U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sees mobile phones as a powerful ally in her goals for the empowerment of women. She described the launch of the GSMA mWomen programme as “An exciting day for me, The State Department, USAID and the Obama Administration”.
Secretary Clinton paid tribute to Benjamin Franklin, after whom the room in The State Department where she gave the address was named. She talked about how he, as a technology pioneer would have approved of how it was being use to solve the urgent and unaddressed problem of closing the gender gap. A problem which impaired the lives of women and their families.
Taking a global view is important and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, with its emphasis on empowering female entrepreneurs in the developing world, had added to the global perspective. Secretary Clinton went on to thank Rob Conway, the GSMA and the whole mobile community for understanding the issue and rallying to support the cause.
Secretary Clinton talked about how mobile technology has re-shaped the way people work and learn, it’s also changed the way The State Department rolls out programmes, assisting in for tracking health and delivering aid and being an important communication tool for the people on the receiving end. “As excited as we are by mobile technology we are more excited about how it can help people,” she said.
She gave a number of examples of how mobile had helped the isolated, sick and repressed “With a mobile phone, expectant mothers who live nowhere near a clinic can get health advice”. She went on with a passion “There is a hunger for programs like this. The State Dept and USAID are increasing support. There will shortly be a Mobile Money and Financial inclusion conference in Kenya.”
Mobile phones are often seen as a tool against poverty and war, but they also help against injustice:
Using mobiles as part of the justice system is a new idea, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the justice system has broken down in rural areas and sexual violence is a problem mobile have found an application. Where there is no court system women who have been attacked are able to send messages with their mobiles to towns where there is a judiciary and where the men who have attacked them can be brought to justice with the aid of pictures and recordings on the phones.
The Apps for Africa competition was discussed. One of the winners was Mamakiba is a patient-facing SMS savings calculator and prepayment tracking tool specifically designed to help low-income women save and prepay for their maternal health needs such as ante-natal care and clinical delivery. Many women struggle financially, and this application can help teach the value of budget planning and provide lifesaving care for women and their families. Jane Del Sur, Geoffrey Muthondy , John Wesonga jointly developed “Mamakiba”. The GSMA mWomen Programme has just announced its own apps competition which aimed specifically at the needs of women. See here for more details.
Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department gave their commitment to the GSMA mWomen goal to use the mobile phone to amplify the benefits for women and reduce the gender gap by 50% in the next three years.