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Internet? Not For Us, Say Some Women In India and Egypt

Internet? Not For Us, Say Some Women In India and Egypt

Just having access to the internet does not mean that everyone will use it. A study released by Intel Corporation on women and the Internet reveals that one in five women in India and Egypt say that the Internet is not “appropriate” for them. That is, providing access to the Internet — and to the possibilities for educational and economic opportunities that it can provide to empower women and give them greater independence — is only a first step for those who live in traditional cultures dominated by patriarchal norms.

The Intel study also found that, in developing nations, 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet. In sub-Saharan Africa, the gap is far greater, with 45 percent fewer women than man able to get on the Web.

For the study, Intel used information from the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, United Nations Women and World Pulse, a global network for women. Interviews and surveys were conducted with more than 2,200 women in Egypt, India, Mexico and Uganda and the results released in Washington, D.C., at a recent 2-day international working forum on women, technology and development hosted by the State Department and UN Women.

Why Would Women Consider Internet Use “Inappropriate”?

Some of the responses in the survey suggest why 20 percent of women in India and Egypt said that they considered Internet use “inappropriate” for them. 70 percent of those surveyed who did use the Internet said doing so was ”liberating,” while 85 percent said it “provides more freedom.”

Of course, it’s not news that the Internet can provide independence and freedom, and empowerment, by opening a whole world of information and communication. While many women in the West assume that they can find ways to support themselves financially and be able to interact with whomever they choose, such is not the case elsewhere. As Abby Dugdale writes in Fast Company, ”last month’s gruesome attack on a student in Delhi … which resulted in her death, has served to highlight the hardships many women face in a country which is constantly being held up as a beacon for the emerging world.”

Since that act of horrific sexual violence, more gang rapes of women have been reported in India and a national debate has arisen about the status of women. Writer Pubali R. Chaudhuri has even said that “Hatred of women is woven so tightly into the fabric of Indian society that any Indian who denies it is lying.” Last year, 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes reported in India were against women. Perhaps it’s no surprise that one out of five women in India would feel they shouldn’t be using the Internet and seeking greater independence?

Providing Internet Access Must Go Hand-in-hand With Educating Women

As the shooting by the Taliban of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who had campaigned for girls’ education, so bluntly revealed, hostility towards women’s education and empowerment remains deeply entrenched in too many parts of the world. Providing Internet access to women must be tied with increasing their access to education and to teaching — no easy task — that aspects of their own culture are keeping them from leading independent lives and from rising out of poverty.

To address the poverty and early marriage that too many women in Egypt face, UN Women describes how women’s and girls’ concerns must be included in development projects. To make sure agricultural centers in Upper Egypt recruit and train men and women” on an “equitable basis,” the UN has a program that certifies some centers with a “Gender Equity Seal.” Thanks to this program, one woman, Karima — who was forced to marry a cousin at the age of 15; she is uneducated, divorced and has two sons –has learned entrepreneurial skills to start her own small business raising chickens and ducks.

As the Intel study says, “enabling Internet access for more women and girls in developing countries promises immediate, and immense, benefits” and could “potentially contribute an estimated US $13 billion to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.” The benefits of the Internet for all are clear. In providing more access to it in developing nations, we need to make sure that it is a tool to increase opportunities and reduce barriers for women, rather than raising more for them to struggle with.

Related Care2 Coverage

A New Digital Leash for Women Keeps Them From Crossing Borders and Escaping

Brutal Attack Inspires Schools for Women in Pakistan

Girls Skateboarding to Independence in Afghanistan

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114 comments

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2:02PM PST on Jan 29, 2013

This attitude will change when more women have access to the internet, which we know that the men do not want them to have. Internet= independent thinking, access to information and education, the ability to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals. Not things that egotistical men want women to possess.

3:03PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

Yet their words will be used as examples and praised by those who wish to keep oppressing them.

8:46AM PST on Jan 22, 2013

As Stephen S said...the slave learns to kiss her chains. As long as those women allow themselves to be chained, they will indeed agree with their masters - ignorant men. If the lie is repeated over and over again, people will begin to believe the lies as truth.

3:13AM PST on Jan 22, 2013

Thanks for the article.

7:56PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

I am still boycotting anything Indian for their treatment of women ...

6:42PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

I do understand. I should not have said that. I do understand the extreme control men want to have over women, day and night, ....we should get men for their wrongful use of the internet.

6:40PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

I am saddened that at my age of 68 years old I also was told I could not use the internet because the govt thought I was going to expose their wrongs that they did to me...which I eventually did.

But, I also have spent hours learning so many things and as an elderly woman keep in touch with what is going on in the world. Not just watching programs, but news programs so I know how women are getting on all over the world, like this article is about. I am sad. There are free educational programs for women in these countries. Education need not make a woman a feminist, or an activist, but it can make a woman more secure in her life and in her marriage and as a parent. I just do not understand.

12:28PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

The men there have once agian convienced their women that only they have the answers.

9:34AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

So sad....

8:31AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

It is not enough to have internet access:
1. If you don't have access to a computer
2. If your home doesn't have electricity
3. If you're illiterate and no one is available or willing to teach you
4. If you have to work long hours and take care of your family
5. If you'll be ridiculed, beaten, or ostracized by family and community members for going against cultural norms.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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