Samasource women 26_apr2010

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A presentation by Leila Janah of Samasource to women technology leaders in Silicon Valley on April 26, 2010.

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  • Let me start with a bold statistic: 100 million women are missing.

    I’m not exaggerating. In many parts of the world, women are selectively aborted, denied basic medical care, married off young and thus likely to perish in childbirth, forced into prostitution, and, in some cases, killed to preserve their families' honor.

    This "gendercide," is the great moral problem of this century. Tonight, I’d like to discuss how we can end it.


  • 100 million people don’t just disappear overnight. I've heard many explanations for why women are treated so poorly globally, ranging from culture and religion to evolutionary biology.

    But none seem quite as clear as this one: women are less valued by society because they earn less money than men do.

    Experts like Nick Kristof and Amartya Sen agree. a root cause of gendercide is women’s lack of access to and control over their own wealth.

    I'm not talking about wage differentials in the developed world (though it's frustrating that women still earn 85 cents for every dollar a man earns, globally). I'm talking about a dramatic lack of access to opportunities that allow women to use their brains, rather than their bodies, to earn income.

  • As literacy rates rise and more women are prepared to enter the formal labor force, fewer and fewer jobs are available to them. We’ve seen a tremendous surge in human capacity -- 84% of the world can now read and write. Young people are flooding the primary and secondary schools of the developing world in the hopes of escaping poverty.

    In Kenya, the average family spends 277% of per-capita income on tertiary education. Families are borrowing money to send one child to school in the hopes that she will be able to send money home.
  • I was just in the mining capital of India, in a town called Jharkhand. There, hundreds of thousands of women enroll in colleges and training institutes in the hopes of finding work upon graduating. The numbers have changed in the last two decades: even in poor countries, just as many women are graduating from universities as men, and the proportion of women in college is increasing. (UN)

    I saw this scene in a roadside book stall. This young woman isn’t reading the headines, she’s scanning lists of results for India’s national exams to enter college. The pressure to enter college and get a good job is higher than ever before.
  • But the great tragedy for women like her is that there are no jobs for them when they graduate.

    Men make up more than 70% of the 3 billion employed people in the world. They tend to get the best jobs -- in agriculture, men grow the cash crops. In the formal sector, men get the jobs in front of computers. Women, by contrast, are pushed into lower-level work, such as subsistence farming and manufacturing. They power the majority of the world’s sweatshops and grow the crops that families eat to stay alive.


  • This makes even employed women vulnerable to exploitation and to poverty, especially during economic crises. 80 percent of them are likely to take jobs that actually keep them in poverty. Unifem reports that the current global crisis will plunge 22 million more women into unemployment.

    During our field work in Nairobi, Kenya, I met a young woman named Freda Adundo, from a rural part of the country. Freda is a bright young woman who'd worked her way up through the Kenyan education system and was about to receive an IT degree. She told me, “the dilemma in Kenya, and Africa at large, is that the cost of education is getting so high that upon finishing, you can’t get a job that will offer returns commensurate with what you’ve done in school.”

    If we want to improve the status of women around the world and combat gendercide, we need to not only educate women, but also connect them to dignified work that leverages their skills.
  • Well, there’s a new kind of work out there, and what’s incredible about this work is that it requires few inputs. You don’t need roads, or telephone lines, or brick and mortar to build this generation’s factories.

    All you need is a brain and a cheap laptop connected to the internet. The primary input of this new digital work is human intelligence.

    A few years ago, Tom Friedman wrote a book called the World is Flat, which described how the $200B global outsourcing industry was creating a new middle class in India and China through the creation of IT jobs.

    Now, it’s not just IT jobs that the internet enables. Just as computing infrastructure moved into the cloud over the last decade, work is moving into the cloud in this decade.

    Any work that can be done digitally, from labeling an image to translating a snippet of text, is now fair game. This is creating a rapid transformation in the types of people that can do digital work. Just as Ford’s assembly line took production into the mainstream and paved the way for the rise of the American middle class, the digital assembly lines of today allow people with basic training to plug their skills into much larger work streams that engage hundreds of people on many continents.

    The Internet is the new factory floor.

    Samasource grants a new kind of worker access to this new kind of work. We take marginalized women living in poverty and plug them into a value chain that puts much-needed capital directly into the hands of the people who most need it. The only way we are going to end poverty is in this way, by allowing poor people to sell their services on fair terms.

  • What enables Samasource is the rapid proliferation of low-cost technology across the developing world. The new factories of the world look like this. Small cyber cafes and work centers like this one are popping up all over sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, connecting people not only to information, but also to work. This one is run by a woman named Lynda.
  • Samasource harnesses this combination of human capacity and internet connectivity to give work to the people who need it most.

    Here’s how it all works:

    Our customer gives us a project -- say, a stack of audio files from a series of interviews that need to be transcribed. We use our technology to break down his project into smaller units, or microwork -- perhaps 5 minutes of audio per unit -- and we send these units to groups of people in poor places that have access to basic technology. These people, all women, youth and refugees who have been trained and vetted by Samasource, listen to the files and create documents with the text inside. They then check each other’s work onsite, and upload each file into our web platform. Our account managers review a small sample of the work to ensure quality, and our system re-compiles the files and submits them to our customers.


  • In the last year, with a modest initial investment and a ton of sweat equity, Samasource has grown to serve hundreds of women across Africa, South Asia, Haiti, and partnered with several companies in Silicon Valley as sources of work, including Intuit, Google, GoodGuide, and Benetech. The income that enters the system from these jobs has a multiplier effect -- by training marginalized women in digital work, we not only provide direct employment, but we also increase household spending on health and education, increase a woman’s wages substantially over her lifetime, and decrease the likelihood that she will be forced to leave her community to find work. There is much evidence that providing dignified work to women also reduces the chances that that they will be victims of violence, trafficking, or suffer exploitation in the workplace.

    Digital work is a very high-leverage way to increase the earnings of women. We’ve found that for every dollar invested in our training and market access programs, we increase the lifetime earnings for a woman by roughly $1,000, a significant portion of which is invested in her children’s education and health.
  • Work for women matters, and leaders like Ms. Okonjo-Iweala are bringing this issue to the fore. However, we can’t afford to rely on governments or institutions to move the needle on funding -- to change the status quo, we need to mobilize our networks of powerful women and entrepreneurs to invest in the people and organizations working to create a place for women in the new economy.

  • I thought I’d end with a few stories.

    Last February, I traveled to Kolkata, India, to visit one of our Samasource partners, the Anudip Foundation, founded by Radha Basu who is here in the audience.

    There, sitting in a small room on grass mats, I met Koravi. She’s a 38-year old former math and science teacher. Koravi lives in rural Bengal, India where teachers make about $30 a month. When one of her daughters got sick, she had to stop working full-time to care for her. She does not have enough money to cover her daughter’s medical bills.

    Koravi is one of the millions of women around the world who have struggled to educate herself and yet cannot find decent work. She runs the very real risk of losing her daughter in the next few years.

  • Not far from Koravi, in a rural part of Pakistan, another woman flourishes.
    In February last year, while I was traveling in Pakistan on the hunt for new partners, a woman named Maria Umar emailed me. She mentioned that she had heard we were training people to do work over the Internet, and explained that she was a mother of two from Peshawar and had lost her job as a teacher when she fled from the Taliban. Maria, I discovered, had a Master's Degree in English and was making less than $100 a month teaching -- like Koravi, she was not making enough to pay her children's expenses. I interviewed Maria over Skype and decided we'd take her on and train her to do administrative work, something few of our other partners could handle. Within a few months, she was up to speed and had her first customer, the UK office of the Young President's Organization. We worked with her to form a company, the Women's Digital League, that now employs twenty-two young Pakistani women in similar work as a Samasource Service Partner. Each of these women earns at least double what Maria made as a teacher, in under half the time.

    We interviewed her on a radio show several months ago, and Maria said “I’m earning more than most of the men in my village, and the women in my program are slowly, gradually, getting the idea that they don’t have to be helpless victims sitting at home. Samasource has given me a sense of self esteem that I’ve haven’t had in all of my 30 years.”

    We have the power to turn the millions of women who have the will and the skill to work from Koravis into Marias, and we can start right now. The women of the world are waiting.
  • Here’s how you can help:

    Give work
    Give advice
    Volunteer
    Stay informed. The best way to end gendercide is to stay up to speed on women’s work initiatives. We update our Facebook and Twitter profiles with articles, news, and opinion pieces that we can use in our advocacy.
    Samasource hosts a gala every year -- last year’s raised $100K in one night, and we hope to triple that this year. We need people to help us reach influencers in the Bay Area to purchase tickets and donate items.
    Lastly, before I get off the soapbox, I wanted to offer a warm thank you to Silvia, one of our biggest supporters, for hosting tonight, and to Olana Khan and Radha Basu, who have both offered many hours of help and advice.
    Thank you all and I hope you enjoy the evening.
  • Samasource women 26_apr2010

    1. 1. Work for Women LEILA JANAH SAMASOURCE
    2. 2. Why are women undervalued?
    3. 3. The Growing Opportunity Gap Global Literacy 100 90 80 70 60 50 1970 1985 2000 2015
    4. 4. Increased capacity, but fewer opportunities
    5. 5. 80 percent of African and South Asian women workers hold vulnerable employment.
    6. 6. Digital Work: New Opportunities for Women • $200B global market • Low barriers to entry • New, task-based models enable flexible work hours • The Internet is a gender-blind, work superhighway.
    7. 7. you send samasource work is allocated to samasource a breaks it down our service partners project into microwork 1010101010 1010101010 1010101010 1010100010101010101010110010101001 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 01010010000010010110010111100001010 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100 01010100010101010101010110010101001 01010100010101010101010110010101001 01010100101001010101010100100110010 3 10101000111110101010101010101001010 1 2 1010101010 1010101010 1010101010 10001010101010101011001010100101010 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 01000001001011001011110000101001010 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100 10010100101010101010010011001010101 00011111010101010101010100101010110 10101000101010101010101100101010010 10100100000100101100101111000010100 1010101010 1010101010 1010101010 10101001010010101010100100110010101 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 010001111101010101010101010010101 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100 women, youth, and samasource your project gets refugees complete compiles work and delivered and helps work assures quality reduce poverty 1010101010 1010101010 1010101010 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100 5 6 1010101010 1010101010 4 1010101010 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100 1010101010 1010101010 1010101010 1010010101 1010010101 1010010101 0110010100 0110010100 0110010100
    8. 8. “Sending work is the most important form of foreign aid in the world.” Geoff Moore Author, Crossing the Chasm
    9. 9. Why Work for Women Matters “If you want to speed up reconstruction, development, and poverty reduction, the intelligent thing to do is to put earnings in a woman’s hand. Women reinvest a much higher portion of their earnings into their families and communities than men do, spreading wealth beyond themselves.” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Managing Director The World Bank Group
    10. 10. Meet Koravi “I have two little daughters, and I want to make them a good future.”
    11. 11. Meet Maria “For me and other women in Pakistan, Samasource is our way of escaping the claustrophobic environment surrounding us.”
    12. 12. How to Help Give work: sales@samasource.org Give advice: leila@samasource.org Volunteer: info@samasource.org Stay informed: /samasource samasource.org @samasource info@samasource.org

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