GSMA joins ‘Rural Women’s Alliance’, a regional effort to address the digital gender divide in rural areas

At the 35 Meeting of the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (COM/CITEL) held on Monday in Mar del Plata, Argentina, GSMA participated in the launch of ‘Rural Women’s Alliance’. The initiative, supported by country delegations and international organizations, aims to promote public policies and private programmes that contribute to the empowerment of rural women through the mass use of ICTs.

According to GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report 2018, over 1.2 billion women in low- and middle-income countries do not use mobile internet and women are, on average, 10 percent less likely than men to own mobile phones than men and 26 percent less likely to use mobile internet than men. The gender divide tends to be wider in rural areas than urban areas; in Brazil, for example, while the gender gap is 2 per cent in urban areas, it grows to 32 per cent in rural areas. Ensuring rural women have access to digital technologies is crucial to improve their livelihoods, giving them opportunities of education, access to markets and access to traditional and non-traditional financing institutions.

The creation of the “Rural Women’s Alliance” answers the call of UN Women to forge ahead with improvements to ICT-related public services and infrastructure for this sector of the population. Undersigned parties include country delegations of Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Estados Unidos, Mexico, Paraguay and organizations CCAT LAT, Citel, GSMA, ISOC and Viasat.

Through the Alliance, the subscribers undertake to join forces to foster actions such as: promoting programs that provide connectivity to rural, remote and underserved areas; encourage ICT training for women and girls in rural areas; develop area-based repositories with local content and train women entrepreneurs in the identified areas for commercial development through ICTs. They also pledge to promote the dissemination of best practices in public policies that cause an impact on the rights of rural women as regards their development, autonomy and empowerment.

“The GSMA is committed to achieving SDG #5: Gender Equality. As Topic Chair for Digital Inclusion within Women 20 (W20), we’ve highlighted the cross-cutting nature of digital technologies, essential for the empowerment of women. When it comes to rural areas, mobile is in a unique position to reduce the financial and information gap, helping women thrive,” said Paula Ferrari, Regional Marketing Director for Latin America, GSMA. “Given that rural women play a decisive role in the sustainment of their families and in global food production, their empowerment will also be beneficial for societies and economies.”