How technology is helping to empower women and improve education
CAMFED’s Executive Director, Angie Murmirwa and members of CAMFED discuss how digital culture is driving women empowerment in Africa.
Beginning its operations in 1993, CAMFED is an international non-profit organisation that strives to tackle poverty and inequality by providing support to girls to keep them in school and empowering young women to step up as leaders. CAMFED has supported more than 3.3 million students in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana and Tanzania to attend primary and secondary school, with 5.7 million benefiting from improved learning environments. “CAMFED envisions a world in which every child is educated, protected, respected and valued, and grows up to turn the tide of poverty.”
When it comes to poor education for girls in Africa, Angie Murmirwa, Executive Director of CAMFED sees poverty and gender inequality as the root course. Poverty could be drastically reduced by two thirds in Africa and the economy could increase by more than US$1bn if girls received a proper education and completed their secondary education. However, currently in Africa children in the poorest regions are reported to be nine times more likely to be out of school than those not in poverty. Further reports show that in 2018, sub-Saharan Africa had 52.2 million girls of primary and secondary school age were out of school, with only 8% of those who do attend primary school, going on to attend secondary school.
Esnath Divasoni, Zimbabwe member of CAMFED, currently sees a lot of psychological barriers within Africa when it comes to female empowerment. “We are still facing a business environment that is unequal and unfavourable to women, who are not respected in the same way as men,” says Divasoni. “Women are still expected to look after the household and other family members, while fighting the battle to be much better in business than men in order to be recognised in the same way. What we need are networks, like the CAMFED Association (CAMA), where women can support each other to succeed.”
Other members of CAMFED include Salome Chitubila (Zambia) and Nancy Musa (Zimbabwe),who both agree that there is a lack of educational empowerment. “Our educational systems lack schemes to cultivate and promote an entrepreneurial mindset at a very tender age,” notes Musa. Chitubila adds that “if there were more of an emphasis put on these important factors, development of personal businesses would be inevitable and a better understanding of progressive projects in communities would be heard. Women need to know that they are independent, able to own their own enterprise, make the right decisions without dependency and stand on their own feet to protect their rights.”
Divasoni stresses that a young woman looking to receive an education and get into business must be vigilant, active and know how to sacrifice. “Follow your passion, and ensure that you have the energy to persevere,” says Divasoni. “Formal education alone doesn’t currently give you the skills and the support necessary for you to get into business. You need true motivation, passion and determination to learn and to stick with it. I would advise not to just to do business for the sake of doing business; if you do that, you will never survive in the business world, because women still aren’t given as much support as men.”
Murmirwa highlights that currently, “many of the schools and communities within which we work have no access, or very limited access to electricity. When we discuss technology, we mean mobile phones and tablets, often charged by solar power.”
However, Murmirwa believes “the power of digital culture for young women will drive connectivity within the region,” with rural areas benefiting the most. “Digital culture will particularly benefit those in marginalised rural areas to overcome isolation, work together, learn from each other, gain access to learning materials and drive business growth,” says Murmirwa, adding that mobile money will be extremely important, especially for those in business and those receiving grants and loans as “it means that they will be in control of their finances in an empowering way.”
The role of CAMFED
When it comes to technology, Murmirwa comments that CAMFED utilises technology “to ensure transparency and accountability for girls, young women, communities, and donor partners. All of our programme and donor data is held in our customised Salesforce database, a cloud-based system used across all our offices.”
Staff in CAMFED partner schools and district officials utilise mobile monitoring technology to gather school attendance, progression, completion, pass rates and exam data to share with communities the impact of their support for girls, including improved retention and exam results. Murmirwa also highlights that “because of this longitudinal data we can collect about young women, we can also measure longer-term impacts such as average age of marriage, child bearing age and so on.”
In addition to utilising Salesforce’s software, CAMFED has partnered with Impact(Ed) International, to turn its ‘My Better World’ life skills and wellbeing curriculum into a part animated video series, which has recently launched on Kenyan TV. The aim is to reach young people beyond the development and classroom setting, to further drive education. CAMFED has also partnered with Worldreader, to give young women in its network access to thousands of empowering books via an app.
Other ways Murmirwa has seen technology benefit female empowerment include CAMFED’s implementation of its e-reader literacy programmes, which has seen given young women greater confidence and authority as digital experts. Other technologies that Murmirwa sees applications such as WhatsApp “transforming the way young women are able to connect and communicate with each other.”
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Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”