Rural Indian women are learning alphabets on their cell phones, as they continue to use mobile technology to expand their empowerment outside the home.
Over one thousand women have started reading English and other languages with the help of their phones and an NGO called Mahila Shakti Pratish, translated as the Women Strength Foundation.
Mahila Shakti, sponsored by the Human Welfare Association (HWA), has connected women with mobile phones, education centers and self-help groups in 33 villages since April.
The organization encourages women to purchase cell phones as supplemental educational tools, saying they are especially useful for learning various alphabets.
“I was illiterate. But today I am learning how to read and write at the education center,” said Munni Devi of Mustafabad, who first mastered the alphabet on her mobile device.
Ultimately, according to HWA president Rajni Kant, “The mobile phone is used to teach these women how they can use mobile phones for their day to day conversation, increase business and improve their personalities.”
Kant’s observation appears true not only in the educational sphere but also in many other aspects of Indian women’s lives, where phones offer vital lifelines to services for women in isolated areas.
The GSMA Development Fund, for example, found 93 percent of women felt more connected to family and friends upon purchasing a mobile phone.
In addition, the “Fight Back” smartphone app is helping to keep Indian women safe on the streets of New Delhi by alerting police and family members about potential attackers.
Besides improving education, communication and safety, mobile phones may also assist women in managing their reproductive health.
A series of comical ads by IDEA suggests 3G phones may distract husbands into keeping birth rates low through mobile entertainment, while health-focused apps like mHealth remind pregnant women of what to eat and when to visit the doctor.
As India’s mobile user base grows, with 206 million handsets projected for sale by 2014, it is likely women’s social standing will improve as they continue to leverage cell phones for educational and other purposes.