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Exploring the Gender Impact of the World Links Program

Exposure to Computers Gives Girls Higher Self-esteem and a Positive Attitude Towards School

"Wherever people live -- whether they live on the plains or in the valleys, whether they live in slums or isolated villages, whether they speak Hindi, Swahili, or Uzbek,-they have one thing in common: they do not want charity. They want a chance. World Links provides that chance." James D. Wolfensohn.

World Links gives a chance to youth and educators by training them in the power of the internet, connecting them to the world via internet and through collaborative learning projects. It began in 1997 as a World Bank program and spun off as an independent non-profit organization.

Sam Carlson, Executive Director of World Links, presented the findings of an independent gender assessment aimed at determining if and how girls and boys participating in World Links (in four African countries) are impacted by computer and internet usage. According to the study, exposure to the program has had a positive effect on girls. "They [girls] changed their attitudes towards school, acquired a higher self-esteem and increased their knowledge of other cultures" says the author of the study.

However, the study goes on to say that "...domestic chores, culturally-imbued feelings of shyness and traditional rules forced many girls to have less access than boys to computer labs." As one girl from Uganda said "It is a shame for girls to fall down! Boys will make fun of us."

To alleviate the effect of this paradigm, Carlson discussed with seminars participants ways of fostering gender equity in the program through the design and delivery of gender-awareness workshops, development of "fair use policies" for each computer lab, and upgrading of computer and internet connectivity to encourage greater use by girls.
The study also noted that while boys and girls were interested in academic research, girls specifically concentrated on collaborative projects, email, reproductive health and sexuality while boys focused on music and sports, technological issues and new software, and health issues such as HIV/AIDS.

Another success of the program was to allow teachers to create new curriculum for students and to integrate technology into their own classrooms. In addition to students and teachers, thousands of school administrators and policymakers participated in the program. Furthermore, the program has introduced innovative monitoring and evaluation techniques measuring the impacts of technology on teaching and learning.

Since its inception, World Links has instituted programs in over 22 developing countries and has reached over 800 schools. In addition to funding from multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, World Links derives its resources from corporate donations, foundation grants and private contributions.

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