After recovering from the being shot by members of the Taliban while campaigning for women’s right to education in rural Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai is ready to launch a partnership with the Vodafone Foundation to help bring literacy to women in developing countries through mobile technology. Although Yousafzai is only 16, the teen has already written a book (I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education) and started a philanthropic organization called the Malala Fund. The union of Yousafzai and Vodafone is expected to help 493 million women and 76 million girls globally learn how to read and write.
Yousafzai and Vodafone both work towards empowering social change through literacy, especially in the lives of women living in rural areas who do not have access to education. Yousafzai sustained her injuries working in such rural communities in Pakistan, where she wanted to empower social change through advocating for women’s right to education. Vodafone works around the world to develop apps to help overcome barriers to internet accessibility. They fund projects that use mobile technology to enhance quality of life and overcome humanitarian challenges. They believe that mobile networks are the key to mobilizing and delivering social change worldwide.
The mobile app, available on android smartphones, is supposed to overcome the cultural and social control that is made possible through the lack of education. Enthusiasts estimate that in the next six years the app will have helped 5.3 million women achieve full literacy, as well as reduce the levels of domestic violence for over 80,000 women. An obvious drawback to this program is that a person would need both a smartphone and internet access, but as the idea of internet access as a human right gains popularity, so should programs that strive to provide this service globally.
The app empowers women through knowledge; provides training in reading, writing, and mathematics; gives women access to crisis alerts; and provides a free self-defense tips service that operates via SMS. In Owen’s article, she includes a personal account by Wafaa Mohamad Ramadan, a woman who has learned how to read, write, and do simple math using the app. Her story illustrates how illiteracy and a lack of education can impact a person’s agency, health, and personal safety. Ramadan says that “knowledge is light, knowledge is a weapon, and knowledge is like the sun in every house”, indicating how important literacy is in her life.
The app is especially meant to help women and prevent the gender gap from widening, which would mean greater economic benefit to regions where women are under-educated. The goal is to help women gain control over their own lives, by fostering knowledge and skills that will help them enter the workforce. Many of the women living without access to mobile technology live in areas that Vodafone services, so by partnering with other humanitarian organizations, the foundation is able to reach many of the women affected by illiteracy. Not only will this help empower the lives of individual women, but it will promote national prosperity by helping women finish secondary school.