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Inform Women, Transform Lives Q&A with Laura Neuman

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Laura Neuman, director of the Carter Center’s Rule of Law Program and leader of the team that developed the Inform Women, Transform Lives campaign, discusses what it’s all about and why it matters.

Q: Can you tell us, in a nutshell, what you’re trying to do with this campaign?

Sure. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is start a global conversation. We want to make sure everyone knows that a) women have the same right to access public information that men do, and b) most of the time, women don’t actually have equal access to information. Public officials have to make conscious efforts to improve access for women. Because when a woman can access information, she does all kinds of amazing things with it.

Q: And how are you going about this?

We have a three-pronged strategy. We’re:

  • Developing a media campaign designed to raise awareness about women’s right to public information and the value of connecting women with information.
  • Partnering with 13 city governments on five continents to help them make women in their cities aware of services that could benefit them – and giving small grants to civil society organizations in those cities to help fund projects that connect women with information.
  • Leveraging our global network of contacts to push policymakers and politicians to build women’s right of access to information into laws and treaties, practices and procedures.

Q: OK, let’s step back a bit. Why specifically focus on access to information for women?

The Carter Center has been working to improve everyone’s access to information since 1999. It’s a powerful but often-overlooked human right.

Over the years, we noticed that women seemed to have a harder time than men accessing public information that could really benefit them. We conducted studies in Liberia, Guatemala, and Bangladesh that confirmed our suspicions and gave us insight into the reasons for this – things like higher rates of illiteracy, time constraints because of household and childcare duties, limited access to transportation, lack of awareness of their right to ask for information, and cultural beliefs about gender roles.

Since then, we’ve launched programming in those three countries to help improve women’s access to information there. The Inform Women, Transform Lives campaign is our effort to expand globally.

Q: You said when women can access information, they do amazing things with it. Like what?

I’m so glad you asked that. In Bangladesh, information helped a woman get streetlights for her neighborhood, making everyone safer. In Guatemala, it helped women take advantage of a government initiative that provided chickens for every family in their village, providing eggs they could eat and sell for extra income. In Liberia, it helped a woman start a microfinance program for female entrepreneurs in her community. I could go on and on – the key is that the information benefits usually extend beyond one woman to an entire family or community.

Q: What sorts of projects are the cities in this campaign promoting?

Every city is doing something different – something that works for it. In Amman, Jordan, they’re promoting a program that offers training to help women develop in-home businesses, get business licenses, and find market space to sell their wares. In Chicago, they’re promoting the City Key, a free government ID that also functions as a library card, transit card, and prescription discount card. It’s not just for women, but it can be especially useful for low-income or vulnerable women. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, they’re developing and promoting a new program to help keep women safer on public transportation, where women often face harassment or assault.

Q: How can someone who is not a politician or an activist be part of the campaign?                 

You can help by sharing the promotional materials we’ve created on your own social media to spread the message to your friends and family. You also can take our pledge to support women’s equal right to information and ask others to do the same. And you can encourage your local government to make specific efforts to reach women with information about municipal services and programs and to join the Inform Women, Transform Lives campaign.

Related Resources

Inform Women, Transform Lives »

Carter Center Rule of Law Program »

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