Even as India has taken the lead to become the fastest growing Internet user market in the world, with a 31% growth in rural India, 75% of the rural population still don’t have access to the Internet and 40% claim to be unaware of the benefits of the internet*. It is therefore important to equip rural India with a greater understanding of the Internet, and empower them with the right skills to find information on the web that can help improve their lives.
A recent meeting with two of our Saathis Rama Devi and Asiya Gawandi, really brought home the profound impact of our Internet Saathi program on women in rural India.
Rama Devi who comes from a very humble background is transforming farming practices in Vempalle, a small village in Andhra Pradesh where for generations farmers have been using chemical fertilizers. She used voice search to learn more about “how to make organic manure”, “benefits and cost effective ways of organic farming over chemical fertilizers” on the internet. She learnt that organic sources like animal waste, vegetable compost, agricultural residues, human excreta, etc. can help reduce expenditure, and grow yield. She has now trained 120 farmers and over 1200 women beneficiaries on how to make organic manure.
On the other hand, Asiya Gawandi, from a small village Maujgarhjia in Maharashtra has trained 1500 women in her village who are using the internet in their everyday life now. Many of these women have gone ahead and started their small businesses. Collectively, these women have started a local market — “Apna Bazaar” where they these enterprising women come forward to sell food items, handicraft, beauty products like sugandhi ubtan, and the list goes on. They continue to enhance their skills and learn new techniques using the Internet.
Today we have over 70,000 incredible women across 260K villages in 18 states, who are using the power of the Internet to drive positive change in their communities and have already benefited over 26 million women. To further our efforts, we are happy to announce the expansion of the program to two new states — Punjab and Odisha. In Punjab, the program will cover around ~5,000 villages, starting from Paras Rampur, Kotli Than Singh, Burj, Vehra, from Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts. In Odisha the program has kicked off from Sindhia in Baleshwar, Parakana in Puri, Bhuinpur in Kendrapara, and we will cover ~16,000+ villages.
It is encouraging to see that the female to male internet literacy ratio is now at 4:10 [Source: Kantar ICUBE Study 2018] but there is still a lot more that needs to be done to make the internet gender equitable. We believe that a gender-equitable Internet is good for everyone, and when a diverse group uses the Internet, the online world becomes relevant and useful to more people.
Internet Saathi program has shown us that with the right opportunities, there is no limit to what women can achieve. It is remarkable to see the passion of women like Rama Devi, and several others of them in rural India, learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities.
In a recent study with Kantar, we interviewed over 2500 people across rural India to understand the impact that providing access has on their livelihood.
What we learnt —
Over time, women start to become more confident, becoming a key source of information for her village, and also help empower the next generation:
/ About 70% of Saathis believe they are seen as a source of information in their village — people are coming to them consistently for answers to help children with schoolwork, to learn new cooking recipes, search for jobs, or to run a business.
/ 8 in 10 Saathis and their beneficiaries believe people in their village respect them more.
/ 9 in 10 women beneficiaries believe in a woman’s right to express herself, and earn a living for her family.
/ That’s not all, 7 in 10 women who attended the trainings with the Saathis have seen an improvement in their children’s education.
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