in an e-business or to start Small Office-Home Office businesses. Asian Pacific Women’s Information Network Center (APWINC) at Sookmyung University trains women to work in IT, including as freelancers and in their own businesses.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry encourages the use of ICTs by women farmers through onsite and mobile computer education and technical support services. Real-time information on market prices is posted on the website. The website also operates a shopping mall for agricultural products. Technical assistance is available to farmers in building personal websites. The Kyonggi Province Programme for women IT professionals ( provides training and lifelong education for women tailored to the different stages of women’s lives. Unemployed women, women heads of households and handicapped women who want to enter the work force are trained in business incubation and capacity building (including gender training). Women are trained for 10 to 12 months as IT specialists, and at the end of it, they either seek employment or start their own businesses. The course made numerous accommodations to meet women’s needs and daily schedules.

In Malaysia, the Demonstrator Application Grant Scheme (DAGS) proved to be an extremely successful model that promoted collaborations and project-based partnerships among governmental agencies, small ICT private sector enterprises, CSOs, as well as the community (see Box 7). Among the 74 projects funded, a number were aimed to benefit women, and included women’s capacity building in the use of ICTs. For example, the project called T-Center For Teleworking and Telecommuting was designed to guide 200 participants, mainly women and youths, to learn and acquire teleworking skills and to enable them to adapt teleworking as a new mode of work. Another project that was funded under the DAGS scheme is the e-Homemakers’ Project (, the only tri-lingual local portal that promotes the concept of working from home by providing resources and a platform for homemakers and homeworkers to teletrade and tele-exchange. A Women’s Electronic Networking Training (WENT) Award[8] winner in 2003, this project provides basic ICT skills training to disadvantaged and special women to enable them to participate effectively in this knowledge-based economy. The project prepares them to work at home through other soft skills trainings and empowerment exercises.

Box 7: Malaysia’s Demonstrator Application Grant Scheme
DAGS was officially launched in 1998 and was a key initiative for the realization of objectives set

out in Malaysia’s National IT Agenda. Additionally, DAGS enabled all Malaysians the opportunity to be acculturated and involved in community innovation projects and related activities. The grant scheme was a platform to build human capacity and capability through ICT applications. Initially, the Scheme was granted MYR 50 million under the 7th Malaysia Plan, which ended in December 2000. Whilst under the 8th Malaysia Plan (January 2001-December 2005), the amount increased 100 percent to MYR 100 million. DAGS funded a total of 74 projects with total funding of MYR 104.8 million, covering different target communities. The majority of the projects focused on community development. From these 74 projects, an estimated 1.8 million people from different target communities benefited from ICT exposure in various ways.

Source: DAGS Pride II, CD-ROM, Mimos Berhad, 2004.

The examples above bring out the following key elements:

  • Women are culturally not exposed to establishing and running a business. In fact, in most

countries, trade is generally a male domain as well, and businesses can succeed or fail by whom you know and do business with. Hence, women will not only lack business management skills but also business development/marketing skills and a business network. Women should either be supported (mentored but not made reliant) with the necessary expertise by a third party or be trained specifically on these skills. For almost all of the examples above, women who are enabled to run small businesses are almost always provided a ‘captured market’ of peers and fellow villagers/community members, a small but still necessary start-up niche.

  • Grameen’s approach, on the other hand, operates on the notion that the woman knows best on

what she has to do given her situation, capacity and needs. What Grameen spearheaded was a development approach that placed resources into the hands of poor women and empowered them with control and decision-making over the use of these. In setting up their system of accountability among their borrowers, Grameen successfully challenged certain cultural norms and entrenched gender-power dynamics.

Enabling Women’s Social Empowerment


Women’s social disempowerment is often strongly linked to her isolation from information that she needs, and this includes her ability, opportunity and space (both virtual and non-virtual) to communicate in her own local language with others for this information.

In India, Change Initiatives is putting a web-based information system to strategic use for the benefit of poor women of Baduria, a rural region in North-24 Parganas district in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The project, Nabanna, is a collaboration exercise among Change Initiatives, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), National Informatics Centre, researchers of the London School of Economics and Queensland University of Technology, and the Baduria Municipality.

In 2002, concerned over the lack of penetration of ICTs among the rural poor, Change Initiatives found that absence of information and an information-sharing mechanism among poor women have thwarted their ability to fulfil basic needs, restricted their awareness and blocked their desire to break barriers that limit their participation in society. The findings were the result of a survey among woman NGOs and self help groups (SHGs) in rural regions of North-24 Parganas.

As a pilot for the project, Change Initiatives decided to work among poor women of the Baduria Municipality – despite being an urban body, the municipality was to all intents and purposes a rural region – who were involved in its Community Development Scheme. In its application for the inaugural Gender and ICT Awards,[9] Change Initiatives shared that, “since Nabanna involves and affects many people, we had to understand many viewpoints in order to formulate plans and track progress. A key feature that distinguishes our project is that it involves people in all four stages of planning, doing, observing and reflecting.”

For Nabanna, Change Initiatives had developed a novel participatory rural appraisal tool where they had asked the candidates to maintain diaries on their lives. The diaries were an effective tool for needs assessment, in addition to being a vehicle for self-expression. Change Initiatives further shared that, “our biggest achievement until now is in instilling a sense of personal empowerment among the beneficiaries by just ensuring greater access to and use of ICTs. We find that our beneficiaries can raise their voice within their family; are respected by their husband, in-laws, parents and other family members; are considered knowledgeable persons in their community (since they learn computers); and have become more creative after learning graphic art software programmes. Many of them said that by learning computers, they would be able to approach the job market with greater confidence. Over and above this, is the emergence of solidarity that has resulted through the correct perception of the ICT centres being spaces reserved exclusively for women. While learning computers, our beneficiaries often discuss their problems, creating a sense of unity among them and also bringing forth the leadership qualities in them. Solidarity outcomes have also been noticed in our review of information group meetings.” WENT[10] is one key regional training in the Asia-Pacific region that surprised both project owners and donors. Started in 1999 as a project-based initiative, this regional training continued to be jointly managed by the APC WNSP and APWINC on behalf of AWORC until 2004. WENT began by training women on basic website development tools and other Internet-based group communications in 1999. WENT sought to promote greater networking among women’s organizations in the region and enhance their capabilities on the use of ICTs to advance their social and policy advocacy.

The first WENT workshop trained 23 women from 11 countries to use email and web-based services to promote and enhance their participation in the review process for the Beijing Platform for Action. In response to various information and communication needs of women in the Asia-Pacific region, WENT then diversified its training. Since 2000, WENT ran parallel instructional tracks on web-based information management, local area networking, using ICT for advocacy, and database management. In 2004, instructional tracks focused on e-commerce, content development, and training for ICT trainers. From a workshop designed for women’s organizations in the Asian region by women ICT practitioners, WENT has opened its doors to women and their organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. Women coming from relatively under-represented countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Russia and Uzbekistan have also graduated from WENT. By 2003, 138 women from 23 countries had been trained under WENT’s methodology. Since then, WENT has been successfully replicated in Africa and nationally in the Republic of Korea (1999), the Philippines (2002), Malaysia (2002) and India (2003).

WENT is now being planned for the Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa region. The above examples tell us that in enabling women’s social empowerment, access to ICTs alone is insufficient. Content must match women’s needs in order for ICTs to remain relevant in women’s lives. As needs change, so must content. With WENT, year after year, content evolved to match women’s capacity building needs as women in the region gained more opportunities and exposure in using ICTs. What Change Initiatives and WENT did was to provide ‘safe spaces’ of communication and exchange that forged women’s solidarity within these spaces. As a result, women strengthened each other in their learning and sharing, knowing that they are no longer alone, no longer isolated. There is an additional dimension to the notion of communication as women’s communication rights is a difficult issue to address purely by ensuring physical availability of ICTs. Access to ICTs alone does not take into account who controls these resources. If women need permission from their husbands on exactly when they can turn on/use the radio and the types of radio programmes they can listen to, having a radio in the household as an indicator of success is extremely misleading. Likewise, the establishment of community telecentres alone is insufficient to assume that these will impact and serve women and men equally. Women’s heavy workloads and multiple roles that limit their available time to use the telecentre; male attitudes towards women’s use of technology and to women who visit a mixedsex public facility; the lower educational levels of women compared to those of men, and therefore their lack of literacy skills; the lack of relevant content for women in their local languages; and their lack of disposable income for fee-paying centres, are all gender-based factors that constrain women’s use of the telecentres. Availability is not equivalent to access and access is certainly not equivalent to control and decision-making.

Enabling Women’s Political Empowerment


ICTs have been applied as agents of change in enabling women to participate directly in politics and civic life. The important role provided by ICTs enables an increased opportunity for positive facilitation of public and political participations and rightfully serves as an attempt to replace the traditional form of governance and its accompanying deficiencies with a modern, more open, transparent and responsive service delivery system. As Vikas Nath says, “the new models of governance open up avenues for direct participation of women which so far has been limited to representative forms of participation in which women were insufficiently represented. These models would lead to a more interactive and proactive form of communicating with officials in the local governance spheres in a process which will lead to greater transparency and accountability of their actions. The notion of distance and time would become meaningless as the technologies have the capability of working at all times and from all geographical locations. It also means that women in rural areas for whom time is a scarce commodity and for whom it is absolutely impossible to commute to public offices – the new technologies would enable them to leapfrog to an altogether different platform where they can voice their opinions and communicate to the concerned person without additional burden on their time or commuting large distances.”[11]

In India, SEWA organizes electronic discussions through the panchayati raj (village governance institutions). In these discussions, village women often pose questions that are answered promptly by a panel of experts. Through translation modules, responses go to the women in their vernacular language.[12]

ICTs are also particularly useful in increasing the transparency and accountability of government, an application from which women can particularly profit.[13] Two examples demonstrate how women used ICTs to call upon a national government and a local administration for greater accountability and transparency. In 1999 when a devastating cyclone hit south-eastern India killing hundreds of people, women in India found out from the Internet that the scale of the disaster had been made worse by negligence and ill preparedness of the State government disaster mitigation agency. They became active in calling the government into question on this matter. In another incident, when women students in Bangladesh faced administrative inaction in response to increasing instances of campus rape, they publicized their situation on the Internet. The resulting international and national response pressured the university administration to conduct an inquiry.[14] In the years 1993 to 1994, in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, the Deutsche Gesellschaft for Technische Zusammerabeit (GTZ) with the Public Health Engineering Department of Pakistan introduced a community-based water and sanitation project that used video technology to effectively address gender issues and include women in the design and planning processes. The project aimed to install tube wells and household latrines, but recognized that women, the main managers and users of water, were excluded from village management and decision-making bodies since no man, foreigner or local, was permitted to meet with them. The Woman to Woman Video project provided women the opportunity to speak across the physical boundaries of the purdah (custom of seclusion), discuss what water and sanitation infrastructure could be afforded and participate in choosing the best water supply option for their households. A camera was used for filming and linked to a portable, car battery-powered monitor for playback, with no editing required (at the time, most villages had intermittent or no electricity supply).

The project showed that older women would agree to be filmed by women; women rather than male engineers were the designers, implementers and overseers of construction; women farmers became motivated to build latrines on discovering they could produce safe agricultural compost after eight months; and that as a result, women were better able to exert pressure on men to invest money in household innovations such as the installation of piped water supply (Wickett, 2004). A project that possibly captures the potential of ICTs in enabling women’s political and civic participation is the e-Seva (e-services) project, which began in the district of West Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, India. The project uses ICTs to provide access to various citizen-to-citizen (C2C) and citizen-to-government (C2G) services to the people living in rural areas. Under this project, web-enabled rural kiosks termed e-Seva centres were established at the mandal (a sub-district unit of administration) level. The unique thing about these centres is that they are run and managed by women SHGs and have been able to position the rural women as information leaders to help bridge the gender divide.

The e-Seva centres run on a district portal that allows access to various citizen-centric services. These services range from the issuance of various certificates to getting information about various programmes, and also go to the extent of networking citizens and allowing them the flexibility and convenience of mutually beneficial transactions. The project is an effort to strengthen women SHGs in the district, and through them provide citizens access to various government services in a user-friendly and transparent manner. The project offers a host of services to the citizens living in rural areas. The project allows citizens to file their grievances and applications for various government programmes in these centres. Every grievance is acknowledged and transferred online for bringing in field-level action.

The centres, through the portal, expect to provide a virtual meeting place for citizens to discuss issues relating to the district/villages, its problems and prospective solutions. Citizens can now freely interact with each other to post their ideas. This acts as an online forum for them to share their grievances, air their opinions and trigger the necessary social changes. It also provides opportunity to conduct opinion polls on the important topical issues leading to improved decision-making. The portal, through the kiosks, also enables the administration to pass down important social communications and advocacies for broadcast to the communities.[15] It is important to note that while e-governance initiatives are promising, many focus only on administrative efficiency and fail to enable the citizen’s full political participation in consultative and decision-making bodies or mechanisms. This means that at best, such efforts render women as consumers of information and not equal stakeholders in development. At worst, they completely overlook women’s needs and the value of women’s knowledge in public policy and programme implementation. The SEWA model and the Woman to Woman Video project show that ‘giving women voice’[16] alone is not sufficient if there is a commitment to addressing gender equality. The voice expressed must be heard and responded to with substantive affirmative action. Otherwise, even e-government services will lose their relevance to women in the long run.


  1. In ‘Making the Links: Women’s Rights and Empowerment are Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals’, available online at The original article was taken from an address given at the Workshop on Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals, World Bank, Washington DC, on 19 November 2003. Since the article was written, many of the links that the author laid out have been codified in detail in a UNIFEM booklet (2004).
  2. Probably the one and only known successful model of a multi-agency approach is in the area of violence against women (VAW) and the One Stop Crisis Centre. Women’s rights activists working in the area of VAW have successfully challenged the notion that domestic violence and honour killings are family matters.
  3. As a union, SEWA’s current outreach stands at about 530,000 women members. For more information on SEWA, see
  4. ‘The information technology revolution: Widening or bridging gender gaps’, in International Labour Organization’s World Employment Report 2001.
  5. Grameen effectively raises consciousness by laying down certain rules of conduct that borrowers are required to follow. These range from boiling water and setting up their own safe household water supply to non-payment of dowry for marriages. Grameen therefore interfered and challenged cultural norms and given power dynamics within the community and the family.
  6. Twenty-five percent of telephone operators are men, a much larger percentage than their representation in the borrowing population as a whole (5 percent). As the Grameen Bank chooses the village operators, the male management of the Bank made a gender-based decision in selecting a disproportionate number of male operators.
  7. ‘Grameen Telecom’s Village Phone Programme: A MultiMedia Case Study’. TeleCommons Development Group. March 2000.
  8. WENT was an Asia-Pacific regional annual training for women in the use of ICTs, and was a project that was implemented for five years continuously. At the end of those five years, an award was funded by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) as a form of acknowledgement to the most successful WENT graduate who applied her learnings from WENT for a selected community or within her own organization.
  9. The Gender and ICT Awards is a collaborative project between the APC WNSP and the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP). The inaugural awards ceremony took place in Geneva in conjunction with WSIS in December 2003, where Change Initiatives accepted their award as the winner in the category of ‘Advocacy and Networking’. For more information on Nabanna and other Gender and ICT Award winning projects, visit
  10. The WENT Workshop, strongly supported by UNESCAP for five consecutive years, was initiated by AWORC. AWORC is an Internet based women’s information network founded in 1999 to develop cooperative approaches and partnerships in increasing access to and exploring applications of new ICTs for women’s empowerment. The members of AWORC include women’s information, resource and documentation centres; women’s information providers and users; and communications organizations working closely with women’s networks. More information can be found on the network at
  11. Nath, V., ‘Digital Governance: Building and Sustaining Democratic and Accountable Governance Structures using ICT’, p.9.
  12. Nath, V., ‘Empowerment and Governance: Women’s perspective’, loc. cit., p.7.
  13. There were two dramatic examples from Asia of the role of IT in making governments more transparent and accountable. In response to Internet accounts contradicting the official story, the Prime Minister of China, Zhu Rongji, in a highly unusual action for a Chinese official, publicly recanted the government’s previous position on the cause of a tragic school fire in rural China. In India, photos and a story on the website exposed high-level bribery and brought the Government into crisis. Smith, C. S., ‘Chinese Leader Backs Away From Denials in School Blast’, and Dugger, C. W., ‘The Sting That Has India Writhing’, New York Times, pp. 1 & 3, 16 March 2001.
  14. Nath, V., ‘Empowerment and Governance: Women’s perspective’, loc. cit., pp. 3-5.
  15. e-Seva was a Gender and ICT Award winner in 2003 under the category of ‘Capacity Building’. For more information on this project, visit the Gender and ICT Awards website at
  16. Many development projects tend to boast of ‘giving women voice’ by including consultative mechanisms. But if women have expressed their needs and no concrete and effective action is taken with the women as key stakeholders and actors to address these, it gives the impression that the consultation is nothing more than just a token act.