Women on the Web

Launched by Google in as­so­ci­a­tion with Tata Trusts, the In­ter­net Saathi ini­tia­tive has em­pow­ered over two mil­lion women.

India Today - - CITY BUZZ - By Moeena Halim

Khoparde vil­lage, about three

hours from Pune, is not a place of mud houses, hand pumps or open defe­ca­tion. They get elec­tric­ity 24 hours a day, they have pub­lic toi­lets, a fully func­tional school within the vil­lage and sev­eral col­leges at a five kilo­me­tre dis­tance. And seven months ago, they were also in­tro­duced to the many ben­e­fits of the In­ter­net through the In­ter­net Saathi ini­tia­tive.

Launched by Google in as­so­ci­a­tion with Tata Trusts, the ini­tia­tive has been in­tro­duced across ten states and most re­cently in Ma­ha­rash­tra. It has en­abled two mil­lion women across ru­ral In­dia to learn to use the In­ter­net. Des­ig­nated In­ter­net Saathis, cho­sen for their re­source­ful­ness, en­thu­si­asm and will­ing­ness to spread the word, are given a smart­phone and trained to use the In­ter­net to its op­ti­mal. Su­jata Budhe, the In­ter­net Saathi at Khoparde vil­lage, has in seven months man­aged to reach out to 1,000 women in her vil­lage as well as the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages she vis­its be­cause of her job as an ASHA (ac­cred­ited so­cial health ac­tivists) worker. “When I first be­gan seven months ago, I didn’t re­ally know how to use the in­ter­net my­self. Now I’ve taught so many women. And the nearby vil­lages I haven’t been able to reach out to yet are con­stantly ask­ing me when I’m go­ing to pay them a visit,” she ex­claims.

Most women in Khoparde vil­lage don’t have a cell phone of their own. The one smart­phone in the house usu­ally be­longs to the hus­bands. But thanks to Budhe, it is of­ten the women of the home who are on top of the game when it comes to us­ing the In­ter­net. “The lo­cal seam­stresses look up de­signs on­line. They’re con­stantly teach­ing them­selves through the Web,” re­veals Budhe. An­other Khoparde res­i­dent Vaishali Naik gets fi­nan­cial help on­line, while Smita Kashid looks up recipes to make pizza, burger and cake in a pres­sure cooker. They may not know how to type, but Budhe has taught them how to use Google’s voice search, which re­sponds in Marathi too. As an ASHA worker, the In­ter­net has helped Budhe tremen­dously. “When an ac­ci­dent vic­tim was in des­per­ate need of blood, I used the in­ter­net to find out about the near­est blood bank in Satara,” she re­veals. The search saved his life and it’s a story that per­fectly ex­em­pli­fies the im­por­tance of the In­ter­net.

Women of Khoparde vil­lage learn­ing how to use the In­ter­net

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