Why Some Girls In India Can’t Own A Phone (And How It Impacts Their Education)

Why Some Girls In India Can’t Own A Phone (And How It Impacts Their Education)

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Why Some Girls In India Can’t Own A Phone

The easy access to mobile phones in modern society has altered many aspects of life, such as education, empowerment, and communication. However, it is disturbing to see that many Indian girls still have difficulties obtaining a phone, limiting their ability to pursue an education in the rapidly changing fields of education and technology. However, widespread societal norms and financial limitations limit girls’ access to phones in some areas, such as sections of India, which negatively impacts their educational chances.

What is the Important Role of a Phone in a Girl’s Life?

Smartphones play a crucial role in facilitating communication and connectivity, enabling girls to access support networks, seek guidance from mentors, and engage in collaborative learning.

  • Mobile phones are powerful learning tools, providing access to educational resources, online courses, and digital libraries. 
  • For girls in remote areas with limited access to schools or educational infrastructure, smartphones offer a lifeline to knowledge and information. 
  • Mobile phones can be discreet tools for accessing vital health-related information and support services, empowering girls to manage their health and well-being effectively. 

What Does the State of Mobile Internet Report 2022 Data Say?

According to The State of Mobile Internet Report 2022, In low- and middle-income nations, women are 16% less likely to utilize mobile internet. India has the largest gendered digital gap in the Asia Pacific area, measuring 40.4%, and accounts for half of the global gender digital divide. 

“Women make up only one-third of India’s internet users.”

6 Major Reasons Why Some Girls in India Can’t Own a Phone

Some girls not owning phones compromises their ability to participate actively in educational pursuits, hindering their academic progress and prospects. Some reasons are:

1. Cultural Norms and Restrictions:

Deeply ingrained cultural norms and restrictions further exacerbate the issue. In some communities, there exists a prevailing belief that owning a mobile phone may expose girls to undesirable influences or compromise their cultural values. Consequently, families may impose restrictions on girls’ phone ownership, inadvertently impeding their access to educational resources and opportunities for digital learning.

2. Gender Inequality:

Gender inequality remains a persistent challenge in many parts of India, impacting girls’ access to education and technology. Discriminatory practices and societal expectations may prioritize boys’ education over girls’, leading to a lack of investment in girls’ educational tools, including phones. Traditional patriarchal beliefs often dictate that girls should not have independent access to technology, as it may be perceived as a threat to familial honour or control. Consequently, families may prioritize investing in phones for male members while overlooking the needs of their daughters. This gender bias perpetuates inequality and reinforces the marginalization of girls, particularly in rural and conservative communities. Addressing these gender disparities is essential to ensure equitable access to educational resources for all.

3. Socio-Economic Barriers:

One of the primary factors contributing to the inability of some girls in India to own a phone is rooted in socio-economic disparities. Many families struggle to afford even basic necessities, let alone smartphones or mobile devices.  Limited financial resources within families often lead to prioritizing essentials over non-essential items, and a mobile phone may fall into the latter category. In households facing financial constraints, purchasing a phone is often deemed a luxury rather than a necessity, and girls are frequently sidelined when it comes to allocating resources. As a result, girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds find themselves without a crucial tool for educational empowerment. Additionally, limited access to education and employment opportunities for girls perpetuates a cycle of poverty, making it difficult for them to break free from the constraints imposed by their socio-economic circumstances.

Why Some Girls In India Can’t Own A Phone

4. High costs:

Digital technology access is a barrier for women and girls due to the high cost of cell phones, laptops, PCs, and internet usage. According to Oxfam research, by the end of 2021, 61% of men and only 31% of women owned a cell phone—a 30% difference.

5. Illiteracy among girls:

Another front is digital literacy. It is difficult for illiterate women and girls to navigate digital environments since they are unable to comprehend and interact with technology.

6. Lack of agency:

Girls and women in many sections of the nation do not completely own their daily life decisions, they also lack the agency to utilize digital media. Their agency is restricted by society and family, even for something as fundamental as a cell phone.  

What is the Impact on Education?

  • The consequences of restricted phone ownership extend beyond mere access to technology; they profoundly impact girls’ education and overall development. Girls are deprived of educational opportunities, further widening the gender gap in education.
  • The absence of phones can exacerbate existing barriers to education, such as lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources and reproductive health information. 
  • Without phone access, girls may face heightened vulnerability to health risks and challenges, undermining their overall educational attainment and socio-economic advancement.
  • Girls without phones face challenges in staying connected with teachers, classmates, and educational support networks leading to a sense of exclusion and diminishing the overall educational experience, hindering their ability to thrive academically.
  • The absence of phone access deprives girls of the opportunity to develop crucial technological competencies.

Here are the Solutions

Addressing the issue of restricted phone ownership among girls in India requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both socio-cultural norms and economic inequalities. Initiatives aimed at challenging gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality within households and communities are essential. Some potential solutions are:

  • Empowering girls through education and skill-building programs can also foster greater awareness of the importance of technology in enhancing educational outcomes and promoting gender equality.
  • Moreover, targeted interventions to improve access to affordable smartphones and internet connectivity in marginalized communities are imperative. 
  • Government policies and programs should prioritize bridging the digital divide and ensuring that all segments of society, regardless of gender or socio-economic status, have equal access to technology and its benefits. 
  • Collaborative efforts involving government agencies, non-governmental organizations(NGOs), and private sector stakeholders can help drive systemic change and create an enabling environment for girls’ education and empowerment.
  • Implementing policies prioritizing girls’ education and providing financial incentives or subsidies for smartphones can go a long way in breaking down barriers and fostering inclusive educational environments.
  • Targeted programs can provide subsidized or donated smartphones to girls in need can bridge the digital gap and enhance their educational opportunities.
  • Engaging communities in dialogue and empowering them with knowledge about the benefits of girls’ education and digital access is pivotal. Community-driven initiatives can challenge stereotypes, garner local support, and create an environment conducive to positive change. Involving parents, teachers, and community leaders in these efforts strengthens the foundation for lasting transformation.
  • Schools and educational institutions play a vital role in advocating for equal opportunities. Integrating digital literacy into the curriculum and facilitating access to technological resources can empower girls to navigate the digital landscape effectively. Educators can also act as catalysts for change by promoting inclusive policies within schools and encouraging parents to support their daughters’ educational aspirations.

Conclusion

The inability of some girls in India to own phones due to socio-cultural norms and economic constraints has far-reaching implications for their education and overall well-being. By addressing the underlying factors contributing to this disparity and implementing targeted interventions to promote access to technology and education, society can empower girls to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of their communities and nation. Ensuring equal access to phones is not just a matter of technological advancement but a fundamental step towards achieving gender equality and inclusive development.

FAQs

1. Why are some girls in India unable to own a phone?

In India, there are various reasons why some girls may be unable to own a phone. 

  • One significant factor is the prevailing gender inequality and patriarchal norms that restrict girls’ access to technology. 
  • In some conservative households, there is a belief that owning a phone may expose girls to undesirable influences or compromise their reputation. This mindset stems from concerns about unsupervised communication and a perceived threat to family honour.
  • Moreover, financial constraints play a significant role. In many households, limited resources are prioritized for the education and basic needs of boys, while girls’ access to resources such as phones is often neglected. 
  • Additionally, cultural practices that prioritize early marriage or restrict girls’ mobility can further limit their opportunities to own a phone.
  • Lack of awareness and digital literacy also contribute to this issue. Some families may not fully grasp the benefits of owning a phone for education, communication, and personal development.
  •  Additionally, inadequate infrastructure and connectivity in remote areas can pose barriers to phone ownership for girls, limiting their access to the digital world.

2. Are there societal or cultural reasons behind the disparity in phone ownership among girls in India, and how does this affect their education?

Yes, there are societal and cultural reasons behind the disparity in phone ownership among girls in India. Deep-rooted gender inequality and patriarchal norms restrict girls’ access to technology. This affects their education as owning a phone can provide them with valuable resources for learning, access to educational applications, and online educational content. It can also enable communication with teachers and peers, facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing. The lack of phone ownership limits girls’ ability to access educational opportunities, hinders their digital literacy development, and perpetuates educational disparities between genders.

3. What initiatives or solutions are being implemented to address the issue of limited phone access for girls in India and its impact on their education?

Several initiatives and solutions are being implemented to address the issue of limited phone access for girls in India. Here are some notable efforts:

  • Giga Initiative: UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched the Giga Initiative, which aims to connect every school and its surrounding community to the internet. This initiative works with governments, industry, civil sector, and private sector partners to build the necessary connectivity infrastructure for digital learning solutions.
  • Government Schemes: The government of India has initiated various programs and policies to ensure that girls have equal education opportunities. For example, the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) campaign addresses the declining child sex ratio and promotes girls’ education. Additionally, schemes like the CBSE Udaan scheme and the Mukhyamantri Rajshri Yojana provide monetary benefits and support for girls’ education.
  • Digital Education Initiatives: The government is focusing on digital education and making it more accessible. Efforts include providing devices and technology to socio-economically disadvantaged sections, training teachers in digital education, and making digital education cost-effective.
  • NGO Interventions: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Child Rights and You (CRY) work towards bridging the gap and providing essential resources for girls’ education. They aim to create an empowering environment where girls have equal opportunities to study, grow, and prosper.
  • Gender-Sensitive Learning Environments: Organizations like Plan International support the creation of gender-sensitive learning environments to ensure equal access to education for both boys and girls.
  • Digital Inclusion Efforts: Various organizations and initiatives are working towards bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal access to digital resources for all students. This includes efforts to provide internet connectivity in remote areas and promote digital literacy.

4. What are the factors contributing to the restriction on girls owning phones in India? What are the benefits of extracurricular activities?

The restriction on girls owning phones in India is influenced by several factors. Societal and cultural norms play a significant role, with concerns about potential risks, distractions, and the perceived threat to family honour. Financial constraints prioritize resources for boys’ education and basic needs, leaving girls with limited access to phones. Lack of awareness about the benefits of phone ownership and limited infrastructure and connectivity in remote areas further contribute to the restriction. These factors collectively restrict girls’ ability to own phones, limiting their access to educational resources and hindering their digital empowerment.

Extracurricular activities offer numerous benefits for girls in India compared to excessive use of mobile phones. Engaging in extracurricular activities promotes physical fitness, enhances social skills, and fosters teamwork and leadership qualities. It provides a platform for creative expression, boosts self-confidence, and encourages personal growth. Extracurricular activities also offer opportunities to explore diverse interests, develop time-management skills, and build a well-rounded personality. In contrast, excessive use of mobile phones can lead to sedentary behavior, isolation, and reduced face-to-face interaction. By participating in extracurricular activities, girls in India can gain invaluable experiences, develop important life skills, and form meaningful connections, contributing to their holistic development.

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