Libraries Empower Women. Here’s How.

The latest EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (PLIP) winners demonstrate how libraries can successfully incorporate technology into their programs to help women empower themselves and improve their lives. Located in Guatemala and in Nepal, the two award winners help women improve their livelihoods through training in technology and business, but also by offering safe spaces where women can find support for their goals and share their experiences and knowledge with others.

In Guatemala, Beyond Access Member library Rija’tzuul Na’ooj created a business center for local women artisans. In four months, 380 women registered for courses at the business center and now, 35 women — many representing women’s weavers’ and dyers’ cooperatives — return to the library regularly to use computers, to meet with others, and to attend workshops. Women who participated in the courses learned internet skills to track market trends, market and sell fabrics, and find customers. They have recently started to use social media, including Facebook, to advertise their projects. According to EIFL’s announcement about the award, Rosalinda Tay, of the Lema Artisans’ Association, said, “‘I can come to the library whenever I have time. I always feel welcome and I receive help whenever I need it. For instance, I was asked by a client for pictures of hats, but I didn’t have any. So I took some hats to the library and asked for help. Pictures were taken and I was able to send them to the client. Now we are producing for an order, and the client will regularly order from our cooperative in future.”

At a READ center near Kathmandu, Nepal, 70 women from rural families have learned literacy and numeracy skills, and 120 have learned new ICT skills. As a result of programs at the READ center, 15 women found jobs that allow them to earn livable wages, and still more have started small businesses. In addition to skills-based courses, the center also holds seminars and workshops about women’s rights, gender equality, health, violence against women, and other issues, demonstrating to participants how gender discrimination affects their lives. A women’s group also meets in a separate section of the library, offering a safe space for women to share their experiences with others. After one intensive, 45-day entrepreneurship training course at the library, a group of women launched a business delivering lunches to banks and offices. With their profits, they have been able to hire an assistant to help deliver the lunch boxes. Now, the group uses ICT and internet skills to record their transactions, take orders by mobile phone, and use Facebook to market their service and communicate with clients.

Check out EIFL’s announcement about the awards to learn more and to view photos.