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Women’s Economic Empowerment through Web 2.0

Since web 2.0 is somewhat a new concept in most of Africa, many Africans are quite excited about it. However, in addition the initial excitement that accompanies the introduction of web 2.0 applications, what excites me most about these applications is that they provide an opportunity for women to earn a decent income from the comfort of their homes. In fact, Web 2.0 has created a whole other industry where gender discrimination is almost non-existent. This is important because, it provides an opportunity for women to be empowered economically.

Although the opportunities to earn an income through web 2.0 applications are limitless, the easiest way to do it is to create a blog and market it though social media and social networking sites until advertisers are literally scrambling to get a piece of the action. Granted, this method of income generation isn’t practical for illiterate or semi-illiterate women around the world, but even educated women still need to be economically empowered. For example, did you know that throughout the world, the unemployment rate of women, including well educated women, is higher than that of men? By encouraging women to earn a living through web 2.0, we can reduce the number of women who are unemployed.

In my country, Kenya, where the overall unemployment rate is about 50%, more and more educated women are finding themselves unemployed every single day. In fact, many companies will not hire a pregnant woman or even a woman of child bearing age. Many Kenyan employers have been known to say, “why hire someone who’s going to spend most of their time on maternity leave?” Unfortunately, this situation forces women to choose between having children and having a job! On the other hand, even employers who may appear to be equal opportunity employers have a “pregnancy clause” in their contracts. This is where a woman is told that if she gets pregnant within the first so many years of employment, her employment will be terminated.

As a Kenyan woman who makes a living through web 2.0 applications, I enjoy being in an industry where I’m not discriminated for my child bearing ability. All my readers and clients care about is whether I’m going to deliver the agreed service at the agreed time. They literally do not care whether I’m male or female. Obviously, this has made a lot of difference in my life because I do not feel like I have to choose between having children and being employed. I would like to see more women around the world enjoying the same freedom as me.

Comments

RosemaryC's picture

Family and work

It is so interesting to hear your perspective on making a living through web 2.0 applications in Kenya and how working virtually gives you a freedom that women working in a traditional workplace don't have when it comes to both working and having children, Grace. When my children were young and I wanted to stay home with them for part of the day, I worked from my home, writing and editing on my then brand-new Sanyo computer (that is how long ago it was) and I was grateful I could do so.

it seems from what you write that many women in your country do experience discrimination if they become pregnant. This is sad to hear as it seems to be society as a whole that suffers (and pays) when women are not supported in having and raising children. It would be great if women could use web 2.0 to help change this situation!

You note that some women can become economically empowered through using web 2.0 to create blogs that they market, but you also note that this is not practical for women who are not literate - and presumably, for women who are not well enough off to have access to a computer on a regular basis or who don't feel comfortable expressing themselves in writing, and I think that is a really good point to make.

I would enjoy learning about some of the women in Kenya who are supporting themselves economically through their blogging or through using the web for other things such as marketing crafts or other goods, which seems like another opportunity that the web offers women. I know there are some Kenyan craftswomen who are using the web to market their arts and crafts around the world, which is very exciting.

Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Kindest regards,
Rosemary

Grace Wanene's picture

Thanks

Hello Rosemary,

Thanks a lot for your comment. I'm happy to discover that the path that I have chosen isn't a new path. I loved your suggestion regarding how rural women can use web 2.0 to market their crafts. I'm actually considering developing a blog/website and a Facebook page that will enable rural Kenyan women to market their crafts free of charge. Of course this would mean that I would have to take it upon myself to educate those within my reach on the importance of web 2.0 as a marketing tool, but nothing is impossible. Thanks again.

Kind Regards,
Grace

harinees's picture

personal

Hi Grace

I really like your post. Yes, the internet itself and related jobs have removed the barriers women have faced for centuries. I like how you have explained with detail on how it has affected you personally. It is appalling to note that women are still left behind because of pregnancy and child bearing. This is not just in the developing countries - it happens even in developed countries. In fact, countries with mandated longer term maternity leave face this issue even more when one would think this helps women. Thanks for bringing to light such issues in Kenya as well.

Yes, as Rosemary says, I also like that you acknowledge the challenges with illiterate women. Do you have potential solutions for such women to be able to get online? How about language, is that not a barrier for Kenya given most of the internet is still in English?

Solid writing, keep it up.

Grace Wanene's picture

Thanks

Hi Harinees,

Thank you for bringing the language barrier to my attention. At the moment, I have no ideas on how to break the language barrier because Kenya is a country with over 40 different dialects. In addition, even though many women are able to speak the national language, Swahili, they can't read. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how this barrier can be overcome. Thanks again

Kind Regards,
Grace

RosemaryC's picture

A craft marketing website in Ghana

Dear Grace:

In case it is useful to you, here is one example of an arts and crafts marketing website, created by Cordelia Slater-Nour in Ghana in 1999 - http://www.eshopafrica.com/acatalog/home.htm

Best regards,
Rosemary

Kaleidoscope Girl's picture

Vital Voice.

Dear Grace,

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to hear your voice. A voice that speaks on behalf of many who are unable to.

I really valued your excitement at the opportunities and possibilities that Web 2.0 makes available (particularly in it's non gender-discriminatory and economically empowering way). I was moved hearing about your home country and you brought an awareness to me, and I am sure others, with regards to women in Kenya being forced to make choices between earning an income versus having children.

I also appreciated how you acknowledged that there are some challenges in terms of literacy and accessibility to the medium of Web 2.0, as collaborative as it can be, it's not something that is necessarily viable or available for a vast number of illiterate / semi-illiterate women out there.

Keep voicing your vibrant voice,
Enjoy this journey.
With Best Wishes,
Kaleidoscope Girl.

"Write your life so others may be ILLUMINATED."

Grace Wanene's picture

Thanks for the link

Thanks a lot for the link, Rosemary. I'll be sure to check it out.

Kind Regards,
Grace

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