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Friday, 6 May 2005

Empowering Women Through ICT

The ICT4D ASEAN Collaboratory hosted a pre-implementation meeting of a research project �Homeworkers and ICTs in South-East Asia � on 4 to 6 May 2005 . This one-year research activity is coordinated by an organization called �Mothers for Mothers/eHomemakers� based in Malaysia , and it is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The Collaboratory will also play an active role in performing the required research activities in Indonesia .

The overall objective of the project is to determine how ICT can be used to address specific challenges facing women homeworkers. To achieve this objective, the project will focus on gender-specific issues on the challenges and opportunities for women homeworkers so that they will be able to access and participate in ICT for development activities on equal terms.

This research project responds to the need of scoping out critical and relevant issues concerning home-based work and homeworkers in Thailand , Indonesia and Malaysia . It is a methodical approach to determine the extent of ICT use and how ICT can empower women homeworkers, especially the vulnerable groups, to achieve economic self-reliance and social empowerment from home. Often, homeworkers are the poorest workers in a community. ICT can fulfil the needs for mobile communication and work locations, provide access to knowledge and resources for social-economic opportunities and hence, empowerment of women.

A large number of homeworkers have been badly affected by the 1997 Asian economic meltdown and the present globalization trend. They are mostly exploited and left out of the mainstream development due to their invisibility and poorly organized economic structure - isolated, geographically scattered and disunited. Because of this, the sector attracts little or sporadic research and assistance, thus giving it less legitimacy and denying the workers' ICT development opportunities.

ICT development will enable homeworkers to access information, self-organize and embark on mutual assistance in many aspects. Such a platform can develop opportunities for in-country and regional cluster formations (bargaining, marketing, purchasing, protection of unfair practices and tele-trading), networking and capacity building. By building on this capacity, R&D efforts to develop functional technology tailored for multi-tasking home environment can support and increase efficiency of homeworkers.

This research is one of the initial stages taken by Mothers for Mothers/eHomemakers to pave the way for advocacy of a pro-poor policy that puts gender in the centre.

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