Thursday, July 27, 2017

iWomen app inspires poetry

Not many mobile apps can claim to have inspired poetry, but one – an application from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and a Myanmar rural women’s network, which aims to encourage women toward leadership – has been paid tribute in verse.

May Doe Kabar members are photographed at the network’s official launch in October. Photo: SuppliedMay Doe Kabar members are photographed at the network’s official launch in October. Photo: Supplied

“We are afraid of this challenging world/Don’t dare to go far/With great fear in our hearts/Like miserable caged birds,” starts the poem written by Daw Thet Thet Win, a member of the May Doe Kabar women’s network involved in co-designing the application.

“Now comes iWomen app,” the poem continues. “We can share knowledge and wisdom/Go together hand in hand/Bright future as leaders will rise.”

The free application seeks to live up to its name through its ability to educate and connect women – especially those living in rural areas.

The app links with the May Doe Kabar women’s network, which has about 22,000 members. Representatives from the network weighed in on the decision to develop an app starting from the first workshop in June of last year, while members from Kyaiklat were major co-designers of the product.

At first, the women wanted a news application. However, Myanmar already has current affairs apps, so after getting these installed on their mobiles, the women agreed to make iWomen a place for stories of a different kind.

“We introduced the concept of personal stories, because their network at the end of the day is about sharing stories,” said Eleonora Gatti, civil society and media consultant to UNDP Myanmar.

The platform features letters personally addressed to users, which they can download and read offline in English and Myanmar, she said.

The first came from an international scientist, and “they absolutely loved it”, Ms Gatti said, adding the app now includes a few stories from women in the May Doe Kabar network.

“So you will see the story of a rural woman next to [one by a Nobel] peace prize [winner],” she said. “It’s really good for them to see themselves there.”

Building the app involved educating community members, as women they met with had limited understanding of technology and had to learn some basics – such as how to install an application or set up a hotspot.

Technical information will now be worked into the iWomen app through the “Be Knowledgeable” tab on the platform, one of four main headings.

“Be Inspired” collects women’s stories, while “Be Together” plots the location of May Doe Kabar groups – to feature others in the future. The last category, “Talk Together”, provides a forum for users.

However, the application may not yet find its way into the hands of its target audience. In Myanmar, women are nearly 30 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone – and the gender gap increases among lower-income households, said a recent study on gender and connectivity by GSMA and Sri Lanka-based think tank LIRNEasia.

However, only 10pc of the May Doe Kabar network has keypad phones and 5pc do not own a mobile. The rest have phones that run on different versions of the Android operating system.

More than 1000 women already have the application, and the May Doe Kabar women are already acting as ambassadors for the technology.

“[I hope] by reading the stories, they will be more inspired and think, ‘I can do it,’” said UNDP consultant and designer Ma Htet Su Wai.

In the future, content will be translated into ethnic languages and can be made more accessible to users with disabilities through audio, according to Ms Gatti.

The app goes live on the Google Play Store today, International Women’s Day. As Daw Thet Thet Win would say, now comes iWomen app.