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