|A Help-line, vocational CDs and
eHomeworkers get thumbs up in Tunis
Tunis, Tunisia [APC] - While negotiations
on internet governance were taking place a few corridors down the
hall on November 16, three projects received the honours of the 2005
Gender and ICT Awards. The 2005 GICT Awards  focused
on information and communication technology initiatives which promote
women's economic empowerment and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Pallitathya Help-line, a call centre for the
poor and underprivileged, run by D.Net -Development Research Network
of Bangladesh- was the big winner that day in Tunis (November 16),
where the UN organised World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
was unfolding. The runner-ups were "Putting ICTs in the Hands
of the Poor", a project of the Datamation Foundation Charitable
Trust of India and the EHomemakers initiative, run by the Malaysian
association of the same name.
The winner [Bangladesh]
"Our project, focussed on providing timely
and relevant information to villagers in rural Bangladesh, has made
it!" expressed Mahmud Hasan to APCNews, just after the presentation
of the GICT awards. The ecstatic project coordinator of the Pallitathya
Help-Line talked passionately about the accomplishments of this
grassroots project, obviously pleased with the outcome of this year's
gender and ICT awards.
Pallitathya Help-Line project is based on an original
communication system adapted to the needs of rural populations with
scarce access to information about health, education, legal procedures
or administrative hassles. "Mobile Operator Ladies" regularly
visit remote villages and gather questions that villagers formulate.
They then perform or request help to research the information and
return to the communities for another round of consultations. Also
called "infomediaries", these women come from the villages
they work in and actually enhance their knowledge of issues and
improve their communication skills, while at the same time earning
their own income, independently from the males in the family.
"But the women that use the Help-Line also
gain tremendously from the experience since they increase their
self-esteem by using this service and eventually even increase their
authority over spending decisions," explained Hasan. The project
has been tested and used for several months in a row and because
of its impressive success, it will be continued and broadened in
Empowering women straight from the madrasa [India]
The "Putting ICTs in the Hands of the Poor"
runner-up project is developed by the Seelampur Community ICT Center
. "This award is a recognition for the
dedication of the women of the Seelampur Muslim community participating
in the project," says a smiling Sarita Sharma, coordinator
of the project.
Sharma explains to the listeners seated in a half-circle
in the exposition space of the bustling Tunis summit, that the project
is designed to encourage livelihood skills among women through vocational
CDs, providing computer skills training, and developing linkages
for marketing women's traditional arts and crafts products.
The women of the Muslim minority of Seelampur
live in extreme poverty and struggle to gain access to information
and knowledge to better their living conditions. As a clear sign
that this project was to address this imbalance headon, the
ICT Center -with the help of a prominent "ulema" religious
leader- was set up inside a madrasa, which traditionally was a religious
learning space reserved to males.
"Of all projects, Seelampur ICT Center stood
out on the basis of its thorough step-by-step approach to empowering
women," underlined Mylene Soto, 2005 GICT Awards Coordinator.
After augmenting their skills in tailoring, candle making, confidence-building
and embroidery though didactic CDs, the women organise in "self
sustaining self-help groups" and carry on the learning and
knowledge exchange process in an autonomous fashion.
"The idea is to engage the women in generating
income," expands Sharma, after mentioning the Seelampur Art
 website that the women use to market the fruit
of their work. The project is monitored and developed with the help
of eNRICH , a local community browser that women
use to express their thoughts about health, education and livelihood.
This is a valuable resource for the project coordinators assessing
the needs of the women, while also serving the purpose of computer
"Even though we did not win, the fact that
we were considered and recognised as runner-ups will motivate women
in the community," concluded Sharma.
Teleworkers, homeworkers and business owners
using ICTs [Malaysia]
On a mission to boost home entrepreneurism by
tackling self-esteem issues that traditionally afflict women that
have devoted many years of their lives as mothers, eHomemakers has
decided to set up a programme meant to provide management skills
to run a home business. The group behind eHomemakers, Mothers for
Mothers, organised seven "Working@Home" conferences in
Kuala Lumpur and Penang, in Malaysia and launched the excellent
eHomemaker online resource website  in 2002.
The eHomemakers portal is not only a platform
that contains valuable information in how to coming up with a business
plan or registration requirements with the government. It also features
IT tips and home-based profiles of the 400+ home-based businesses
that work in fields as diverse as landscaping, accounting, translation
Parallel to the website, eHomemakers also provides
ICT training, research and advocacy. It runs the Salaam Wanita project,
which is designed to promote the skills of homebound disadvantaged
women in the Klang Valley and Ipoh area. A marketing website called
Just marketing  was developed to promote the services and products
these women generate. This platform integrates SMS, fax, email and
mobile phone technologies, thereby making the access to a common
"marketplace" much easier. In the Salaam Wanita project,
the women beneficiaries were provided with training and with second-hand
mobile phones for their livelihoods projects.
The 2005 Gender and Information and Coordination
Technologies Awards were sponsored by the APC Women's Networking
Support Programme (APC WNSP), the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP),
the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the UK
Department for International Development (DfID).
The 2005 Gender and ICT Awards were one of three
activities that the APC WNSP team held in Tunis. The presentation
of the Gender Evaluation Methodology
for Internet and ICTs (GEM) book, as well as exhaustive coverage
of the summit by GenderIT.org
writers Jac sm Kee completes the picture.
 The ICT Center is a unique tripartite alliance
among Datamation Foundation Charitable Trust, the UNESCO and the
Babul-Uloom-Madrasa, an orthodox Muslim religious school in India.