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Information rich information poor Thursday, 14 October, 1999, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Making ends meet in Morocco
By BBC News Online's Jane Black

"Men eat and sleep," says Fadma Bouadou of Taliounie, Morocco. "Women work."

That may never change but Fadma has found a way to beat the system. She still does the work but thanks to the Internet she can now sell her wares in the global marketplace, earning enough money to take care of herself and two daughters.

Information rich, information poor - Digital divide
  • Introduction
  • The widening gap

    Case studies

  • Burkina Faso
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • United States
  • Fadma is part of a group of local weavers who sell their rugs through a site called Virtual Souk. The project, which employs 775 artisans in Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon, works through non-governmental organisations to get rid of the middleman and deliver 65-80% of money earned to the artisans themselves.

    Around 75 to 80% of the artisans partners of the Virtual Souk are women.

    "Taliounie was our first project and we chose it because it is remote and isolated village. We wanted to demystify the technology," said Azedine Ouerghi of the World Bank Institute who is managing the project. "If we could do it in Taliounie, we could do it anywhere."

    The project has thrown a lifeline to the women of Taliounie as each woman involved in the project will testify.

    Fadma Aoubaida, a mother of seven, earned 532 dirhams (33) which she spent to repair her roof and start building an indoor latrine, one of the few in her village. Ijja Aittalblhsen spent her last payment to buy cement and windows to renovate her home.

    When asked what she wanted to do with future profits, Ijja first said she would buy gold jewelry - a traditional way for women to save.

    Then she got more imaginative. First she suggested buying a truck to transport rugs produced in the village to the town where they are marketed. She now believes that getting all the women bicycles would be more fun because they could have a race on the way home.

    But the market for indigenous crafts on the Internet is still uncertain. If brand-name Net start-ups - with huge amounts of venture capital behind them - have yet to make money on the Internet, what chance is there for isolated artisans in the developing world?

    "We thought we could build a cool Website and people would come there and buy things," says Daniel Salcedo, founder of PeopLink, an Internet marketplace for indigenous crafts. But having people find you is hard. Having them trust you is even harder."

    That is where Virtual Souk is trying to help. All transactions are processed through a clearinghouse in Paris. Artisans are not paid until clients receive the product. Mr Ouerghi of the World Bank says he hopes to expand the project, creating sub-sites for artisans in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

    Either way it's fine for women like Fadma Bouadou. Even in it's early stages, the Internet has opened up her up to the world and helped to make ends meet.

    Links to more Information rich information poor stories are at the foot of the page.


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