A few months ago, Hindustan Times broke a story on how some shops in Uttar Pradesh were found selling the mobile numbers of girls who go there to recharge their phones. The numbers were sold at price as high as Rs 500 depending on the looks of girls, said the report.
In a bid to tackle such menace, Vodafone has launched free of cost “Sakhi” pack that lets women recharge their phones without revealing their mobile numbers.
To use the service
- Send a toll-free SMS “Private” to 12604
- In response, you will receive a temporary number
- A woman can use this temporary number to recharge/pay mobile bills. The temporary number shall remain valid until the day ends.
Women-focused packs such as Sakhi could help bridge the gender gap that exists in mobile usage in India. While India is world’s second biggest telecom market, only 28 percent of women own a mobile phone as against 43 percent men.
While there could be economic reasons for this gap, at the same time, there are numerous villages which have banned women from using mobile phones. Such villages, in general, feel that mobiles cause a distraction to girls and lead to elopements and affairs.
Today, in states like Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, less than 20 percent of women have a mobile number in their name. Even when they own mobile phone, there is a considerable gender gap in its usage.
“They (rural women) rely almost entirely on incoming calls and depend on their families for recharges,” says Dilip Kumar, Business Head, UP-West, Vodafone India.
The gender gap prevents many women from unlocking those numerous benefits that a mobile offers in today’s world. Numerous studies have revealed that safe access to mobiles would not only empower women but would also boost the economy.
“Sakhi has been designed especially to bridge the telecom needs of women in rural areas … We want the women to use mobile as a tool to empower themselves and optimise their efficacy,” Dilip adds.
Featured Image: Quartz