July 2008

Empowering women in the knowledge society

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Gender has not been on the conscious agenda of the ICT4D domain area. It is not therefore unusual for development programmes to be conceptualised without taking into consideration the key or special  needs of women. Even when development programmes  have addressed access issues, like the telecentres, infrastructure development, etc they have been put in place with a concern for reaching the unreached, but not necessarily developed  with gender sensitive designs, or bearing in mind the language and social needs of women.

In developing countries, particularly in South Asia, women who are the most marginalised, have to confront more than one kind of discrimination. They are usually powerless, often head households, without having ownership of land or other assets. This makes it almost impossible for them to demand any access to infrastrucutres, and even if they do manage to organise themselves, they often do not have sufficient negotiating powers.

It is important to note that the GDP contribution of women to the national growth is over 50 percent of the agrarian contribution, as they are engaged in most of the economic production activities.  In the unorganised sector, women contribute substantively to the services being rendered.

With the advent of new technologies for communications, be it the telephones or mobiles, or computers, there has been a slow but steady uptake of the technologies
by women. Wherever  women's organisations have consciously designed programmes 
to suit the specific needs of women, they have created new opportunities for
empowment, improvement in livelihoods, and overall well being of the families that women nurture.

The scope of ICTs to be a tool for empowerment, a voice and advocacy tool to prepare the society and grassroots communities , especially women,  for  the knowledge economy, is wide and an array of experiences from the world have been reflected  in this special issue of i4d. We are very grateful to Claudia Morrel, who has kindly co-edited this issue.  We hope you enjoy this issue, as much as we enjoyed producing it.

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