My #Day WithASaathi, a Google India and Tata Trusts initiative

A Day With Internet Saathi, A Google Initiative to Help Women in Rural India | International Women’s Day Story

Women are the real architects of society.

– Harriet Beecher Stowe

We take internet for granted. I know I do. And if you’re here on this blog, reading this article – I’m going ahead and assuming that internet isn’t a luxury for you either, but a regular can’t-do-without commodity. We live in the world where the internet not only helps us find answers, but also suggests and well, talks. (You remember my 4 year old is big on Okay Google, right?)

Between mails and notification, to booking vacations and sharing opinions on social media, we often forget that being able to use the world wide web is not plain routine for most women in India.

India has the world’s second largest internet population with over 400 million users, but only 30% of this are women. According to IAMAI, only 1 out of 10 internet users is a woman in rural parts f the country.

The stats are shocking. We know that internet can do so much good at the grass-root level, and is capable of improving life for women who live in our villages. We know that things can become so much easier if the women working in fields or bringing up young kids in a remote village start using internet.

The Internet Saathi group in Chattarpura, Rajasthan.
The Internet Saathi and women group in Chattarpura, Rajasthan.

This is where Google’s Internet Saathi initiative, in association with Tata Trusts, is doing a good job.

I was lucky to witness #DayWithASaathi last week, in a small village near Udaipur, Rajasthan – Chattarpura. And on International Women’s Day, let me share with you the inspiring story of these rural women who are learning how to use internet for their benefit, and are in turn helping other women of the community do the same. Here we go:

Internet Saathi in Rajasthan
The elderly women of the village in rapt attention to what the Internet Saathi is teaching.

About Internet Saathi:

Google India, along with Tata Trusts, launched Internet Saathi in July 2015 with the aim of helping women in rural parts on India understand the benefits of internet, and to utilize it to bring positive and productive change in their day to day life. Today, the program is live in about 60,000 villages across 10 states and 2 million women have already benefited from the program. (Data from Google)

How it Works:

Google trains rural women to explore the various uses of internet, by providing them smart devices and training material through Tata Trusts’ vast network of NGOs and federations across India. These women, or Saathis, then impart the knowledge and training to the larger rural community and neighboring villages. Today, these Internet Saathis have become change agents in each village and are contributing in improving the lives of the entire community in their villages.

Internet Saathi showing how to use various useful apps to the women in Chattarpura, Rajasthan.
Internet Saathi showing how to use various useful apps to the women in Chattarpura, Rajasthan.

My Experience of #DayWithASaathi:

it was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, to be honest. I am from Kota, Rajasthan. So going to Udaipur with Google India was exciting to me, it is my home state. But before this, I never consciously thought about how I treat access to internet as a birth right. I treat a weak WiFi signal as the biggest setback to a working day, and even on offbeat vacations in the Himalayas, I can be found looking surreptitiously for 3G signal.

But in Chattarpura, I realized that internet is not only a necessity for city-dwelling digital media addicts like me, but is a powerful tool to aide progress, empowerment and knowledge.

I summed my #DayWithASaathi experience and Google shared it on their Twitter.
I summed my #DayWithASaathi experience and Google shared it on their Twitter.

Heartwarming Stories:

I spent a lot of time talking to this lively group of women. Some of them had traveled from nearby villages to be a part of this gathering, to meet other women of the group and to share their knowledge and progress with us. Honestly, there is still a lot that can be done by the government for our rural womenfolk – starting from better and easily accessible health care to education. I know a lot of this is happening and is underway, and I’m hopeful. But even when internet access is concerned, the issues are quite a few. Most do not own personal smart phones while some mentioned that the 3G service is dodgy at best.

That's Aditi Mathur Kumar, Author & Blogger with the internet savvy grandma and her group (some extended family) from the village.
That’s me with the internet savvy grandma and her group (some extended family) from the village.

But – and it’s a good kind of but – the upsides are plenty and promising. Pictures this : The elderly women who cannot read or write, have been taught to use Voice Search. Those who know only Hindi, are learning to use the Google Indic keyboard on smart phones. Kids as young as 3 years old are voice-searching rhymes and fancy dress costume ideas. And something worth a mention – The men folk are not only sharing their smart phones now, but some are also taking advice on agriculture practices, seed quality and soil quality from the women.

If you’ve experienced life in the rural parts of Rajasthan, you know that this is good. This is empowering. This is progress. Here are a few examples, in case you want more.

Grandma Who Shops Online. I sat wide eyed as she told me that she shops online for clothes for her grand-kids. Do you often shop online, I asked. No, mostly I window shop online, she said sending all of us in a fit of laughter.

Laughter.
This laughter! This picture has got me several compliments over the past few days, and I absolutely love it.

New mother who Google-s Home Decor DIY. Her elder daughter is 4 years old and her younger is 4 months. She takes care of them, of the family and animals (three buffaloes, two goats) and in her free time – which is far and in between – she searches for home decor DIY ideas. We will make our daughters study to become engineers, she told me as she gave food to a new born calf, we don’t want any more kids. Heartwarming, right?

Internet Saathi program in Rajasthan
After learning how to use internet via the Internet Saathi program, this door behind her is result of her art DIY interest.

A farmer’s wife who tailors clothes in her space next to the family buffalo’s area, using stitching patterns and new blouse designs from internet. With the Saathi’s help, she discovered that internet is a ready source for new designs and cloth-cut patterns. Now, armed with a smart phone and internet, she stitches as much as she can and is able to charge more because her designs.

The Internet Saathi program helped her learn new designs and patterns, and now she earns more than before.
The Internet Saathi program helped her learn new designs and patterns, and now she earns more than before.

A young girl who started using a smart phone juts three months back, using “Google It!” as regular lingo. She also learns the delicate art of Mehndi (henna tattoo) from the net, and along with her younger sister, has choreographed dances.

The young girl who told her friend to 'Google it!'. She learns mehndi (henna tattoo) from the internet and is much in demand in the village for Bridal Mehndi.
The young girl who told her friend to ‘Google it!’. She learns mehndi (henna tattoo) from the internet and is much in demand in the village for Bridal Mehndi.

I heard a lot of similar stories, as I mingled in this colorfully dressed group of Rajathani women, and each one filled me with an unexpected feeling of pride mixed with hope.

Internet access and knowledge is one of the way to empower women, and Internet Saathi is special because it helps women help other women in turn. Women empowering women is the best way to achieve balance in today’s fast-moving high-pressure society.

When women support each other, incredible things happen.

And this is exactly what Google India and Tata Trusts are trying to do. And for whatever it’s worth, this initiative has my full support. Also, I want to say on record that I won’t take internet access for granted now, ha.

Happy Women’s Day, ladies!

Keep empowering each other.

 

Post Author: Aditi Mathur Kumar

Author. Traveller. Blogger. Talker. Eavesdropper.

5 thoughts on “A Day With Internet Saathi, A Google Initiative to Help Women in Rural India | International Women’s Day Story

    Kalpanaa

    (March 9, 2017 - 10:20 am)

    Great post Aditi. I loved this concept of Internet Saathi and am truly fascinated by your trip there.

    Vishal Bheeroo

    (March 9, 2017 - 9:52 pm)

    Google Saathi is such a powerful medium to women, lacking access to the windows of the world. It’s a huge empowerment tool to change fortunes and hold the destiny in their own hands. The anecdotes made me smile. Good of you to write about it.

    A book Review on Women’s Day:

    https://vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/indian-women-and-the-shaadi-conundrum-offers-scholarly-in-depth-analysis-of-women-issues/

      Aditi Mathur Kumar

      (March 9, 2017 - 11:29 pm)

      Thank you so much Varun. Yes, this indeed is a good program and I hope Google along with Tata Trusts takes the Internet Saathi initiative ahead, to reach more villages.

    Sathish Arumugam

    (March 13, 2017 - 10:38 pm)

    Hi Aditi,
    Great work. Please take more steps in moving forward. This should spread world wide and help to create awareness about many issues and latest updates. Girl children should be educated is the more important in the rural India.

    Charan Pammi

    (April 26, 2017 - 10:51 am)

    Great work Aditi , Please dont stop these kind of activities , Girl child should be educated and have to perform as like as others
    Hope for the best 🙂

    Thanks

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