Women

We are exploring the barriers that prevent women from using mobile technology and are developing services that can help women fulfil their potential

Women – Our approach

Mobile technology has the potential to transform people’s lives and create significant opportunities to improve economic development and individual wellbeing – for women in particular. Our products and services can help women fulfil their potential by increasing their ability to access healthcare and education, contribute economically and feel safer.

With around 300 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone, access to the opportunities mobile technology brings is not yet equal1. We estimate that 91 million of these women without a mobile phone live in markets where we operate, which represents a substantial unfulfilled market and a significant opportunity for our business. Addressing this imbalance could help women improve their own lives and those of their children and communities.

We are exploring the barriers that prevent women from using mobile technology and are working with governments and non-governmental organisations to develop services tailored to their needs.

Read on to find out more about our mobile services for women and our performance in 2013/14.

Assessing the potential for women

In March 2014, we published our Connected Women (pdf, 4.02 MB) report, which explores the impact of increasing women’s mobile phone ownership and how mobile services provided by Vodafone and the Vodafone Foundation are enabling women to access new opportunities and improve their lives and livelihoods. Our research suggests that increasing women’s access to mobile and scaling up the five services explored in the report could have positive annual economic benefits worth $28.9 billion across Vodafone’s markets by 20202.

We estimate that the five services we modelled could benefit 8.7 million women by 2020. The opportunities we explored were:

  • Education: mobile literacy for adult learning
  • Health: using mobile payments to cover travel costs to receive maternal healthcare
  • Safety: an alert system for women at high risk of domestic violence
  • Work: a mobile inventory management system for rural female retailers
  • Loneliness: new services to connect elderly people to their family, friends and carers (see Accessibility).

For more information, see the Connected Women (pdf, 4.02 MB) report.

In focus: Helping women at risk of domestic violence through TecSOS

One in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence at some point during their life. The TecSOS device, launched in the UK by the Vodafone Foundation and Thames Valley Partnership, is helping women at high risk of abuse connect to emergency services at the touch of a button.

The TecSOS service was originally developed by the Spanish Red Cross, the TecSOS Foundation and Vodafone Spain Foundation, where a nationwide TecSOS programme now operates. In the UK, it has now been adopted by around half of the country’s police forces, whose response times have improved by an estimated 11%.

Feedback from the users clearly highlights the role that TecSOS plays in helping victims feel safer and more secure when dealing with the trauma of domestic violence, with one user commenting that she felt like she had a police officer by her side.

The TecSOS system recognises and prioritises emergency calls, identifying the caller, their case history and location, enabling the police to respond even if the user is unable to speak. It also records what is happening helping to provide legal evidence if required.

Since 2011, over 5,600 women have been issued with the TecSOS device in the UK, over 31,900 victims (both male and female) in six European countries have already benefitted from a TecSOS device and the programme will continue to be rolled out across Europe.

Supporting women’s economic empowerment

Turkey

Using our mobile technology and services, we are connecting women to education and skills training, expanding access to job opportunities, and helping them improve their livelihoods.

In 2013/14, Vodafone Turkey launched the Vodafone Women First programme which helps women use mobile technology, access information, acquire new skills and increase their incomes. The Women First Advertisement Service, a key part of the programme, is enabling women with little experience of mobile technology to sell their handicrafts and products on one of Turkey’s biggest online marketplaces, sahibinden.com. Using SMS messages, they can send information about their products to a third party, funded by Vodafone, which verifies the information and then posts an advert online on their behalf. To encourage women to subscribe, the service also provides promotional offers and information services on topics such as child health and wellbeing. In the first nine months alone, 4,700 adverts were placed, which were viewed by over 240,000 people and generated average sales of $51 per user.

“For years I have been interested in making handcraft arts. Producing and designing my work was time consuming and I had to spend most of my day travelling to neighbouring villages and cities to sell my artwork. Thanks to Women First Mobile Advertisement Service, I started to advertise my work through my mobile phone which triggered my sales. Joining the service allowed me to save time, money, run my business effectively and get access to a wider consumer group. Ultimately, my earnings increased approximately by 500%.”

Muazzes Özer, Turkey

Launched in 2013, it attracted 75,000 women customers in its first nine months, of which 15% were new customers for Vodafone.

Watch the video to find out how the Vodafone Women First Advertisement Service is helping Muazzes’ sewing business thrive.

India

We are also helping female entrepreneurs in India manage their businesses more efficiently as well as increase their incomes. In 2013/14, the Vodafone Foundation, in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA) and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, rolled out an SMS-based service, known as the RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar (RSV). RSV enables small-scale retailers to place orders, record their transactions and manage stock levels in real time – reducing the time spent collecting their stock from central warehouses and improving their productivity. Since it started in 2013, over 1,300 women involved in the pilot have increased their incomes, some by up to three times. We are now extending this service to more districts of Gujarat, India. In 2013/14, RSV won the GSMA Global Mobile Awards for the Best Mobile Product, Initiative or Service in Emerging Markets.

“Previously I’d never even seen a mobile phone. Now I have my own mobile with the RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar technology. Thanks to the training I can use it to place orders and record sales and other transactions. I used to have to come to the centre to get my stock and waste the whole day and a lot of money on travelling. Now I can just send a text message and stock is delivered to me. I’m more productive and have saved a lot of time that I’m using to approach more customers and increase my sales.”

Ramilaben Somabhai Parmar, RUDIben entrepreneur since 2005, Gujurat

As well as using our technology and services to encourage female entrepreneurship, we are expanding job opportunities for women in our own stores in India. Our Vodafone Angel Stores are run and managed exclusively by female employees – from security guards to senior management. As well as creating a great place to work for women, it also helps our female customers feel comfortable visiting our stores and buying our products. In 2013/14 we expanded our network of Vodafone Angel Stores to 26 across India.

Increasing gender diversity in our own business is a priority across the Group (see Our people).

Enhancing women’s access to health and education

Mobile products and services can help women access essential services such as healthcare and education.

In Tanzania, we are helping women with obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition that can occur following childbirth, to access treatment through the Vodafone Foundation’s partnership with the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation Tanzania (CCBRT), an NGO. The Text to Treatment service, developed by the Vodafone Foundation, uses our mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa, to transfer the money required to pay for the women’s travel to hospital. In 2013, 70% of obstetric fistula patients treated came to hospital through the Text to Treatment programme (see Health).

In 2013/14, our Connected Women report (see above) found that an estimated 5.3 million women across Vodafone’s markets could improve their literacy by 2020 through mobile learning. Working in partnership with Egypt’s General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education and local NGOs, the Vodafone Egypt Foundation is improving the literacy skills of people in Egypt through its Knowledge is Power project, which uses classroom and mobile learning. The app uses pictures and a talkback function to improve learning, and also enables women to learn at a time that suits them. By the end of 2013, around 187,000 people had enrolled in the Knowledge is Power classes and over 94,000 people had successfully completed the literacy programme – over 60% of them women (see Education).

“I faced lots of problems due to my lack of education. I signed a document for my neighbour without knowing what it contained. I signed away my house, my jewellery and my little shop. Since then, I challenged myself to learn and be cautious before I sign any document. I have changed a lot, I feel that I came out from darkness to light.”

Wafaa Mohamad Ramadan, Egypt

Notes:

  1. Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity (pdf, 3 MB) (2010), GSMA Development Fund and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
  2. Based on research conducted by Accenture Sustainability Services for our Connected Women (pdf, 4.02 MB), published in March 2014.