Girls access to mobile phones often reflects gender norms

Social and cultural norms affect how much access a girl has to mobile phones. In India and Bangladesh, for example, girls seen using mobile phones face harsh judgement from their communities. Girls themselves can internalise these negative views, with some respondents saying phones could lead to them ‘going astray’. Girls in Malawi and Rwanda were most likely to say phones lead to contact with boys and, ultimately, unwanted pregnancy.

This does not mean that girls are afraid of phones or consider these reasons to avoid access, rather, that they feel it is something to be considered or it is something that parents and communities strongly emphasise as a risk for girls.

In some countries where girls find it hard to access mobile phones, some reported they had begun relationships with men to get a phone. Paradoxically witholding mobiles out of concern for girls’ safety can drive them to the very unsafe behaviours parents fear.