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Empowering women through ICT Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Parvez Babul, Bangladesh Jul 9, 2007
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March 8th,2005 was the 96th International Women's Day (IWD). Pursuant to the declaration by the Socialist Party of USA, the first National Women's Day was observed across the United States on February 28, 1909. But in the 2nd International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Copenhagen in 1910, it was resolved to observe an annual women's day as a uniform international action. The date was nominated in recognition of the United States' Garments workers' demonstration, which was held on March 08, 1857. The purpose of the demonstration was to increase the wage and reduce the working hours of the Garments workers. Government of Bangladesh started to observe the International Women's Day since March 08, 1984.

International Women's Day stands for equality between women and men. During International Women's Year in 1975, International Women's Day was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments throughout the world. International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.

In our country also women are being seen in the frontlines to fight against hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. So, on this day, let us think about empowering women also through ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Because it is an essential part like other goals for winning the fight in the lives of women. It will increase resources in their hands to be self reliant and empowered and reduce discrimination against them. It is a part of placing their issues at the forefront of policy action.

Micro-credit for self-employment empowers women's decision-making capacity. Likewise, an amount of money, which women need to be ICT experts and to establish ICT firms, will help them earn more money and to be more empowered. 2005 has been declared as the Year of Micro Credit by the United Nations.

This is why Government of Bangladesh as well as the non governmental organizations (NGOs) should start to distribute small loans among interested women to encourage them to be self-reliant by learning and working in ICT sector. The third of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations is to achieve gender equality and empower women. It seeks to rectify the disadvantages through policies and programs which build women's capabilities, improve their access to economic and political opportunity, guaranteeing their safety. So, ICT will definitely play a supportive role to reach this goal soon.

How can ICT help women?
ICT can benefit women in many ways. It can facilitate their participation in different sectors and different regions. It can provide the information women need to improve their own well-being and that of their families. The introduction of computers into offices has improved the quality of work and scope for women in data entry, analysis, programming, clerical and administrative occupations. More over ICT allows them to exchange views, opinions and information so much, which may not be possible through other media.

ICT has a strategic link with poverty reduction. The Internet, email and mobile phones top the list of new tools. ICT can directly empower women as well as the poor people by offering access to services historically unavailable to them because of high cost or lack of infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Now buying-selling or renting ICT equipment itself is a source of income. Mobile phone has already ushered in such income among many a rural woman in Bangladesh. The computer training institutes in our country should set the course curriculum in accordance with the need and demand of our country. Access to the Internet is still very limited for several reasons, like poor teledensity, poor electricity, poor affordability of computer and knowledge about the Internet. Public Internet access is very limited in the private telephone centres and cyber cafes. Though the divisional headquarters and some district towns have access to Internet, the commercial use of Internet is limited due to the bandwidth limitation. Despite the rapid fall in the cost of the Internet services, it is still high for the general people and students. That is why it is necessary that:

*Access to Internet exchange should be at par throughout the country.

*A high-speed national data network for the country connecting all important cities, district headquarters and important upazilas should be established. BTTB's upazila level Internet project should be implemented.

*Technical assistance from internationally reputed companies should be sought to build proper networking infrastructure throughout the country. The relationship with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) should be strengthened for reducing digital divide.

*Proper use of Global Information Superhighway should be ensured.

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Writer Profile
Parvez Babul

I am an associate editor of a weekly newspaper in Bangladesh. I studied on English literature and earned knowlewdge on journalism. I write on various issues in the ntional and intenrtional newspapers. My interest is on gender, climate change, women's empowerment and evelopment, child rights isssues etc. My email: parvezbabul@yahoo.com
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