Rural Women Still not Connected
Jamaica boasts a fairly high level of internet connectivity, two very successful providers dominate the local market and smart phones and tablets are ubiquitous. However when you divert from the well paved streets of Kingston and other communities 'on the main' you will find that the reality for many is different. In rural communities such as Sherwood Content in Trewlawny and Glengoffe in St. Catherine, most residents are still not a part of this wave of ICT development that has hit Jamaica. In Sherwood Content many homes don't even have electricity. As such these communities are not only geographically isolated but in a real sense are cut off in many other ways. They don't enjoy the luxury of real time information in the same way that many of us do. As such it affects their ability to be involved in some of the discussions and decision-making processes that have been formed around technology. This places them at a clear disadvantage and further adds to the sense of marginalization of these rural communities.
The main economic activity within such communities is farming. My research in Sherwood Content as a PhD student has uncovered the realities of climate change and climatic variability on the community. Farmers, many of them women because of their connection to the soil and the elements are very conscious of the changes that are taking place in local conditions. Small, almost imperceptible changes that scientists miss are noted by these people who have this connection of sorts with the environment. The lack of connection through internet or other means however affects their ability to make sense of the situation within a national or global context. They are for the most past unaware of how what is happening in their small corner of the world connects with the changes being observed at the global level and how they are connected. In the face of climate change it is critical that farmers know what is happening at all levels so that the may devise better adaptation strategies and build long term resilience.
My work therefore is centred on helping these women, young and old, to tell their stories, because I believe scientists can benefit significantly from their traditional wisdom. I am also keen to give these women greater access to information from elsewhere so that they know they are not alone in their experiences and can address the changes in a more informed way. To this end, access to technology and the internet goes beyond the need to connect with family and friends, but serves a greater purpose of empowering the community to tell their own story and to more actively pursue strategies to promote climate change resilience.