‘ICT Essential in Empowering Rural Women’


Obinna Chima

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has stressed the importance of information communications technologies in supporting the economic empowerment of rural women.

IFAD stated this at the International Women’s Day that was celebrated recently.
IFAD, together with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) highlighted the role that innovations in information and communications technologies (ICTs) can play in expanding rural women’s opportunities in value chains and enterprise development, while increasing their access to education and information.

Many women, particularly young rural women, lack access to productive resources such as land, credit and technology. Women lag behind in terms of their access to ICTs, with only 41 per cent of women in low-and middle-income countries owning mobile phones compared to 46 per cent for males.
“Nearly two-thirds of women living in the South Asia and East Asia and Pacific sub-regions do not own a mobile phone. Rural women regularly lack access to health care, education, decent work and social protection. As a consequence, they are more likely to be poor and they are vulnerable to economic and climatic shocks.

“ICTs can go a long way to boosting economic opportunities for rural women. Mobile and smartphones, for example, provide access to real-time information on prices in different markets and allow more informed choices about where and when to buy and sell. Studies indicate that when women earn money, they are more likely than men to spend it on food for their families and the education of their children,” IFAD stated in a report.

The President of IFAD, Gilbert F. Houngbo opened the event hosted by agricultural development agency, by highlighting how the empowerment of women and greater equality were inseparable from achieving sustainable development.
“At IFAD we have seen how information communications technologies can be powerful catalysts for political and social empowerment of women, and the promotion of gender equality if rightly designed, accessible and usable,” Houngbo said.

Also, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said: “The global rise of information has deeply affected rural women in poor countries, who often find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide: because they live in developing countries, in rural areas, and because they are women.
“If the interests and needs of rural women and girls are addressed, there is significant potential for information and communication technology to foster gender equality and the improvement of rural livelihoods.”

On his part, WFP Executive Director, David Beasley said: “Digital technology can transform lives if we get it into the hands of the people who need it, and that’s why we’re working hard every day to help increase access for rural women.
“And every time one of those women farmers uses a WFP app to sell her crops, the prosperity of her family and her community improves and we’re another step closer to gender equity.”

The event included interactive sessions focussed on sharing knowledge and experiences about how innovative tools and technologies can contribute to the empowerment of women and girls.
In addition, the event provided an opportunity to discuss policies and enabling legal frameworks that can facilitate access to, and good use of, ICTs in rural development.

In Mozambique and Tanzania for instance, IFAD supports a project that provides financial education and technological tools training for farmer groups – more than 50 per cent run by women – to help them move from cash to electronic payment management. In doing so, these farmers not only gain entry into the formal financial sector, but become better informed about market prices to increase profits and build their savings.