Continuing with its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India, Google India and Tata Trusts announced reaching a milestone of two lakh and sixty thousand villages with its Internet Saathi program. The program has contributed towards bridging the digital gender divide in rural India female to male ratio from 1 in 10 in 2015 to 4 in 10 in 2018,and now expands to cover two new states — Punjab & 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.
Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015, Google and Tata Trusts announced the ambitious plans to scale the program to cover 3 lakh villages across India in December 2015. In its four year journey, the program has reached the length and breadth of the country, covering 20 states in India. 70,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are using the Internet to drive positive change in their communities and have already benefited over 2.6 crore women.
It was found that over time, women start to become more confident, becoming a key source of information for their 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 approach them consistently for answers, to help children with schoolwork, to learn new cooking recipes, search for jobs, or to run a business.
Additionally, eight in 10 Saathis and their beneficiaries believe people in their village respect them more. Nine in 10 women beneficiaries believe in a woman’s right to express herself, and earn a living for her family. That’s not all, seven in 10 women who attended the training sessions with the Saathis have seen an improvement in their children’s education.
The study also showed that the programme led to a level of independence that creates financial opportunities for women to pursue their dreams. Data showed that three in 10 Saathis and two in 10 beneficiaries have set up some form of business. This, in turn, has provided economic growth, with the business often earning between Rs3,000 and Rs5,000 every month while five in 10 Saathis have seen positive impact on employability.
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