It’s the century of the tablets and androids. But nearly 50 percent of the world population live in rural areas, and they have very limited access to what the other half considers a basic necessity to work, learn or manage social relations: the computer. The digital divide faced by developing countries is closely linked to poverty, illiteracy and language barriers. The gap widens even further when we measure women’s access to these technologies of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The UN General Assembly Resolution 58/146 of 2004 recognized the need to bring ICTs to rural women as ICTs is a quick way to bring women into leadership positions in their communities and help reduce inequality.
In rural areas of Ecuador, ICTs are a scarce commodity with the power to change lives, such as for Angelita Villa Salazar in eastern Ecuador.
“At first I thought it would damage the computer by touch. Today I am in college and send out my homework every day by e-mail,” she says.
With the support of UN Women, the NGO AMJUPRE has been training more than 300 women leaders in rural areas of Ecuador since 2008, teaching them to lose their fear of technology and to use it to fully benefit their lives. AMJUPRE opened a world of possibilities that empowered them as leaders of their communities and they turned into benefits to the society.
Rosa Balcazar, in the province of El Oro, has become the driving force of her community. Rosa used the acquired knowledge in ICTs to access to information, request forms and submit projects to the government, which eventually lead to important achievements, such as sewerage, housing and drinking water.
One of the most important things that computers have brought to the lives of Angelita and Rosa is independence, and confidence in their abilities and their futures.
“Now I feel better about myself, I realized that I am capable of learning. It’s exciting,” Angelina says.
Luz Haro, president of AMJUPRE, agrees: “Knowledge in new technologies makes the participants feel more important and valuable. Now they are supporting their families, working at a professional level and meeting their responsibilities as leaders in the public life.”
Some of the participants have by now turned into instructors themselves, further proof of the success of the programme that helps the women to create networks. “One participant, Balbina Pimbo, only had primary education when she came to the training course. Now she teaches other women how to use ICT,” Luz Haro says.
In this video (available in Spanish only), the various people involved in the project “Training School for local management for rural women leaders of Ecuador” tell us how information technology and communication has empowered them as leaders of their communities.