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Cherie Blair launches Vodafone Connected Women Report 2014

The Vodafone Connected Women Report 2014, released today in India, has found that providing women with greater access to mobile phones and services could lead to a $29 billion increase in annual global productivity from 2020, as a result of greater female participation in the workforce and savings in public services.

This Report, produced by Vodafone Group, supported by the Vodafone Foundation and in collaboration with Oxford University’s Said Business School and Accenture Sustainability Services, was released by  Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women at a special event held earlier today.

Speaking about Vodafone’s staunch commitment toward leveraging the inherent potential of the mobile technology for socio-economic development, especially amongst women, Marten Pieters, Managing Director & CEO, Vodafone India said, ”The Vodafone Connected Women Report focuses on the impact and potential of mobile technology in various facets of the lives of women around the world. With gender disparity in itself being a big social challenge in India, the number of women owning a mobile phone is considerably lesser than the men. This gap not only affects women's ability to communicate, but it also presents a lost opportunity in terms of health, education, work, safety and inclusion. At Vodafone, we endeavor to address these issues by developing solutions that harness the power of mobile technology to foster inclusion and empower communities.”

The Vodafone Connected Women Report Illustrates the power of the mobile technology to catalyse economic development and exemplifies its transformational impact across the world with real life cases, Highlighting the impact in India, the Report features on its cover Ramilaben Somabhai Parmar a RUDIben and profiles in detail the success of the RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar (RSV) initiative from India.

RUDI (The Rural Distribution Network) is a large network of rural women entrepreneurs in Gujarat, who market and distribute rural farm produce brought directly from farmers. It reaches 1.1 million households and provides an income for 3,000 women. These women entrepreneurs, known as RUDIbens, buy farm produce through the network to sell to customers in their local communities under the RUDI brand. They often had to travel long distances to place orders and collect stock from central warehouses. Journeys were frequently wasted because not all the produce ordered was available once they reached the warehouse.

RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar (RSV), a special platform developed leveraging mobile technology, enables RUDIbens to submit their orders via SMS on a basic phone. The software records their transactions, enabling them to track sales and reduce paperwork, significantly increasing their productivity and improving quality of life. The system also enables the RUDI organisation to track and manage stock levels in real time and reduce inefficiencies that previously contributed to lost sales worth up to 20% of revenue.

This system, developed through a partnership between the Vodafone Foundation in India, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), who contracted a local company, Ekgaon Technologies, to write the software. RSV has been designed such that, with training, it is easy to use, even for women who are illiterate.

Speaking about the success of the RSV initiative, Blair said, “I have been overwhelmed by the success of the RSV project in Gujarat in partnership with the Self Employed Women’s Association and the Vodafone Foundation in India. Many of the women have been able to increase their income significantly, in some cases by as much as four times. With higher profits, they have been able to send their children to school and afford healthcare.”

Since the programme started in 2012, it has been piloted with over 1,500 women. In 2014, the solution is being rolled out to more districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan with the aim of reaching out to 4,500 direct beneficiaries in total by 2016 and potentially thousands more as families and communities benefit from the success of the RUDIbens businesses.

The RSV Project was awarded a GSMA mWomen Innovation Grant in 2013 to further enhance the application with the integration with Vodafone’s M-pesa mobile money platform. This will enable RUDIbens to make payments remotely; further reducing time wasted by travelling and also enables them to receive payments from customers 24/7. It also won ‘Best Mobile Product in Emerging Markets’, at the 2014 Global Mobile Awards



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