In Pakistan, while women are participating in all areas of the economy it is quite unfortunate that many of them go on doing their jobs and day-to-day activities without access to the internet.
A new study conducted by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) titled “Women Disconnected: Feminist Case Studies on the Gender Digital Divide Amidst Covid-19” reveals that six in ten women in Pakistan face restrictions from their families when using the internet.
The key findings of the study suggest that 4 in 10 of the 215 respondents who took the survey use the internet every day, while 2 in 10 respondents do not use the internet at all.
Further, half of the respondents who use the internet daily, come from families with over 60,000 monthly income while 7 in 10 of those who do not use the internet come from families with below 30,0000 monthly income.
This shows that affordability contributes largely to women’s use of the internet.
Further, the gender divide is also dependent on the region a woman lives in, for example 8 in 10 women belonging to the newly merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa do not use the internet.
A mobile device is the main source of communication for women, 88 per cent of the respondents who use the internet said that they are accessing the internet through their own devices and 78% of those using their own devices are using mobile phones.
The study revealed that some families are apprehensive about women using the internet. Hence, over 5 in 10 respondents (54%) either said that women’s use of the internet is considered bad or there are some concerns about their usage.
Unfortunately, only 21 per cent respondents consider women’s use of the internet as good while the remaining 25 per cent said that their families didn’t have any opinions on the subject.
Only 32 per cent women are allowed to use the internet for certain tasks like taking classes or connecting to family members and another 33 per cent are allowed to use the internet only for a restricted period of time.
The pandemic further highlighted the growing need for internet access. Women who were using the internet outside their homes such as educational institutions and workplaces were unable to do so due to lockdown restrictions.
On the contrary, men had access to internet centers which were set up by the Pakistan Army during the pandemic.
Technology plays a vital role in empowering women, it keeps them connected to health centers, provides work opportunities, and enables them to reach out to platforms for help if needed.There have been cases of fatalities in the region due to women’s inability to reach emergency health services in time.