Mobile-banking services for rural women to promote income-generation and empowerment.

Mobile-banking services for rural women to promote income-generation and empowerment.

Malaysia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our solution, DWMA can be further integrated with a mobile cash application to provide cash in the absence of banks in isolated remote communities so that product buyers and companies that outsource work to rural women can pay the women, and in turn, enabling women to buy foods.

About You
Organization:
eHomemakers
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Section 1: About You
First Name

Sheau Ching

Last Name

Chong

Country

, KL

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

eHomemakers

Organization Phone

603-77265271

Organization Address

Box 3031, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

Organization Country

, KL

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, KL

Innovation
What makes your idea unique?

Our DWMA (Distributed Work Management Application) is a collaborative tool (Internet, SMS and MMS) on an integrated platform. It was conceived nine years ago through a social research on disadvantaged women’s e-enterpreneurship barriers, and then testing the framework with pro-poor schemes before building the prototype. It enables one coordinator to efficiently coordinate women in diverse locations for trainings, specific assistance and income-generation, thus allowing women to [email protected] home. Stay-at-home workers can receive product or teleworking service orders through DWMA via their mobile phones. eHomemakers acts as an intermediary to market selected products as well as seek outsourced teleworking projects for its members.

This year, it has been web-enabled to allow fifteen NGOs to coordinate various social and conservation activities. No other appropriate and low-cost ICT solution in this capacity is available for non-profits in Asia.

The new idea about a micro-banking service leveraging on DWMA will enable rural women to possess financial control at the household level due to direct payment by buyers or telework outsourcing employers, into the women’s own mobile bank accounts even though they do not have bank accounts to their names with established banks in the urban areas. With cyber-cash directly in their control and the cooperation of village shops and service providers, women can use their mobile phones to transfer cyber cash in their accounts (with their secret passwords) to pay for cooking gas, foods, transport and medical expenses for the families. DWMA will enable rural women’s groups to do crowd sourcing of goods/services needed.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

DWMA is a tool to
a.enable urban poor and disadvantaged to work @ home

It manages the distribution of work order/information for disadvantaged women. An order is fulfilled by more than one supplier who could not take on the entire order on their own.
eHomemakers’ administrator prepares the order messages via web interface and the system automatically sends out the information to the women (each with an ID number) via SMS.

300 women have benefited from this in the last five years. Stories about Kanesgawary (mother with two disabled children), and May Lee (a single mom) are found here: http://www.justmarketing.info/index.asp?p=/static/weavers-profile.html. 30 disabled were coordinated through DWMA in computer training and job placement, see stories at ‘profiles’ : http://www.ehomemakers.net/en/article.php?id=2207

DWMA also coordinate donations from the 17,000 strong middle class e-members at www.ehomemakers.net for these urban poor women at: http://www.ehomemakers.net/en/article.php?id=1075, http://www.ehomemakers.net/en/article.php?id=2005

b. innovate business models for income-generation schemes based on Fair Trade principles

Since telecommunication and staff costs are reduced, the total operational expenses become smaller, thus allowing more room for monetary payment to the producers. The DWMA-enabled business models can afford to pay fair wages/prices for their goods/services. They earn more income with what they do than what they could get working elsewhere, thus lifting their poverty. For example, the weavers at www.justmarketing.info are paid 50% -70% of the final prices.

c. strengthen non-profits’ sustainability

DWMA enables one coordinator to efficiently manage a network of beneficiaries with high level of efficiency. Such productivity is essential for non-profits involving large numbers of different groups of beneficiaries, volunteers and affiliates who are located all over to achieve a concerted timely action for a common goal. The 15 NGOs and 20 microenterprises use DWMA to organize, source, distribute and collate information. They reduce carbon footprints, save almost nine-tenths of the telecommunication costs and four- fifths of the staff and other indirect costs when organizing large scale activities. The larger the groups, the bigger are the savings.

d. Empower rural women financially
The new idea to use DWMA for micro-banking empowers women in household decision-making, thus lifting the health and nutritional status.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

a. Urban poor home bound women such as the disabled

They face high barriers in income-generation due to their immobility and the lack of affordable public transportation. Isolation combined with low self-confidence prevent them from seeking income outside the home. The cycle of high risk aversion, victimhood and passivity is difficult to break unless appropriate solutions developed within their context are deployed.

The simplest form of technology like a mobile phone linked to an integrated platform is the best ICT solution for them. The DWMA allows them to work @ home, overcoming their physical and social circumstances by connecting them to an information management platform where they are supported by an e-community consisting of other women in similar situations.

b. Rural women

In the absence of banks, people rely on bartering in a subsistence economy. Men travel to towns to sell and buy things, or bring cash back to buy foods. Women thus lack direct control to household cash and income they earn.

Female headed households and elderly women living alone are vulnerable to health and nutritional problems. They lack physical labor to grow foods in the fields. Telework and marketing of their home-made products through the internet will bring cash into the household. But telework is hard to come by especially when payment is a problem. Internet marketing of products needs bank services.

A micro-bank with DWMA will put the cash directly into women’s hands to manage her earnings on her own.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?

a. NGOs and others

We are helping the 15 NGOs conduct cost and benefit analysis and then construct revenue plans based on the efficiency revealed. Reduction of carbon footprints is being calculated so that they can fundraise to corporates which are going green. Training is given to 20 micro-enterprises (led by disadvantaged women) to use DWMA to organize group production and marketing on their own.

Negotiation is going on to get a telecommunication provider to give the NGOs and more disadvantaged women free SMS as part of their corporate social responsibility.

b. Rural women
We have been building relationship with a rural community for several years. The village has a telecenter but lacks income-generation activities and employment.

Participatory approach in the form of group consultation in the long houses has been used to get the women interested in economic empowerment. The lack of cash is a problem cited by women and there is a huge interest in income-generation. The male leadership has approved of us partnering with the women to implement an ICT-led social-economic development component for the women. We are writing a proposal to submit to funders to innovate products for women with the aim of internet marketing, and bring telework to the village.

In 2010, an intern with banking background will make detailed assessment to prepare the platform for the micro-bank.

We need funds to train more micro-enterprises to use DWMA and to set up the micro-bank in rural settlements.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

If there is funding ( if not the results will take longer time to achieve):

Year 1: a. Train more NGOs and micro-enterprises to use DWMA
b. Integrate mobile cash application with DWMA, develop a friendly user interface for rural users.
c. Place a small project team in a rural area for project development for 3 years
d. Develop a payment system involving the rural area's local shops and suppliers, and a small group of women. Test the system.
e. Conduct long house meetings to get community approvals such as the parents’, husbands’ and in-laws’ before selection of women. The long house families must support the women in terms of her time use,
f. Innovate a telework scheme for women with at least 10 years of education.
g. Innovate marketable products from local raw materials such as handicrafts or herbal products for internet marketing.

Year 2 : a. Train 15 rural women in specific and customer service skills for telework and market the telework scheme so that they earn incomes and get paid through the micro bank by external parties that outsource the telework. Women then pay for items they buy from rural area shops using the cyber cash they earn.
b. Start production of 3 products with 3 small groups of women, arrange logistics to transport products, build a website and market the products to the cities and overseas. Enable the women to receive payments for products and use cyber-cash in the rural area.
c. Build a sustainable revenue plan for DWMA so that the women and shops pay minimum charges for the services.
d. Bring awareness of the micro-bank to the community. Conduct personal financial management trainings. Solicit male leadership’s support for women to take charge of their own income.

Year 3: a. Ensure smooth implementation of both schemes in a timely manner with quality output.
b.Train telework women to use social media to market. Work out profit-sharing between the marketers and production groups.
c.Retain younger women to stay in the rural areas and train more women for the schemes.
d. Build sustainable business plans and train women leaders to take over.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

In most of Asia, grassroot women have not been involved in innovating technology for themselves. They are merely passive beneficiaries. DWMA will prove that even urban poor and rural women can form part of the innovation process.

Asian governments are emphasizing innovation of technology. Although ‘women’ is a digital divide group, resources to develop innovation capability have been allocated more for ICT companies and youths. How eHomemakers develop the DWMA – by women for women, has not reached the policy makers. When we get the micro-bank established and well run, stories about DWMA will be spread. Policy makers will finally see a successful case of a grassroot initiated technology. eHomemakers will patiently urge the government (just like what we did for 9 years to get the government to approve working @ home as an option for women) to allocate resources to include women especially the vulnerable groups in developing technology.

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation

In eHomemakers’ 13 years as a social enterprise, we have faced ridicules to our name
‘eHomemakers’ and apathy towards our access to funding. The absence of patronage for our network, a non-existing support network to nurture social enterprises, and us as the pioneer women using technologies to work @ home, are the key reasons why it takes a long time for us to complete every project.

All our pro-poor schemes have strong innovative elements and sustainability is built into it to help urban poor which form bulk of the beneficiaries. Unfortunately, such schemes have not been fully appreciated because parties involved in such work prefer short term direct aids that generate instant publicity. Long term hard work to empower people to help themselves does not fit into corporates and authorities’ agenda. So we have to clobber together volunteer resources, donations, international award grants, and corporate CSR to initiate all the schemes till they are sustainable. Without proper fundings, barriers are high and more difficult to overcome.

Strategic partnership with corporates and international bodies to promote social ventures to alleviate poverty and implement rural development is especially necessary for South East Asia where social technopreneurs especially women are rare. The partnership will add credibility to our work and will shine light on women-led grassroot networks. It will promote the growth of social technoprenuership and show case corporate social responsibility.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

During the last 13 years, eHomemakers as a network of women working @ home, uses the model ‘taking from those who have to give to those who don’t have’. We generate income to sustain the core team and expenses by implementing training and entrepreneurial activities for the middle class members at www.ehomemakers.net and managing corporate sponsored e-community projects. The team uses efficiency to enable some members of the team to work on pro-poor schemes which are funded through international award grants (where research and R and D were needed), donations, and strategic partnership with corporates. eHomemakers often uses bartering with corporates as they are not genuinely interested in helping the poor but to get publicity to the target consumer groups without cash payment. For example, a local company provided services under its CSR funds but in actual fact, demanded an exchange whereby eHomemakers gave one year worth of free advertising at www.ehomemakers.net and the monthly e-news.

www.ehomemakers.net is getting obsolete and we do not have the funds to rebuild it to provide more services to attract more members, Meanwhile, profit dotcoms are sprouting up touting working @ home with specific schemes for the middle class, diverting our web revenues and corporate attention. We are in danger of losing out due to irrelevance. When this happens, we will not be able to carry out the pro-poor schemes to involve more women.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Thirteen years ago, the animated movie, Pochantas, inspired me to initiate ripples like those indicated by Grandmother Willow. So, I set out to develop a network of middle-class mothers to work @ home.

Then, women NGOs which used to look down on eHomemakers ( they thought we encouraged women to be housewives, thus turning upside down the women’s movement of ‘getting out of the kitchen’) sent low-income disadvantaged homemakers (single moms, disabled women, women with chronic illnesses, and women taking care of disabled or elderly dependants) to us for training to [email protected] home. I felt for them because I went gone through the lowest point of my life with almost no social support when I became a single mom and when I chose to work @ home.

In the face of extreme frustrations, I also realized that if I, a Master’s degree graduate, had problems getting support to work @ home for work life balance, women who are less educated and more socially deprived than me would have even more problems! Since I lost almost everything due to the divorce, ‘what the heck!’, so I chose to do something for mothers.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

As the founder and Executive Director, I am the fundraiser. My core team believes in my vision and they work hard to implement all the activities we carried out. The impetus for me to keep pushing for innovation that will save telecommunication and staff costs, and improves efficiency, is the lack of funds for pro-poor schemes and the general apathy we face in our quest. “Invention is the mother of neccessity’, so when there is a lack of funds, we have to think out of the box so we can do what we want to do – it is the mother’s way of nurturing in the face of adversity.

My core team is made up of women who work @ home and have the heart to help the poor and build an e-community of women with the same social missions. I am a single mother who has been working @ home for almost 16 years, I take care of my Down Syndrome brother (till he passed away last year) and my elderly parents.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) Additional Questions

ICRW
Does your project address any of the following barriers to women’s technology access and use?

Women’s time poverty, Social norms, Economic or institutional constraints, Women’s lack of involvement in the technology development process.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how.

Homemakers have always been looked down on by the society because our work is not counted as contribution. When women use technology to [email protected] home, we earn income in between what we are already doing to elevate our social status.

Women in South East Asia typically have triple burdens – income work, household work and child or family care. Consequently, women have less time to learn technology especially the disadvantaged ones. So, our innovations follow these criteria: allow women to work at home with flexi time while they keep an eye on the family members, use small and accessible gadjets such as mobile phones for disadvantaged women as they do not have money for big hardware like computers and pay for Internet access. SMS is the cheapest for them to reach out from home. Household financial control is important for family welfare,
So our disadvantaged women have been taught to open bank accounts and manage their income. The DWMA-led micro-bank will be essential for rural women to control the usage of their own income.

The DWMA and our schemes have been innovated and implemented by an all women team. We face ridicules of us ‘housewives trying to invent software’ when such innovation should be done by young IT savvy males in an air-conditioned office. We are not frazzled by such viewpoint now because we know we can. Our disadvantaged women who have been involved in testing product innovation and DWMA development know that technology is not something to be fearful of.

Does your project involve women in one or more of the following stages of the technology lifecycle? Identification of the problem the technology will solve:

Technology design, Market research, Technology introduction, Technology training, Technology supply and distribution, Creation and maintenance of market linkages for women's economic outputs, Assessment and evaluation.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how you will ensure women’s involvement in each relevant phase of the technology lifecycle.

Women have been involved from the beginning as innovators, initiators, fundraisers, and organizers> When there are problems, we never give up but keep on going. And we are willing to learn as much as we can from newspapers, internet and any reading materials we can grab for free because we don’t have all the opportunity to learn about technology.

If women are a focus of your project, how did this focus evolve?

The project focused on women from its conception..

Which type of women will your project reach directly?

Rural, Peri-urban, Urban, Low income.

In what ways does your project team/leadership involve women?

It is led by a woman/women from a developing country., The core project team includes women from developing countries..

Has your organization formed any new partnerships in response to this challenge? If so, with what type/s of organization/s?

For-profit, Government.

Has your project leadership had prior experience with the following?

Working with women, Working with technologies, Working to increase women's economic empowerment through technology, Working on innovation.

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