GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER
THE ISSUES: GENDER INEQUALITY AND POVERTY
Education is the greatest resource to prevent child marriage and poverty.
Women and girls need basic computer education and internet access to escape poverty, rise above gender discrimination, and succeed in today’s increasingly digital and global workforce. During the pandemic lockdown, many girls were forced to halt or delay their education and became vulnerable to child marriage.
- Only 16% of women have access to internet
- There are 1.5 million child marriages in India, the highest in the world.
- Up to 10 million girls are at risk of dropping out of secondary education due to the pandemic.
THE VISION: GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER
While regular business and education activities were disrupted during the pandemic, the women and girls in our SHE and SISTER AID programs in rural West Bengal, India, personified leadership by forming groups to solve problems. These same girls and women have contributed to the Digital Center program design through surveys. Their ideas and comments are summarized below.
BACKGROUND & GOALS
We are seeding a real revolution!
Utilizing an existing structure in a safe, accessible, and central location, the GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER will expand our pilot Digital Literacy Program with 5 computers, to add 100 computers that will serve 2400 women and girls from 35 nearby villages each year. Professional trainers can easily access the Center from the city. It will provide critical electricity and Internet connections that are not available throughout these rural villages. Goals of the center include:
1) To improve access and the use of computers, the internet, and e-commerce,
2) To enhance digital literacy skills,
3) To enhance educational preparation and learning opportunities,
4) To expand business opportunities and preparation for professional jobs.
Our pilot program with 5 Laptop computers, Internet connection, and skills training has already shown incredible impact in this community as of June, 2022:
- Girls are getting respect from boys as they shore up their computer literacy.
- Girls are helping illiterate farmers who need government assistance but do not have access to information nor can they apply online.
Girls are assisting women with microloan business such as helping artisans to access to e-commerce.
The GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER will serve as a safe hub and model for replication in other rural communities that are seeking to advance both gender equality and economic development.
The GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER is the next phase of YGB’s programs of empowerment that we have been operating with our NGO partner, NISHTHA, for over a decade. Sister Aid empowers 550 mothers with micro loans and early education for 600 young daughters. SHE (Scholarship for Higher Education) makes it possible for 300 girls to earn a college degree.
We continue to collaborate with the women and girls that benefit from SISTER AID and SHE programs by identifying strategies that are relevant and important to them. Recently, we surveyed girls and women who will use the Center to fully inform all the strategies and specific opportunities it can provide. Suggested strategies include:
- Basic computer training
- Advanced computer and software training
- Internet research methods
- Introduction to online banking
- English language classes
- Utilizing WhatsApp for communication
- Vocational training to prepare for lucrative job opportunities in the medical and technology fields
- Spreadsheets, inventory, and accounting training for the micro loan recipients, as well as e-commerce tools
- Conducting market research and building sales pages
- Applying for government programs for farming
- Utilizing online design programs to support sari-stitching and other product design innovations.
When we asked, “How will the digital center help you?” one student wrote:
“This digital centre will not help only us, but our community also, and our other brothers and sisters. If we have our own digital centre then we can make our studies easier. We have to give entrance examination, filling out application form for government jobs, examination and applying for scholarships. This digital centre will help mothers also in many ways like they can advertise their products and sell online. Nowadays they are using Whatsapp for expanding their business and selling their products. They can sell their products and goods on other big platforms like Amazon and Flipkart they just need to learn.” –SHE SCHOLARSHIP STUDENT
THE IMPACT: GIRLS DIGITAL CENTER directly addresses the known digital divide for rural communities and women; empowering girls and women with resources and technology to continue their education and connect with the global market and workforce.
Online interactive teaching methods can help to rectify inequalities in education experienced by girls and women. This project will provide a safe hub of computers and internet access for girls to succeed in college and the workforce, as well as expand the resources and business opportunities for our microloan recipients.
Over the last ten years, we have witnessed that when women and girls demonstrate income earning potential, male family members start to value them as equal members of their community.
Empowered girls now voice their opinions in their families and communities, stand up for their basic rights, and create a new culture where women are valued and respected as leaders. They are role models for the younger generation, creating a positive ripple effect of gender equality into the future. From our recent survey YGB SHE students shared about their sense of empowerment and growth.
“During the pandemic lockdown, people were breaking, we stood beside them and helped our community, our own people, by visiting village to village and home to home. Be it lockdown or Amphan cyclone we never left our community: we distributed food items, hygiene kit, and sometimes dried fruits to keep their hopes alive. We managed to bring back many members who were stuck in another state during the lockdown. These opportunities to serve our community and people was only possible because of NISHTHA programme which has trained us to handle situations like this.”
“To change the world first change yourself. We are going to make a change and NISHTHA is the place where we have changed our self.” –SHE SCHOLARSHIP STUDENT
An image by Nagaraj, SHE scholarship student