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

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative  The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.