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Sec. Of State Clinton, Other Officials Launch Initiative To Provide Mobile Phones To 150M Women In The Developing World

Officials gathered in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to launch mWomen, an initiative aimed at increasing access to mobile phones to further health and development benefits among women in the developing countries, the Telegraph reports (Beaumont, 10/8).

Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rob Conway, CEO of the international mobile communication group GSMA and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer launched the program at the State Department office, All Headline News writes (Genova, 10/7). The program’s goal is “to provide 150 million women around the world with access to mobile phone technology,” BBC reports (10/7). 

Major components of mWomen are: “offering technical assistance, with activities focused on catalysing the mobile industry to work collectively to close the gender gap and track progress, including development of business cases for mobile phone operators; and providing value-added services – life-changing services in the areas of health, education, finance and entrepreneurship, to be delivered by mobile phone operators in partnership with the international development community,” according to a GSM World press release.

The program aims to address some of the issues raised in a report (.pdf) from GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which finds that 300 million women in the developing world do not have access to mobile phones and the benefits they can bring (10/7). The report found that women in low- and middle-income countries are 21 percent “less likely to own a mobile phone than a man” living there. For women in Africa, that number goes up to 23 percent, in the Middle East it is 24 percent and in South Asia it is 37 percent (undated).

Blair “said there were many benefits a mobile phone could bring to women,” BBC writes. “It can help with literacy. It can help with health programmes and projects, and it’s a way of helping women develop small businesses and get financial independence,” she said (10/7).

Clinton “noted that mobile phones are used to help coordinate disaster relief, access health care and report violence,” VOA News reports (10/7). “We have seen in the past the power of the green revolution to agriculture, the power of microcredit to lift up the lives of the poorest women the world over, and to raise their economic standards. And today, through the application of mobile technology, we have just begun to tap the potential for this enormous tool that we have already seen, in many ways, what it can do,” said Verveer. Mobile phones’ promotion of “vital health information” was one of the benefits she named, citing an incident in Afghanistan where a phone helped get a physician to deliver a baby, according to a State Department transcript of the event (10/7).  

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