International Day of Rural Women: Rural Women Face a Triple Divide
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
by Digital Opportunity Trust and the EQUALS Access Coalition
October 15th is the International Day of Rural Women, and this year’s theme is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19”.
As the EQUALS Access Coalition in the EQUALS Partnership - committed to bridging the gender digital divide - we believe the digital opportunities and barriers faced by rural women are important - and critical to pandemic recovery and resilience.
Rural women face a triple divide: 1) dramatic disparities in access to digital tools and services, 2) an economic and digital disadvantage due to rural infrastructure and opportunities, and 3) the compounding sociocultural and economic barriers of the gender digital divide.
COVID-19 has added a fourth dimension to these challenges: health crises magnify existing inequalities.
Did you know:
That 300 million fewer women than men use mobile internet, and only 31% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and 27% in South Asia have a smartphone?
That rural communities make up three quarters of the world's poorest?
That women and girls in rural areas face challenges such as cost, access to tech equipment and societal norms, all of which limit their ability to engage with new technologies?
The realities of COVID-19 have only exacerbated these disparities.
Here’s what needs to be done.
Digital technologies need to be made more inclusive and accessible to rural women. This happens through relevant content, programs and training opportunities, as well as access to resources and technological equipment such as internet bundles, mobile, computers and tablets.
Gender must be mainstreamed when implementing digital connectivity programs.
Members of the EQUALS partnership are taking action.
Here are some concrete actions we're taking. Find out more about what's being done by watching the EQUALS Access Coalition Learning Sessions.
ProMujer, an international social enterprise working towards women’s rights in Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru), also provides rural women with access to life-changing technology and skills, allowing them to build sustainable livelihoods.
Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is supporting young women and girls to access digital opportunities through a number of programs and projects across their network. Recent user experience research shared at the EQUALS Access Coalition learning sessions investigates the barriers to women’s online participation, leading to a set of digital design principles aimed at creating safer and more inclusive online user experiences for women, including those in rural areas.
Here are 3 tips from DOT that you can use to ensure rural women are supported and included in digital platforms and services:
Leverage women’s networks, such as friends and family, to support learning and digital experiences.
Incorporate relevant content that highlights women’s success stories, and create opportunities for women to expand their networks by facilitating connections for them across communities, countries, and continents.
Co-design your tools, programs, and services with women. Learn from the women you engage with about how you can continue to improve their digital experiences.
“Everything that we have learned about designing safe and inclusive digital spaces for women comes directly from their own experiences - by asking them what they want out of their digital engagement experiences. We are constantly learning from the women we engage with and responding to how their unique needs and preferences shift and evolve. This has been a key element in our success in building inclusive and safe digital spaces for women”, says Suzanne Newing, Project Officer and Gender Specialist at DOT.