Skip to main content

India's "push" for digitized economy may widen gender gap, warns UNICEF: Just 29% internet users are females

Vikas and his sister Kritika
By Our Representative
Pointing towards a whopping digital gender divide, UNICEF in a new report, has said that if globally, 12 per cent more men than women used the internet in 2017, "in India, less than one third of internet users are female." Elsewhere, UNICEF warns, "Recently, India has made a public push towards a more digitalized economy, including reducing dependency on physical cash. If girls and women remain digitally illiterate, they risk becoming further marginalized in society and at home."
Pointing out that "country-level examples give a sense of the kinds of barriers girls and women confront", the report, "The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World" says, "In India, where only 29 per cent of all internet users are female, girls in rural areas often face restrictions on their use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) "solely because of their gender."
Thus, it says, "One village governing body in rural Rajasthan stated that girls were not to use mobile phones or social media. Another village in Uttar Pradesh banned unmarried girls from using mobile phones (and from wearing jeans and T-shirts)", with the village council insisting that "mobile phone use would increase crimes against girls and women."
Giving the example of one Vikas, a 17 years old boy living in Goregaon East, a low-income suburb of Mumbai, UNICEF points towards how he acquired internet skills from his friends, going so far as to starting "two YouTube channels, three Facebook accounts and thousands of friends... To connect to the internet, he uses his brother’s old phone, visits cybercafes and jumps on free wifi whenever he can find it."
Regrets UNICEF, "While the internet has helped Vikas thrive, his younger sister Kritika, 15, is struggling to keep up." It quotes Kritika as saying, "I don’t know how to use [it] so I [have to] get help from someone,” adding, "Although their parents are not opposed to Kritika using the internet, they are limiting her phone use until she passes her Level 10 exams." The parents are worried, if she uses the internet she would be "distracted".
In fact Kritika admits, her curiosity is waning. “I don’t even know how to use a laptop. Earlier I was more interested in it. I’m not really anymore … Cell phones ruin your eyesight,” she says.
UNICEF comments, "This disparity in internet use between boys and girls in the same family is representative of a larger trend in the country: Though the divide is caused by a number of factors – social norms, education levels, lack of technical literacy and lack of confidence among them – it is often rooted in parents’ concern for the safety of their daughters."
"Many fear that allowing girls to use the internet will lead to liaisons with men, bringing shame on the family. For most girls, if they are allowed to use the internet, their every move is monitored by their parents or brothers", UNICEF says, adding, "In a society that is still largely patriarchal, for girls, traits like deference and obedience are often valued over intelligence and curiosity."
"In some households, technology is not seen as necessary or beneficial for girls and women", UNICEF says, even as quoting Vikas as saying, “The thinking of the society is that [if] boys went in a wrong way, they are boys so boys can do anything...So that is why girls are given more security and not letting them [get] exposure in their life".
Vikas is also quoted as saying, “Girls in my class, they are not interested in [the] internet because they never get to use the internet ... they do not know the benefits... They have interest in [other] things … talking with the girls, doing [housework], or they play what the girls want to play.”
UNICEF says, in Mumbai, "Basic services like water, healthcare and education are scarce in the slum, and girls are often the most deprived. In many households, any small amount of resources a family has will first go to the men". Against this framework, it adds, documentary filmmaker Nawneed Ranjan "left his job and started the non-profit Dharavi Diaries – a learning centre for girls focusing on computer skills, internet and basic coding."
"The centre has since evolved to include classes on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), as well as workshops on topics like menstruation and hygiene", UNICEF says, quoting a 17 year old girl, Roshani of the centre as saying “The internet is very popular [in our community]. And every boy knows how to work on computers. And they also are chatting on WhatsApp and Facebook". But girls, don’t use the internet as much. “Sometimes the parents don't allow the girls to go out. Only girls.”

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.