Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Women Empowerment through the Village Pay Phone Programme of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh: A Revisit after Ten Years

Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Women Empowerment through the Village Pay Phone Programme of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh: A Revisit after Ten Years

Article excerpt

The diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has come to play a major part in development programmes around the world. Among them, the mobile phone have been used, to combat poverty and give the people an opportunity to join the new information society that is widely spoken of and experienced in Western societies. But there is a tendency of being too optimistic about technological effects. The Village Pay Phone Programme, well-known as Palli Phone in rural Bangladesh is one ICT development programme, initiated by Grameen Telecom in 1997. It aims to diffuse the advantages of the mobile phone to rural people who have no other access to telecommunication services and thus include them in combating their poverty. The programme targets rural women to become owners of a mobile phone. They start a small enterprise by renting the mobile phone to others, which eventually will change the power relations among men and women in traditional male dominated society of Bangladesh. Women in rural Bangladesh are hard working and foremost they perform heavy household work throughout the days and take care of their children. Women's contribution to the family income is not recognised to the same extent as men's, but they are however involved in many income generating activities that includes hens and ducks raring, backyard farming and some other necessary cottage production. A woman seldom earns money on her own, but is financially dependent on her father, then husband and thereafter son for economic security (Hartman and Boyce, 1998). Hence, women constitute a vulnerable group in Bangladesh's society and violence against women is common (Mizan, 2004). Even if the constitution promotes equal rights to women, women still suffer from discrimination and violence that occurs in the home, at the workplace and on other levels of society (Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, 2008). Only one third of women in Bangladesh can read or write because of the families' reluctance to pay for their daughter's education (Landguiden, 2008).

'Conger and Kanungo (1988) describe the second definition of empowerment: empowerment as motivational construct, which argues for an urge among people for power and the ability to influence and control other people. The need for power is met when the person perceives that she has power over, or can cope with, situations, events or people and experience a feeling of self-determination.'

Telecommunication and the Village Pay Phone Programme

Bangladesh has developed rapidly the past ten years, but is still one of the world's least developed countries. It is also one of the world's densest populated countries. About 82 percent of the population lives under two dollars a day and 75 percent lives in rural areas of Bangladesh (Landguiden, 2008). In 1990, only 0.21 percent of the population had a fixed line telephone (United Nations Statistics, 2007), while the process of getting a one was costly and could take years (Yusuf and Alam, 2007). As the mobile phone services developed in the world the Bangladesh government opened up the mobile service sector for private investors' competition. The mobile phone soon came to replace the fixed line telephone since it enabled interconnection in various parts of Bangladesh where fixed line networks have been impossible to establish. As Grameen Phone Limited, Aktel and Banglalink entered the market the cost of the mobile phone services decreased immensely during 1997 and 2007. In Bangladesh, the number of cellular subscribers increased from 0.06 percent in 1998 to 13.25 percent in 2006 (United Nations Statistics, 2007).

The Village Pay Phones (VPP) are owned by women living in rural areas of Bangladesh. The owner receives a loan from the Grameen Bank to purchase a mobile phone from Grameen Telecom and rents it to other villagers. As a result, people in these areas of Bangladesh will also have access to telephone services and achieve new opportunities to combat their poverty by being connected to the rest of the world. …

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