MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Case Study: Mobile Phones Transforming Women's Lives in Iraq

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In early 2011, the percentage of women making up Iraqi mobile users for leading mobile operator, Asiacell, stood at 20%, making it one of the largest mobile phone gender gaps in the world. Asiacell, part of Ooredoo, and as a member of the GSMA mWomen Program Working Group, decided to completely shift its strategy for reaching Iraqi women. Instead of modifying existing products, it set about designing and launching a new offering-the Almas (meaning 'Diamond' in Arabic) line-which would have unique features to match the needs of Iraqi women. These features, based on extensive market research, include freedom to choose off-peak hours, discounts on calls of more than three minutes, a free service to block potential harassers from calling or texting, and a call center staffed only with women to handle female customer queries.

Mobile Phones Transforming Women’s Lives in Iraq
GSMA mWomen

Two and a half years later, more than two million women have signed up for the Almas line. This, combined with the share of women buying "standard" prepaid packages, has allowed Asiacell to estimate that women, since the launch of Almas, now represent more than 40 % of its overall subscriber base (over 4.3 million women total).

This is incredible growth from just two years ago, directly attributed to a core belief from Asiacell and Ooredoo leaders that women's access to and ownership of mobile phones and services is critical to women's empowerment, and a changed perception among Iraqi women who now consider this service theirs. Given the challenges that Iraqi women face on a daily basis - ranging from few employment and education opportunities to gender-based violence - these services provide a secure outlet for networking and communicating with family members, peers, and potential employment services.

Asiacell's contribution to closing the mobile phone gender gap is highly tangible and measurable. As such, Asiacell was awarded the 2013 "Best Mobile Product or Service for Women in Emerging Markets" at GSMA's Mobile World Congress.

The GSMA mWomen Program, a three-year partnership between USAID, AusAID, Visa, and GSMA, aims to increase 150 million women's access to and use of mobile phones and life-enhancing services in low- and middle-income countries. It encourages the mobile industry to serve women, increases the availability of relevant mobile services, and promotes innovation to overcome adoption barriers. In addition to offering advice and innovation grants to enable the design and launch of mobile services for women, the program generates and shares insights on the value of serving women with mobile, as well as tools and evidence of what works.

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Last updated: August 21, 2014

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