Our fourth and final plenary session of the summit was focused on creative ways to advance the effectiveness of women’s networks and initiatives, called The Innovators and Game Changers: Mobility and Connectivity Driving Change. Zain Verjee, our fantastic summit moderator, welcomed panelists who represent media, telecommunications agencies, and civil society organizations working to increase connectivity among women leaders.
Chairman and Advisor of TeleConsult Group in Bngladesh, Naila Chowdhury, commented on the significant influence mobile phones have had on women in both rural and urban areas. Naila said that women’s access to mobile phones not only increases their self-confidence and sense of security, but “empowers a second generation of entrepreneurs,” referring to the children of women who serve as successful examples of wired women. Naila went on to say:
“Wiring women in villages with a tool of access such as a mobile phone has empowered women phenomenally – it’s unthinkable.”
Saundaraya Rajesh of Avtar-IWIN, one of India’s first human resources services aimed at providing flextime employment for women, stressed the need for adaptable corporate policies regarding women’s life and work balance. Women often find themselves at a considerable disadvantage, said Saundaraya, if they are force to choose between career advancement and child-rearing. Commenting on the work of her organization, she said:
“We are trying to show that flexible working is productive; even a part-time investment in a woman employee is an investment with huge returns.”
Panelist Tara Thiagarajan of India appealed for further research to develop a comprehensive understanding of the patterns of connectivity to increase efficiency and link up entrepreneurs and women leaders working in the same spheres:
“When you take the call data that we get from mobile phone technology and use it to understand patterns of connectivity, you can see how rural villages are structured, and you can see room for connecting those who are not talking, even though they work in similar areas in villages in close proximity. There is great room for collaboration and sharing useful ideas by connecting people.”
Naila Chowdhury also offered a practical example for increasing connectivity and providing support to women survivors of violence by using her call center as an example:
“Hotlines and mobile phones provide the platform we need to give to women.”
Naila set up a hotline for women suffering abuse in her home country; when women would call up Naila’s hotline, they would be connected with hospitals and NGO support agencies.
Closing the session, Luna Shamsuddoha made a prediction on future developments:
“I feel the solution for the world’s greatest challenges is technology; it is empowering women with technology. We have to bring the knowledge and freedom that connectivity provides to women around the world.”