Hope also ran an in-person training session when the women came together in Mugumu town, a journey of up to 3 hours on muddy, rough roads, often impassable during the rainy season. The women learned more about their role, and how to better support women and girls in the villages. There were also sessions about starting small businesses back in the villages, and how to write a business plan. They now have access to a small revolving micro-finance fund from which they obtain small loans to set up their business, together with ongoing support via WhatsApp. Five very exciting business plans were selected for the first round and will launch as soon as the COVID restrictions are fully lifted.
The digital champions project has transformed the lives of 87 women who had never used a smartphone before into confident advocates of technology in their extremely marginalised communities. They have delivered training to over 9000 women in these villages 97% of whom state they are more confident in how to use a smartphone and how it might help them, and 95% say they have more self-confidence generally.
The champions have reported over 95 cases of gender based violence in their villages to the police and social services, and counselled many other women at risk informally. They have also been directly responsible for rescuing over 25 girls from FGM, and given informal advice to many more. This has resulted in 7 arrests.
The initial funding of $9,000 from USAID/HOTOSM as part of the WomenConnect project allowed Hope to run the project in Serengeti District for one year. They have continued to fund it in 2020 internally as part of their long-term strategy to protect girls in the villages. Funding has been secured from UNFPA to roll it out in Tarime and Butiama Districts but implementation has been delayed by COVID-19.
Training first-time smartphone users in remote, off-grid villages is challenging. Keeping them online, troubleshooting their issues, and answering their questions remotely via WhatsApp, SMS, and voice call even more so, especially on an extremely tight budget. But giving local women the digital tools to protect their sisters in their communities is an extremely cost-effective, long-term solution to empower women in isolated, impoverished rural communities.
Below are links to case studies from four of our digital champions. The link below each image will open in YouTube where you have the option of selecting subtitles if needed: