Mujeres Online: Supporting women as agents of change
CISCO, Pro Mujer, Women Speed Up
Latin America and the Caribbean
Access, Community, Digital literacy, Disadvantaged socio-economic contexts, Private sector, Women
Career counselling and professional development, Non-formal education and extracurricular contexts, Scholarships and funding
Latin America has one of the highest rates of gender inequality and income disparity in the world. GSMA’s 2019 Mobile Gender Gap Report cites that some 31 million Latin American women do not have a mobile phone and 76 million women do not use the mobile internet. Literacy and digital skills are important barriers in the region, where women are the most affected by the digital gender divide.
According to the Telecommunications and Transportation Regulation and Control Authority, Bolivia’s internet access in 2018 reached more than 9.4 million fixed and mobile connections. Smartphones represent 95% of internet connections mainly in the departments of Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba, where 75% of these services are concentrated due to the population and the economy. Like many other countries, Bolivia’s digital gender divide is created by a disproportionate lack of access, education, skills and representation of women and girls in technology.
When compounding both gender and socio-economic status, low-income women and girls in low-income settings are further impacted by a deeper divide. Research shows that making information communications technology (ICT), such as smartphones, tablets and e-books, equally accessible to women and girls can be instrumental in closing gender gaps, helping women and girls access higher knowledge, confidence and opportunities.
In 1990, Pro Mujer was founded in El Alto, Bolivia, with the belief that given the right opportunities, women can become powerful agents of change. From a pioneering experiment in micro-lending, Pro Mujer has grown into one of Latin America’s leading women’s development organization. Using an integrated approach, the organization offers access to finance, health and educational services. These services are delivered in supportive social spaces that foster community building and equip women and girls with education and tools to take on their daily challenges.
As part of Pro Mujer’s work to improve the lives of low-income women and girls in Latin America, the organization is addressing the digital gender divide by focusing on both digital literacy and connectivity. The organization is further exploring solutions to provide an entry point for underserved women into the digital economy, while addressing barriers such as time, cost and connectivity.
In 2019, Pro Mujer, together with CISCO and Women Speed Up, launched a new digital literacy programme called Mujeres Online (Women Online), which will grant scholarships to more than 100,000 women and their families from 2019 to 2021. The programme aims to reduce the digital divide that mainly affects vulnerable populations in Bolivia. Trainings on computer and internet literacy will be provided to women and their families through CISCO’s Get Connected courses to strengthen their technological skills and provide greater job opportunities. Get Connected, Introduction to Cybersecurity and Entrepreneurship are the three modules that women can take to develop their digital skills.
In June 2019, the initial launch of Mujeres Online was held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. A second launch was held in July 2019 in the city of El Alto with an initial capacity for 500 scholarships. To access these educational scholarships, women are required to commit to the course, have the desire to learn, have an e-mail account and basic knowledge of the Internet. Upon completion, participants are awarded a certificate endorsed by CISCO Networking Academy and Pro Mujer IFD, in addition to a CISCO scholarship for an entrepreneurship course.
Between July and August 2019, Pro Mujer awarded a total of 4,679 scholarships to women and family members across nine regions of Bolivia: Beni, Cochabamba, El Alto, Oruro, Pando, Potosi, Santa Cruz, Sucre and Tarija.
With these courses, employability for new generations is becoming a reality and expansion to more regions of the country would support the programme’s overall goal to expand countrywide and beyond.
Evaluate women’s commitment to the course as well as ensure they have an e-mail account and basic knowledge of the internet so all participants have the appropriate knowledge base to meet the course goals.
Ensure trainers have the appropriate amount of technological support and that all the educational, safety and information material about operating systems and entrepreneurship are available to the trainer to share with course participants.
Although the internet is costly, mothers from low-income settings prioritize the use of technology for their children in school or at university.
The vast majority of families in the population reached by the programme do not have a computer in their households. As a result, Pro Mujer is evaluating the possibility of giving free access through the Wi-Fi available in the Pro Mujer Centers.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva, International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Alfabetización digital para 120.000 mujeres. El Deber. 30 June 2019. (In Spanish)
Rowntree, O. 2019. Connected Women: The mobile gender gap report 2019. London, GSMA.
Fundación Pro Mujer IFD, Women Speed Up Foundation y CISCO Networking Academy, se unen por el empoderamiento digital. FinDevGateway. 9 July 2019 (In Spanish)