Putting a human face on a mobile service for women: the story of Georgette in Madagascar

The GSMA Connected Women programme has awarded 11 Innovation Grants to mobile operators and NGOs to provide seed funding for the design and launch of commercially sustainable mobile products and services aimed to increased women’s uptake and use of mobile phones. One of the interesting things about the Connected Women grant portfolio is the monitoring and evaluation approach. Across all the grants, we’re trying to measure both the commercial impact and the social impact – that is, the data about revenue, number of users or increase in Average Revenue per User (ARPU), for example, as well as the impact the product or service is having on the lives of its users, both male and female.

I was recently in Madagascar working with HNI on the monitoring and evaluation of their mobile service for women. HNI were awarded an Innovation Fund grant from GSMA Connected Women to create gender-specific content, designed especially for women, to add to their already-successful 3-2-1 mobile information service in partnership with Airtel Madagascar. HNI have put a lot of effort into monitoring and evaluation – understanding the needs of their target audience, getting the product right for them, and then evaluating the impact the 3-2-1 gender content has had on its users.

The initial baseline conducted in June 2014 revealed that gender-based violence (GBV) is a very serious issue for women in Madagascar. Female focus group participants spoke of being beaten by their husbands or partners, or subjected to moral violence because of their husband or partner’s jealousy. HNI’s response to this finding was to incorporate information on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) into the 3-2-1 mobile service, including information on physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence, as well as information on how to prevent GBV, how to respond to GBV (including information on the law and what the police can do) and information on a toll-free helpline if users are a victim of GBV.

The gender 3-2-1 service was launched in August 2014, and in late October we met with some of the users to gauge response and understand any changes they may have experienced after using the service. Included in this group was Georgette, a woman from the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo, who we were lucky enough to spend some time talking to about her experiences.

Georgette has been with her partner for over twelve years, and they have three children together. Throughout their relationship, she had been subjected to physical and mental abuse – she spoke of regular beatings (and had a scar above her eyebrow from a beating) as well as insults, jealousy and restrictions on her movements. She had her own phone a few years previously, but her husband destroyed the phone in jealousy after she received a call from a wrong number and she has been too afraid to get another one.

She heard about the 3-2-1 gender content when it was launched, and borrowed her sister-in-law’s phone to call the service. Soon afterwards, there was a dispute at home, and her husband was threatening to hurt her. She borrowed her sister-in-law’s phone (who was there at the time) and made her husband listen to the information about GBV. She then relayed to her husband what she had learnt from the service – that a woman is allowed by law to leave her husband and go to her parents’ house if there is a risk of violence – and that therefore he could not call her a prostitute for leaving the home since it is her right to do so.

Since then, Georgette feels that there has been a change in her husband’s treatment towards her. The violence has not started again, and he has started giving her more freedom to go out by herself – a change she attributes to the information on women’s rights from the 3-2-1 gender service that both her and her husband have listened to. Even her son has listened to the messages and remembered the information: Georgette told a story of how her son had said to her husband “If you beat Mom, we’ll go to Grandma’s, because the phone lady said we can go.”

Stories such as Georgette’s remind us of the real people who are using the mobile service and have seen real change in their lives as a result of having more information. Combining quantitative data around number of users with individual case studies that put a human face on the 3-2-1 gender service helps to truly assess the impact of these life-enhancing mobile services.

This HNI data shows that there is potential for mobile to play a role in the wider ecosystem of reducing GBV through access to information. However, the evidence base for this remains small, and there is a clear need for more impact evaluations on the overall effectiveness of information services around GBV.

The full results of the HNI grant will be published as a case study in early 2015.

For more information on the HNI grant and other GSMA Connected Women Innovation Fund grants, click here.


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