Rural Women Still not Connected

Posted March 17, 2014 from Jamaica

Jamaica boasts a fairly high level of internet connectivity, two very successful providers dominate the local market and smart phones and tablets are ubiquitous. However when you divert from the well paved streets of Kingston and other communities 'on the main' you will find that the reality for many is different. In rural communities such as Sherwood Content in Trewlawny and Glengoffe in St. Catherine, most residents are still not a part of this wave of ICT development that has hit Jamaica. In Sherwood Content many homes don't even have electricity. As such these communities are not only geographically isolated but in a real sense are cut off in many other ways. They don't enjoy the luxury of real time information in the same way that many of us do. As such it affects their ability to be involved in some of the discussions and decision-making processes that have been formed around technology. This places them at a clear disadvantage and further adds to the sense of marginalization of these rural communities.

The main economic activity within such communities is farming. My research in Sherwood Content as a PhD student has uncovered the realities of climate change and climatic variability on the community. Farmers, many of them women because of their connection to the soil and the elements are very conscious of the changes that are taking place in local conditions. Small, almost imperceptible changes that scientists miss are noted by these people who have this connection of sorts with the environment. The lack of connection through internet or other means however affects their ability to make sense of the situation within a national or global context. They are for the most past unaware of how what is happening in their small corner of the world connects with the changes being observed at the global level and how they are connected. In the face of climate change it is critical that farmers know what is happening at all levels so that the may devise better adaptation strategies and build long term resilience.

My work therefore is centred on helping these women, young and old, to tell their stories, because I believe scientists can benefit significantly from their traditional wisdom. I am also keen to give these women greater access to information from elsewhere so that they know they are not alone in their experiences and can address the changes in a more informed way. To this end, access to technology and the internet goes beyond the need to connect with family and friends, but serves a greater purpose of empowering the community to tell their own story and to more actively pursue strategies to promote climate change resilience.

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Comments 6

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Mar 17, 2014
Mar 17, 2014

This is so fascinating! I had never thought about the way that being starved for information could have a negative impact on agricultural improvement. It's not just the isolation of rural areas that make it difficult to get internet access, but the fact that scientists have difficulties getting the grassroots information to improve their observations and recommendations. I'd not thought about the effects that has on the improvement of the land and, ultimately, the lives of the people growing our food! Thank you for sharing this important insight. Wow.

Best wishes,

Mar 25, 2014
Mar 25, 2014

Sometimes it feels as if most of the world (practitioners and academics alike) is still very much in love with numbers.. Statistics. Quantitative research is important, but they may neglect the things that really matter, as much as "qualitative" research risks doing. It is fascinating to read about what is behind the numbers of Jamaica's ICT "wave" and read about the potential improvements that could still be made here... And what impact these improvements can have. I imagine that connecting farmers to the internet may not only benefit the farmers but also the international community as a whole. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research findings so far! :) It really gives some food for thought!

Susan Spencer
Mar 25, 2014
Mar 25, 2014

Dear Ayesha,

You really opened my eyes with your perspective of the impact that isolation from the internet an internet-based communication has on rural women -- and the downstream effect of this isolation on communities from small to large, from grass-roots to ivory tower! Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking piece.

I can really see some great projects coming out of what you identified here. I can imagine the empowering impact that collecting oral histories and personal narratives would have on the women if they knew their stories were to be shared with climate scientists and organisations working to slow the depredations of climate change. And, how empowering for these women to have access to information and communities of shared values to reduce their isolation and broaden their understanding of their relationship to a world-wide problem. Of course, the flip-side is equally important in that the information gained comes from a deep connection with and understanding of the land. It is exciting to envision how this communication might develop with more access to web-based technologies and training to empower their use. I hope you can elaborate more about your ideas about this and how you could see this coming together.

More power to you in your PhD research and your interest in enabling rural women to use the web!

Sincerely, Susa

Kasindi bulambo
Mar 28, 2014
Mar 28, 2014

ce que vous dites est vraie. les femmes rurales subissent encore des plusieures formes des violences telles que l'inaccessibilité à l'internet et ce qui est grave en est que, pour ce qui est du télephone portable, plusieurs d'entre elles n'en ont pas et n'ont jamais vu. ce cas se remarque surtout chez nous au Congo au sein de nos communautés rurales. l'essentiel est de savoir comment nous devons faire pour mettre fin à ces genre des choses. c'est la raison pour laquelle nous allons continuer à parler tout en revandiquant nos droits, pour voir si un jour il y aura le changement.

courage et continuons à écrire!

Precious Nkeih
Mar 28, 2014
Mar 28, 2014

I can only imagine what it will be like when rural women begin to tap from the wonders of technology. Thanks for sharing!

Blessings, Precious

Apr 05, 2014
Apr 05, 2014

Thank you, Ayesha, for weaving together for us the story of how rural women in Jamaica who are most connected to the land, are being disadvantaged by a lack of internet connectivity. We too are disadvantaged by their lack of connectivity because we are unable to hear about the changes they have witnessed. This is the first time I have considered how a lack of internet access results in less information being exchanged about climate change. You have shared a very important story with us, and I thank you for doing so.

with kindness, and with blessings to all those who tend to the land, Kit