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

Allow international human rights observers, media to access Kashmir: US lawmakers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising "significant concerns" about what they call "humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting "credible reports" from journalists and advocates on the ground" have said that "the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”

TN woman's No Caste, No Religion struggle 'follows' ideals of Marx, Ambedkar, Periyar

By Sheshu Babu*
In these days of rising communal tensions, a courageous woman from Tamil Nadu achieved her dream of obtaining 'No Caste, No Religion' certificate through persistent struggle. This is quite a significant achievement. It comes alongside some colleges in West Bengal introducing 'humanity', 'agnostic' , 'secular' or 'non-religious' in the application forms for online submission for students who are unwilling to disclose their faith.

Rescind Gates Foundation award to Modi, demand three Nobel Peace laureates

Counterview Desk
In a major boost to those opposing the award to the Gates Foundation’s proposed to be awarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire (1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (2011) and Shirin Ebadi (2003), have in an open letter called upon Milinda and Bill Gates to withdraw their decision, stating Modi is allegedly involved in human rights violations.

US Kashmiri diaspora body: World leaders, UN 'not acting', India enjoys total impunity

Counterview Desk
Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly session, to begin on September 17 in New York, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary-general of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, a non-profit organization based in Ohio, US, claiming to focus on providing information on Kashmir, has regretted that despite "violent" behaviour of Indian authorities in Kashmir, they enjoy "total impunity" across the world.

Modi used to 'run errands' during Emergency, his role was that much: Top JP associate

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp exposure, well-known Gujarati critic, journalist and activist Prakash N Shah, who had been among the main contact persons of Jay Prakash Narayan (JP) in Gujarat, has recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “merely running errands” during the Emergency (1975-77) period, adding the PM’s stature has been “sought to be unnecessarily inflated”, though adding, he is not saying this to “belittle him.”

Jharkhand riverine terminal: 485 families 'displaced', lose land, livelihood in Sahibgunj

Counterview Desk
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposes to inaugurate on Thursday India’s second riverine Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) at Sahibganj in Jharkhand, built at a cost of Rs 290 crore reportedly in a record time of about two years, several civil rights organizations* have said that the government has failed to address the high-profile terminal’s social and environmental concerns.

Now clampdown on rally, arrest of pro-freedom activists in Pak-occupied Kashmir

Counterview Desk
In a fresh evidence, international human rights organizations are not just confining their attention on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose special status was taken away by the Government of India in early August, leading to an unprecedented clampdown on the region. They have simultaneously begun focusing on the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), where the situation is said to be worsening.
Thus, the International Human Rights Council ((IHRC) Hong Kong (HK), a top human rights organisation, said to be working towards to the promotion peace, equality, fundamental rights and social justice “as enunciated in the UN Human Rights Charter and other instruments of human rights”, has noted now a new wave of independence movement has struck PoK.  With offices in US, UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong, and having Kirity Roy and Lenin Raghuvanshi as IHRC office bearers from India, in a statement, it has claimed that on September 7 one of the biggest pro-Independenc…

Govt of India 'moves' to hold Assam-type foreigners' tribunals across India, warns report

Counterview Desk
A People’s Tribunal on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has warned in its interim jury report that two recent notifications of the Government of India may lay down the groundwork for triggering an NRC process in different parts of the country, pointing towards recent moves towards this.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk
“Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

New sample suggests high pollution off Vadodara effluent channel, 'requires' action

Counterview Desk 
Gujarat’s top environmental group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has sharply criticized the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s (GPCB’s) “on-serious, casual letter” dated September 5, which allegedly suggests that the top state state agency does not favour taking any action Central Gujarat’s effluent treatment plant, Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd (VECL).