Documentary on One

Info Lady

Women in Bangladesh cycle around villages, bringing the internet to rural communities. Students listen to for sounds effects, compare and contrast life in Ireland and Bangladesh and prepare to make a radio advertisement.

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Info Lady

Suitable for: All students from 1st year – TY

Documentary length: 40 mins

To download the worksheet, simply right click on 'Download the Junior Cycle Worksheet' link on your left - and select 'Save Link As'.

Women in Bangladesh cycle around villages, bringing the internet to rural communities.  They also bring blood pressure machines, diabetes test kits, health education videos, pregnancy tests and a range of other services which are often out of the reach of people living in rural wilderness.

To a western student in the developed world, this may not seem particularly radical but in Bangladesh it is not the norm. In fact, it’s socially bold and often frowned upon for a woman to cycle around on her own and people are very accepting of this new role for women, others have been slower to embrace the change.  In this documentary, producer Ronan Kelly travels to meet some of women who have been making waves in small communities Bangladesh. This is perfect for an English, Geography or CSPE group, who want to explore the theme of development.

The thematic unit of work uses the documentary as a primary text, as is recommended in the English Specification.

  • In studying the documentary, students engage with all four LITERACY skills, i.e.  Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.
  • The oral and written assignments support development of JUNIOR CYCLE KEY SKILLS as well as a selection of LEARNING OUTCOMES from the ENGLISH SPECIFICATION.
  • In a carefully staged, AFL process, the unit begins with pre-listening, challenging students to tap into their prior knowledge, their thoughts and feelings about the context in the text.
  • The documentary, for classroom purposes has been divided into short, relevant clips and the associated activities/ worksheets will develop a variety of comprehension skills, e.g. anticipation; active-listening; discussion; post-listening and reflective/ creative activities.
  • Methodologies used in the teaching and learning resources encourage the student to become a critical, autonomous, self-directed and reflective learner. This is facilitated through AFL tasks which include peer and self-reflection sheets.
  • By the end of this unit of work, students will be ready to complete a summative assessment task, suitable for the Oral Communication Task. An outline of the CBA can be found in the specification for Junior Cycle English (October 2015) which is available on the JCT website       

Throughout the unit of work, students will be guided through activities which include:
- A pre-listening multiple choice quiz about the central theme (development)
- A range of active listening exercises based on clip from the documentary, which explore the living conditions and life as a working mother in Bangladesh
- Learning to anlayse the sound effects in the documentary
- Thinking about and comparing ways that the internet is used in Bangladesh and Ireland
- Using the information from the documentary to make a poster promoting the Info Ladies’ services

The unit builds up to the final, summative task; making an advertisement to promote the work of Info Ladies, based on the theme of Development.  

The summative task is preceded by scaffolding activities, followed by AfL materials including self and peers assessment activities.


Programme notes:
Info Ladies travel around the countryside bringing the Internet and other tech. services to poor villagers. This is a cottage industry, 21-century style. Farmers whose crops are damaged by an unfamiliar disease get the Info Lady to google the problem. Women whose husbands are working in the Middle East ask the Info Lady to Skype call them. Older people get their blood pressure checked in their homes without having to travel miles to see a doctor.

However, this is more than a tech revolution - it’s socially bold too: in Bangladesh, it’s unusual and frowned-upon for women to cycle around on their own. As one of the Info Ladies, Bithy, says, “My mother-in-law had her apprehensions about me cycling around and neighbours would say, ‘why do you want your daughter-in-law to go and work outside, she would go and run away with another man.’ ”

Also, this isn’t a charity effort, it’s part of a ’social entreprise’. The Info Ladies do provide some services free, like Google searches, but charge for others, like Skype and pregnancy tests. The local manager of the project, Shahadet says that they could have set it up as a charity, but “a charity relies on donor money and donor money is not consistent whereas the demand for the service is consistent. So, if we set the programme up as a charity, as soon as the donor money stopped, the Info Lady service would have stopped.”

Not only are these Info Ladies travelling around on their own but they’re also earning money independent of the men in their lives. However, this is what allows them to break convention: the country is poor and if a woman can bring more money into her family, then the neighbours’ objections can be ignored. So, Bithy’s mother-in-law, Anowara, who originally objected to Bithy taking out the bike, now says, “I have given my permission and that’s all that matters. Neighbours will only talk, they won’t give you money when you are suffering. Anyway, whatever Bithy’s earning, that’s my son’s income; it’s not some other man’s.”

While new technology has given Info Ladies a new life outside the home, the tech. business is constantly-evolving and unpredictable. For example, the men working in the Middle East are now sending smartphones to their wives, which means the wives no longer need the Info Ladies for Skype calling. So, the Info Ladies are innovating and bringing new services out to the remote villages. Like, renting LED torches to families with no electricity, who have children studying into the night for exams.

In March 2014, the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development met in Dublin and declared that access to broadband could be “the universal catalyst that lifts developing countries out of poverty and puts access to health care, education and basic social services within reach of all.” In Bangladesh, the Info Ladies have already made a start.

This programme follows two Info Ladies, Beauty Khatun Bithy and Jhorna Aktar. Both live in the Gaibandha district of Bangladesh.

Also featured are: the local manager of one of the Info Lady projects in Gaibandha, Shahadat Hussein Mondal, and Bithy's mother-in-law, Anowara, who was, initially, reluctant to allow Bithy be an Info Lady.

The readers were, Maherin Ahmed (Bithy), Reema Islam(Anowara), Khondokar Nusrat Hossain (Jhorna), Razib Chatterjee (Shahadat Hussein Mondal), Shahinur Rashid (various male voices) and Supriti Dhar (village woman).

The programme was produced by Ronan Kelly

Main Info Lady website

Udayan Swabolombee Sangstha (USS) - the NGO in Gaibandha District which manages the Info Lady project of which Bithy and Jhorna are part.

First broadcast, August 16, 2014

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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