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Bangladesh: Empowering women through ICTs

27 November 2009

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Development Research Network’s policy brief Digital Bangladesh and gender equality shows how the digital shift can create more opportunities for women. It summarises major recommendations for policymakers, ICT and women’s rights activists to promote good practices.

Digital Bangladesh and gender equality

Publisher: Development Research Network, September 2009

‘Digital Bangladesh’ became a key issue in the last election as the benefits of ICT became better known. At the same time as this growing interest, Bangladesh was and still is in a time of flux with gender assumptions changing as part of a broader process of economic and social transition.

Image credits: The Daily Star/ A bracnet employee shows the Classmate PC to a visitor at the fair organised on the sidelines of Gyan Utsob 2009: Bagerhat Hobe Digital

Within the context of such change, this policy brief shows how Digital Bangladesh could be used as powerful tool to create gender sensitive opportunities in business, education, citizenship and government.

Since Digital Bangladesh is still in its early stages of design, ICT policy could be engendered so that gender disparities are identified and removed in respect to the access and use of ICTs, as well as adapting ICTs to incorporate the special needs, constraints, and opportunities for women.

In areas such as education this would allow an opportunity to take part in distance education and e-learning with an emphasis on higher education. It would also mean women can undertake their studies at convenient times whilst continuing to juggle their family responsibilities.

For paid employment, ICT access and skills would mean women can look further than part time work and could involve themselves in larger projects such as small-enterprise development, food processing and agriculture.

However the brief does point to some potential concerns:

  • Access is a major issue. Consideration must be given to the location, timing and operation of common access venue like telecentres, and libraries facilities;
  • Insufficient understanding of the governance needs of the poor and vulnerable groups including women;
  • Rise in sexual exploitation through use of ICT.
    The ways to integrate gender and poverty need to be explored through undertaking specific programmes, which should be also pro-poor.

Major recommendations of this briefing include:

  • telecentres should be located where women feel comfortable to visit and open at a time which fits women's work and family commitments;
  • undertake a programme for women so that women can access ICT-based services at their door-step through innovations like Info Lady
  • promote incentives for girls to undertake science and technology education including provision for special scholarships
  • introduce full-payment of off-site training, with child care provided
  • introduce bonuses for women who attend and complete Internet training
  • create business and employment opportunities for women as owners and managers of ICT-based entrepreneurship.
Source : Eldis

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