WomenWatch, Women's Issues on UN Radio
Program #6 of March 21, 2003

NARR: Welcome to WOMEN, a weekly programme about women's issues from United Nations Radio in New York. In today's edition, Water Particularly Important For Women; Mama kit aims to reduce maternal mortality; US military involved in Sex trafficking in East Asia. But first, the Internet helping women fight poverty.
NARR: The Internet has great potential for empowering women. It provides opportunities for information sharing, lobbying, and even income generation. The problem is getting access to the technology. UN Radio's Bissera Kostova spoke to some women who are using technology to benefit their communities.
McClain: Technology is a great equalizer. Women who live in poor communities can get on their computer, email their Senators, email their state legislators and have a voice, an influence, help to shape the public policy that directly impacts them.
BISSERA: Shirley McClain is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Hunger Network. She believes hunger can be ended only through changing public policy. She uses email to inform poor women of legislation that is damaging to them and asks them to lobby politicians. Women who are interested in bettering their lot in this way can get a free computer through her organization.
McClain: Thousands of computers are recycled every year, that are like dumped. There are real smart people who are able to go into those computers and make them usable. First class tools that people can use that don't cost nothing.
BISSERA: But computers are only one part of the equation in getting access to the Internet. Nancy Warneke of Salish Kootenai College in Montana points to another barrier that especially affects Native Americans.
Warneke: Sixty-four percent of the Indians still do not have telephones in the United States, and our reservation, our statistics are higher it's 85%, but there's five different telephone companies, so it's long distance between every little city, so our phone bills are very high.
BISSERA: Ms. Warneke's town was able to get an Internet library through the local college. Another partnership, between Northeastern University and the Native Women's Cooperative in Oklahoma is creating income for women.
Conley: Basically through Internet sales for our women, for the baskets and the wares that they make, the beadwork, all of the pottery works.
BISSERA: Evelyn Conley is a co-founder of the cooperative.
Conley: Now we have women who have evolved and have grown since they started working with women on the technology end and also the marketing end, to teach them how to market and they are marketing on their own.
BISSERA: Some Native Americans see technology as infringing on their culture and traditions. But Ms. Conley says it can also be used to preserve them. She works for the Cherokee Nation on preservation of language and culture.
Conley: There is a Cherokee dictionary that a lot of people use. We have various kinds of games that are created using the language for the benefit of the children in the classroom. I think we're doing some great strides in preservation. Otherwise it would be gone.
BISSERA: All the women you heard are collaborating with the Rural Development Network in the US, an organization that is also reaching out to rural women in other countries. Reporting for UN Radio, I'm Bissera Kostova.