The data are clear: In most sectors of Palestinian society, women are marginalized and excluded. In government, women hold less than 5 percent of all legislative and diplomatic posts. Men participate in the workforce at four times the rate of women; illiteracy is four times higher among women than men.
Yet despite this reality, there’s also room for optimism: The resources available to women across the country are growing, and most Palestinian women own cell phones—creating a powerful channel for education and mobilization. Women in Palestine are also savvy digital consumers: They use social media daily, and they want on-demand content that’s accessible across platforms—online, on the radio, and on their mobiles.
To help close this gender gap—and boost access to women-led content where little exists—Souktel has partnered with three leading women’s organizations, including the country’s women’s radio station, Nisaa FM. Through an initiative called “Sawt al-Nisaa” (Arabic for “The Voice of Women”), the partners have launched Palestine’s first on-demand mobile text and audio content platform for female Palestinians. Funded through the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the project also provides the organizations with analytics platforms that synthesize data on service use—to enhance content delivery and women’s rights advocacy efforts.
Maysoun Odeh, Director of Nisaa FM, explained why this project is so important: “The technology…has been a tremendous help for our work at the radio station, as a monitoring and evaluation tool and as an awareness tool. The SMS [component of the] service helped us promote awareness about our women’s empowerment shows, and mobile audio polling helped us assess our coverage and impact among our listeners”. Before the radio station used these tools, staff had few options for gathering feedback from their listeners–beyond call-in shows, which were hardly discreet or anonymous.
Nadia, a 36 year-old service user from the northern city of Jenin, valued this personalized outreach: “These services were new to me, but incredibly useful. For the first time, I was able to access information about vocational training on my phone and share it with others. These resources are a major help because they provide exactly the information you need, when you need it”.
Souktel’s lead Project Manager, Lana Hijazi, agreed: “Using a personal cell phone to access content ensures privacy and security for women, especially in traditional communities. And at the same time, it makes it easier for many women–from students at universities to stay-at-home mothers—to get information about their civic rights”. She added: “Through this service, we hope to empower women across the country to change their vision of their own lives, and take key steps forward in their communities”.
Data source: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics