Homemakers are a vulnerable group in the digital divide as they have little or no access to ICT. As is elsewhere in the world, homemakers in Malaysia are being left out of the rapidly progressing era of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
The Mothers for Mothers network, formed in 1998, started as a voluntary group of mothers from multi-ethnic communities. Members of the network were initially involved in women-connecting-women activities to promote the concept of working from home, especially for homemakers who need the economic empowerment to uplift their gender status. The group had to overcome public prejudice about useless housewives who did not contribute to society and helped its members gain self-esteem through mutual support activities.
Moreover, those women who chose to work from home to balance family life and career were exploited with low paying assignments and belonged to the informal sector, with little assistance for personal development.
Disadvantaged people, especially, are left out of social development due to the lack of access to relevant information. If they could generate income from home and use ICTs to improve all aspects of their family life, they would, in fact, actively participate in the information economy.
It was evident that using ICTs would provide women with an avenue for self- development and e-Homepreneurship that required little capital, and personal growth. Therefore, the main aim of the network is to transform the existing digital disadvantages, especially for marginalised women, and empower them economically through digital learning and usage of ICTs at home.
The core group then realised that an e-Networking platform through various access points was necessary for the stakeholders’ development. Initially, a static website (www.mom4mom.com) was built to meet the needs of mothers and homemakers by providing them with a platform to access information and to network. The site was managed and maintained by a small group of volunteers.
Over time, the network realised that the static website could not support the growing needs of members who wanted a more dynamic platform with interactive features. It was also frustrating for members that there were no information updates on the site for long periods of time due to a series of virus attacks. On its own, the network lacked funds to improve the portal.
Salaam Wanita members at a workshop session learning to make baskets
Hence, a proposal was submitted to the Government of Malaysia for the eHomemakers project