Women in the coastal villages of Peraliya and Gandara in Sri Lanka are facing increasing challenges in a fast-paced, digital world. The Text2Change programme, now in its fourth year, leverages technology to support and empower women.
Many women in the SOS family strengthening programmes in Sri Lanka are single parents and struggle to find opportunities to develop parenting skills and professional capacities such as English, financial management, administration and ICT skills. This project is in partnership with MobilTrain, an Indian company specialised in providing learning solutions using mobile technology.
Due to a range of factors, these women often faced difficulties in completing their education and had little or no access to resources that would allow them to build their knowledge and skills. In response, in 2013, SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka introduced the Text2Change programme, which aims to empower women through tailored text messages.
Tailored training and discussion
One of the great benefits of using mobile technology is that it makes learning accessible even in remote areas. It also opens up opportunities for people who might otherwise face difficulties participating in learning activities.
The Text2Change concept combines digital and face-to-face learning and support. Participants receive regular text messages on key topics including child rights, child safeguarding, developing better relationships between children and parents, and managing household finances. As the text messages are written in simple English, this programme also supports the women to improve their English skills. Currently, around 300 women from four SOS family strengthening programmes in Sri Lanka are participating in this programme.
In regular group discussions at local centres, in which the women then have the opportunity to talk about the text messages they have received, exchange ideas and experiences, and raise questions. As the women also discuss what they have learned with other women who have not participated in the project, they spread awareness further, becoming multipliers of knowledge in their own communities.
Additionally, participants have monthly sessions via Skype where they meet with MobilTrain representatives via Skype sessions, who answer questions and offer support.
Increasing skills and opportunities
Already the impact is clear. Participants have a greater awareness of topics such as child rights, domestic violence and managing finances. The programme has supported them to strengthen their family relationships and empower their children in their education. They have also developed digital literacy skills, better preparing them for the job market.
“Through this programme I learnt how to manage the money I earn […] and manage my business better,” explained one Text2Change participant, who runs a small business.
Many women also report a clear improvement in their knowledge of English.
“Before we started receiving SMS we didn’t use English at all. We thought it was quite difficult. But after we started receiving these messages we realised that it was much easier than we thought,” explained another women enrolled in the programme.
Dhananjaya Perera, Director of Programmes at SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka, outlined the benefits of the programme. “We have seen first-hand the impact of Text2Change on the lives of these women and their families. By strengthening their own skills and knowledge of topics around child rights and family relationships, these women have also strengthened and empowered their families. This programme shows how technology is a tool not just for education, but also empowerment.”
Text2Change does not only benefit the participants and their families, but also the community as a whole and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly:
SDG 5: “Enhance the use on enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”
SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, including communication and information technologies”
SDG 11: “Strengthen the means of implementation of sustainable development through the use of enabling technology”
- SDG 10: “Reduce inequality within and among countries”.