Paiwastoon Networking Services, an Afghan IT company, launched a new literacy program this week that enables women to use mobile phones to learn reading and writing. The program is currently in its pilot phase, but the education ministry has intentions of spreading it nationwide.
The phone is called Ustad Mobile (Mobile Teacher) and uses mobile apps to provide courses in math and both of Afghanistan's national languages, Dari and Pashtu. With financial aid from the US, the software was developed in an effort to address one of the world's lowest literacy rates. According to UN figures, Afghan women are literate at rates of only 12.5 percent, whereas Afghan men's literacy rates are 39.3 percent.
The goal is that this program will help women who were unable to attend school because of the Taliban rules that barred their access to an education. According to the program director, Allah Baz Jam, "Our focus and target is mostly on uneducated women". Furthermore, there are plans to distribute the software via CDs and DVDs as well. Additional lessons will also be available on the Afghanistan Ministry of Education website. Mike Dawson, CEO of Paiwastoon, told AFP "We can make the job of the teachers easier by using the video and the audio [on the phones] and the questions and exercises. Cellphones are cheaper than any computer and people are familiar with it. And also, the maintenance is much easier. . . People don't realise [sic] how powerful these phones are, they work like computers."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .