Providing a smartphone to a woman opens up opportunities for the rest of the community that would not have existed otherwise
Bithika did not know the value of a smart phone until she had it. She thought that if PROTIC gave her Tk10,000 instead she could have started a business and earned more that way. What she did not realize was that she would be able to do just that with her phone. Now in the comfort of her own home, she uses her smart phone to take photos of women and children, charging Tk20 for two photos, Tk25 taka for three, and Tk40 for four. She keeps all of her earnings, making Tk100-200 per week. She makes even more at the beginning of the school year when students need to submit photos for their ID cards. Her husband supports her by printing the photos in his computer shop, where he does the same business but in the public space of the bazaar. Bithika’s edge is that her home is a comfortable environment for women and children and much more convenient to reach than the bazaar.
Besides her photography business, Bithika learned how to improve her agricultural practices through PROTIC training. She started a home garden, raised ducks, and farmed fish. She struggled with all three of these agricultural activities at first, but the trainings and apps on her phone helped. The support structures she used for her vegetables were weak and would break during storms, but she learned how to put in strong frames, using Google as her guide. On a field trip to Hori Nagar, another village in Satkhira, she learned from locals how they grew vegetables in saline soil. Now she digs a hole half a hand deep, covers it with thick plastic, and fills it with soil, leaving six inches at the top for organic fertilizer. Using this method, she is able to cultivate seasonal vegetables twelve months out of the year. To remedy pests, she learned to spray Wheel powder mixed with water on her plants by calling the call center for advice. Her fish used to die during the Choitro and Boishakh months, but she started adding calcium carbonate to her pond in every three months to clean the water. Now her fish thrive. These are just a few of the techniques Bithika learned that made a significant difference in her agricultural output.
In the future, Bithika wants to continue all of her agricultural practices, adding a coconut garden to the mix. Currently she is doing a month long tailoring training through RECALL and will receive a sewing machine after completing it. She hopes to earn more by taking tailoring orders and teaching others how to sew simultaneously. Her husband is guiding her on how to use computers, such as typing, creating documents and printing so that she can do all of these income generating activities once her home is connected to electricity.
From Bithika, we learned that giving women smart phone technology provides the opportunity for them to do what they would not have dreamed of doing before. Bithika had no idea that she could take photos of other people with her phone when she first received it. We also learned that providing a phone to a woman opens up opportunities for the rest of the community that would not have existed otherwise. When Bithika got her smartphone, she created a pathway for women and children to get their photos taken in her home, removing the inconvenience of travelling to the bazaar. Furthermore, Bithika was able to develop herself through her smart phone. Her success with technology opened up more opportunities – her husband believed in her abilities, and with her request he started teaching her how to use a computer. He was confident that she could learn more. Bithika’s smartphone was a pathway to income generating activities – a self fulfilling prophecy of success.
Tania Ahmed and Mity Mahmuda are research officers at ICCCAD