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Mobile Technologies bring luster to women in Bulawayo

BULAWAYO: Diana Svosve had no dreams of ever owning a mobile phone. Her only major form of communication was through writing a letter, which took days to reach its destination. Her main access to local and international news was through the state controlled radio. Today, Svosve lives in a different world.

Four years ago, a sim card for a mobile phone was going for as much as USD100 or more. A handset was also going for as much. The local name for a mobile phone is mbozhanhare, literary meaning a phone for the rich. Today a sim card can be purchased for as little as USD1. The mobile phone has now proliferated into all the corners of the country, changing people’s lifestyle and way of seeking, sending and receiving information.

Over the years, Zimbabwe has seen an increase in the number of women owning a mobile phone. This motivated the Creative Centre for Communication to develop a programme with a goal to increasing access to information on (women's) human rights using mobile technologies.

The objectives of the exercise were to raise awareness of the 16 Days of Activism in Zimbabwe using mobile phones and to promote women and girls' communication rights through making information available in a format that they can use and in a way that is affordable.

With a generous support from the African Women Development Fund, the organisation embarked on an advocacy campaign using free open source software called Freedom Fone that was developed in Zimbabwe by Kubatana Trust and awarded a Knight Frank award in 2008. The Freedom Fone provides for round the clock personal access to information. It uses mobile phones and marries it with interactive audio programming – allowing users to conduct SMS polls, collect user generated audio content via a voice-message system, and allowing callers to listen to content on the cell phones.

The project had a big impact in the community. The project resulted in increased access to information to women and girls on issues of Gender Based Violence. The project offered women a platform to reveal GBV cases that they experience without fear of intimidation and harassment. Women and girls particularly from the church now have a platform to get information and help.

During the implementation of the project, the organisation received information through the Freedom fone about a case in which a father raped his daughter, resulting in her falling pregnant. Participants in the programme met and decided to come out with a drama, to highlight this and raise awareness about this form of violence against women in Zimbabwe.

The Creative Centre for Communication and Development now plans to use the Freedom Fone to advance other women’s human rights. The facility is cost effect and has the capacity to reach a wider audience considering the increased proliferation of the mobile phones in the country.

For women in Bulawayo like Mrs. Svosve, the mobile is no longer just a gadget for sending and receiving messages, but a great source of news and information on pertinent issues pertaining to women.

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