Human rights and economic opportunities for North African women have long been a focus of controversial debate among national leaders and the international development community, particularly during the latter half of the 20th century. Today, the changing global landscape and renewed efforts to bridge the gender-based, socio-economic disparities in this region have benefited from new and innovative approaches to address such challenges. One such approach is through the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Mobile phones, the Internet, and computer tools facilitate information sharing. It follows that ICTs become a (re)source of socio-economic empowerment for women seeking to connect, act, and react to issues locally and nationally. The “knowledge and information” networks -- databases, blogs and podcasting -- created through the innovative application of ICTs, can make these connections and actions faster and more efficient. However, a broader question arises: Do ICTs work in this way for women across socio-economic lines? This study describes how five women-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working to assist disenfranchised Moroccan women in rural and urban communities, use ICTs to improve women’s lives.
The study applies an interdependent, quantitative-qualitative research paradigm that begins by situating the state of ICT infrastructure in Morocco since 2000. It follows with accounts of ICT usage and results from a survey designed for this study. These quantitative accounts ground the qualitative data gleaned from interviews with NGO executives, staff, and information technologists. The initial results indicate that if used efficiently and adeptly, ICTs can influence women’s autonomy by facilitating social and human capacity building, which in turn, fosters change to empower women. The study reveals that effective ICT application is linked to the mission of the NGO, and the “handling” of the ICTs is limited to women (and men) who possess the know-how to develop ICT integration in Moroccan communities.
|Keywords:||Women, ICTs, Economic Development, Social Development, Empowerment, New Technology, International Development, Morocco, North Africa|
Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
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