In August, we teamed up with Migrant Help to provide free smartphones to 20 Black migrant women, so that they could thrive in the UK’s phone-centric society.
What would you do without your phone? So many of us in the UK treat our smartphones like a second limb, and there’s a reason for that (beyond the addictiveness of certain apps). UK society is very phone-centric, and therefore, a phone becomes necessary to actively participate in society. It’s how most people communicate with each other socially. Your phone number is requested on many official forms. It’s hard to get a job without a phone, because potential employers may want to interview you over the phone or request a contact number.
We at Women and Digital Inclusion (WODIN) are passionate about reminding people that access to gadgets that are so essential to everyday life should be a human right. And it’s important to remember that not everybody has a smartphone. Those living in poverty, particularly migrant people who are still finding their roots in the UK, are among the most likely populations to live without access to a smartphone, leaving them in digital poverty. How are they meant to reach their full potential when digital poverty cuts them off from social and employment opportunities?
When Migrant Help approached us to collaborate on a project, with the aim of providing 20 free smartphones to Black migrant women in Merseyside, we were delighted to get involved. Partnership between large, resourced organisations like Migrant Help and small, community-focused organisations like WODIN are so essential if people in need are to be reached. WODIN dedicates its time to helping Black migrant women in Liverpool and Merseyside, a very specific demographic that we know extremely well. Migrant Help knew that we could serve our community in the most informed way possible, and so they passed their resources on to us and let us do what we do best.
We distributed the majority of the phones on the morning of Thursday, August 30th at Maggie O’Neil Training Center in Liverpool. People came in all morning and early afternoon to pick up the phones, with proof of ID and address. By 12:30 we were done as we had received some prior info about a couple of recipients not being able to make it on the day.
We were able to provide the women with SIM cards and information on how best to use and take care of their new gadgets. We informed them that, should they struggle to pay for data, they should come to us so that we can apply for a data provision on their behalf.
Here’s a short video from the day that we met with the recipients:
Our hearts are warmed by hearing from the beneficiaries of this project about how access to a phone will help them thrive more in their day-to-day lives. Here are a few testimonials from the recipients of the phones, speaking on how this project has helped them:
“I am now able to contact my children with this phone and also learn online things” – Adeline
“I will be and am able to now keep in contact with my family who I left at home. This country can be very lonely and sometimes you just need someone to speak to. I will now be able to keep in touch with people and not just stay bunged up in my room!” – Josephine
“Getting this phone will impact my life very well because getting to the end of months with all the bills to pay is a hard task these days. So with all that, it is not easy at all to consider buying a new phone for yourself or your children, it is not easy at all. This phone gift really will change my life and my thinking and will save me the expense. I will be able to talk to my son who lives with his dad and I haven’t been able to connect with. This is huge. Thank you” – Helen
“This phone will and has transformed my life. I am no longer so alone, I have also met new people when I pick it up and now they are helping me with how to get around Liverpool, where to find my local food, and save some money. They tell me about the energy awareness program and now I have received a £100 energy voucher. This is so big. I don’t have to worry so much about the coming winter and my freezing cold room. And my baby won’t be so cold. I want to attend all future WODIN programs to learn more digital lessons. I am so grateful. I didn’t know there were such kind people here. It has been a hard journey.” – Denise