By empowering women and promoting gender equality, we can enable communities, economies and businesses – including our own – to prosper.
Research from GSMA shows that Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the widest mobile gender gaps of any region, as women are 13% less likely to own a mobile phone than men5. In addition, it is estimated that there is a 37% gender gap in mobile internet use.
Owning even the most basic mobile enables a woman to communicate, access information, learn, manage her (family’s) finances, set up and run a business and even get help if feeling threatened.
Our 2025 goal
We aim to connect an additional 20 million women living in Africa (excluding Egypt) and Turkey to mobile by 2025
women experience a mobile gender gap
Closing the ‘mobile gender gap’
Communications technology plays a critical role in empowering women to improve their lives and livelihoods.
Mobile technology also enhances many public and commercial services of value to women and girls in emerging markets, from accessing vaccinations and maternal healthcare to mobile banking and online support for smallholder farmers.
Closing the gender gap in mobile ownership and usage by 2023 would provide an estimated additional US$140 billion in revenue for the mobile industry over five years.
Our ambition is to expand the benefits of mobile to a greater number of women at all levels of society through a range of targeted commercial programmes. We believe our actions over the years ahead will make a material difference to women, families, communities and national economies across the countries in which we operate.
Access to mobile technologies can empower women to improve their lives and livelihoods
Mobile technology enhances many public and commercial services, from accessing vaccinations and maternal healthcare, to mobile banking and online support for smallholder farmers.
We are using our mobile technologies to enhance the quality of women’s lives through commercial programmes that:
Support education, skills and jobs
Improve health, wellbeing and safety
Enable economic empowerment
We also have specific initiatives to support female entrepreneurs, including Business Women Connect in Tanzania and Mozambique and Vodafone Turkey Foundation’s Women First in Entrepreneurship programme.
We have made progress towards our goal and have an estimated 46.2 million active female customers in Africa4 and Turkey, 9.3 million more since our original goal was set in 2016.
Estimated number of female customers in Africa and Turkey (millions)
Across our networks
more female customers since 2016
subscribers to Mum & Baby service in South Africa
customers using M-Pesa, 17 million are women
Supporting education and skills
Enabling girls and women to access a good education can enhance their chances of thriving in life, yet many girls in emerging markets enter adulthood lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.
An estimated 132 million girls worldwide are out of school, including over 34 million girls of primary school age.
Mobile technology increases access to quality education, especially for people living in remote areas. Vodafone Foundation has pioneered the development of innovative digital teaching and remote learning technologies for deployment among some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the world, including people living in refugee camps in sub-Saharan Africa. Its Instant Network Schools programme connects classrooms to the internet, providing remote and isolated communities with solar power, tablet computers and teacher training resources, together with access to educational content. Run in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Instant Network Schools programme has given over 83,500 young refugee students access to a quality digital education.
Across the world, millions of girls lack the information, connections, tools and services they need through mobile. Many of the everyday issues that affect them – relationships, contraception and gender-based violence – are often too sensitive to talk about openly, if at all. Boys are also one and a half times more likely to own a mobile phone than girls.
Improving health and wellbeing
Estimates show that at least half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services. Most of these people live in low to middle-income countries where access to services for screening, prevention and treatment is often limited or non-existent. Rural poor, especially women, are particularly deprived of such essential services.
Through Vodafone and Vodafone Foundation, we have developed a range of mobile technologies that enhance primary healthcare and prevention services in emerging markets. Many of these programmes are particularly important for women and young children.
According to UNICEF South Africa, 4,300 mothers die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth each year, 20,000 babies are stillborn and another 23,000 die in their first month of life.
In Kenya, only one in five of the population has some form of financial protection from healthcare costs*. Safaricom’s M-TIBA is a service that allows anyone to send, save and spend funds specifically for medical treatment using their mobile phone.
Tackling domestic violence and abuse
Safety is one of the biggest social barriers to women fulfilling their potential. In March 2019 the Vodafone Foundation announced the international expansion of Bright Sky, a free app developed with Hestia, Aspirant , Aspirant and Thames Valley Partnership that provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, or concerned about someone they know.
Since Bright Sky was created, the app has been downloaded over 41,000 times in the UK. Working with Thames Valley Partnership, Vodafone Foundation has also launched the service in Ireland and the Czech Republic. By March 2021, our ambition is for Bright Sky to be live in 12 countries. In the wake of COVID-19, the app has seen a 75% increase in downloads, and has been credited by UN Women as a key tool in supporting survivors during this period of limited mobility.
The roll-out builds on over ten years of ‘Apps Against Abuse’ by Vodafone Foundation that connect over one million people affected by domestic abuse to help and advice.
Enabling economic empowerment
More than 2 billion people in the world, most of them women, still have no access to banking facilities, and women have less access to financial services than men in 40% of the world’s countries. Finding ways to improve their access to financial services will bring significant social benefits and economic opportunities.
In 2007, together with our Kenyan associate, Safaricom, we developed the first mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa. This is a simple, secure, cheap and convenient solution now offered to customers across eight markets: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania. The service enables customers to safely and securely send, receive and store money via a basic mobile phone and, more recently in some markets, using a smartphone app.
We estimate that 17 million women were actively using M-Pesa this year, accounting for 41% of our M-Pesa customer base
With M-Pesa, women can take greater control over their own and their family’s finances. For example, in Kenya, research estimated that with mobile money access through M-Pesa, 185,000 women have been able to switch from subsistence farming to business or sales as their primary occupation. In addition, the research also found that M-Pesa has helped lift 194,000 households, or 2% of Kenyan households, out of poverty.
Since 2016, we have built on the success of our M-Pesa money transfer and M-Pawa money saving services. We are a partner in Business Women Connect (BWC), a service specifically designed for women who run micro-businesses.
Supporting female entrepreneurs
In addition to financial services, Vodafone’s networks and technologies support businesses of all sizes, including entrepreneurs. For example, research commissioned in Ghana by Vodafone found that 70% of micro-entrepreneurs would face difficulties continuing their business without a smartphone. This constant connectivity allows entrepreneurs to connect with customers, search for new business ideas and track competitors’ prices.
Vodafone also supports female entrepreneurs through local Vodafone Foundation programmes. The Vodafone Institute in Germany developed F-LANE, a seven-week acceleration programme for high-potential digital impact ventures and the first accelerator in Europe aimed exclusively at women. The programme’s mission is to foster the participation of women in technological development and to empower women of all ages around the world through technology. In the most recent round, 180 start-ups from 57 countries were identified for consideration and review. The final five applicants took part in the full programme of support, which included mentorship, training, networking and funding.
Through the Foundation's Women First in Entrepreneurship programme in Turkey, more than 36,000 women have received training on entrepreneurship, communications and finance.
Our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunuties for all.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Communications technology can play a critical role in empowering women to improve their lives and livelihoods. Through providing women with access to life-enhancing services, which help unlock socio-economic opportunities and championing the inclusion of women in the workplace, Vodafone is committed to SDG 5. Our approach also aligns with SDGs 4 and 8, as our mobile technologies also support improved education outcomes and drive financial inclusion.
We believe we can have the greatest impact on five of the UN SDGs through our networks, products and services and through the work of the Vodafone Foundation.
Learn more about Inclusion
We seek to be a company whose global workforce reflects the customers we serve and the broader societies within which we operate.
Vodafone is committed to doing our part to support digital learning and digital skills for youth.
Download our Annual Report 2020
which provides detail on our sustainable business strategy, approach, focus areas and progress