By: Mariko Rasmussen, Program Assistant at Women Deliver
Imagine a woman home alone and going into premature childbirth. She feels helpless and scared, and begins to bleed. Now imagine this woman has a mobile phone. She feels connected and more secure, knowing help is a text or phone call away. And if she had had access to a phone during her pregnancy, prenatal text messages could have prepared her for such an emergency. It is no surprise that increasing the use of mobile phones among women is a key strategy to reducing maternal and newborn mortality, and one of the five technologies that Women Deliver is championing to reach MDG5.
The Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity report on mobile phone usage by women in low and middle income countries offers further insight into why this technology is so important to improving the lives of women:
* 93% of women reported feeling safer because of their mobile phone
* 85% of women reported feeling more independent because of their mobile phone
* 41% of women reported having increased income and professional opportunities once they owned a mobile phone
Last week I wrote about an mHealth initiative in Rwanda, putting mobile phones into the hands of maternal health workers in rural villages, helping to save women’s lives. This week I’d like to talk about a number of initiatives that will put mobile phones into the hands of women, and the larger implications this access has.
Launched October 7, 2010 by Cherie Blair and GMSA, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised the mWomen Programme, showing US support for increasing women’s access to mobile technologies through public-private partnerships. To highlight the urgent need for this access, Secretary Clinton said at the launch, "... There is no question that the spread of cell phones has launched a new era of possibility in the fights against poverty, disease, hunger, corruption, and political oppression... But of course, to have a wide impact, the technology must be widely available, and for 300 million women in low- and middle-income countries the technology is still out of reach."
In addition to the USAID-GSMA-Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation commitment to halve the global gender gap in the next three years, 20 leading global mobile companies operating in over 115 developing countries are also committed to closing the mobile phone gender gap. Some of the health related commitments include:
- Nokia will pilot women's information initiatives under its Ovi Life Tools service, especially focusing on healthcare and education. Nokia will further share elements of its commissioned research into the mobile phone access barriers facing women from a functional design, technological and affordability perspective. Nokia will also work with the GSMA and other committed partners on exploring how to reduce the total cost of ownership and thus increase accessibility, especially for women.
- Telefonica and the Seattle International Foundation have partnered together to create a female specific tariff for the women of Nicaragua that will also be linked to health and education services.
To support the programme the GSMA has also launched the “mWomen Base of the Pyramid Apps Challenge”. The challenge is sponsored by Vodafone and aims to stimulate activity to meet the significant demand for innovative app design and to provide original and fresh customized app solutions targeted at the specific needs of women in developing countries. Got an idea for a phone app for maternal health? Check out their website to submit it.
Secretary Clinton spoke of a previous app contest that the US Department of State co-organized that produced excellent new tools to address community challenges. She said, "We recently held a contest called Apps 4 Africa to reward local mobile developers in four African countries whose apps are helping to advance prosperity and stability in ingenious ways. One of the winners is a program called Mamakiba, a budgeting app that helps low-income pregnant women save and prepay for prenatal care and the costs of delivery. By helping women manage the cost of this care, we can increase the chance that they will receive and protect both their health and the health of newborns."
Finally, another initiative working in tandem with the mWomen Programme is sponsored by one of our corporate partners Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson is launching Mobile Health for Mothers, part of its Every Mother, Every Child Initiative. Over the five-year program, more than 15 million expectant and new mothers, in six developing countries, will receive mobile free phone messages on prenatal health, reminders of clinic appointments and calls from health mentors. Johnson & Johnson is also a founding sponsor of Text4Baby, a free mobile information service designed to promote maternal and child health for women in the US and recently honored with a US Department of Health and Human Services HHSinnovates award.
For more information on the GSMA mWomen programme: www.mwomen.org
For further information on how to enter the mWomen Base of Pyramid Apps Challenge: www.mwomen.org/appschallenge
For more information about Johnson & Johnson’s Every Mother, Every Child initiative: http://www.jnj.com/connect/caring/initiatives/everymothereverychild
For more information on Text4Baby: http://www.text4baby.org/
Flickr photo: MattJP