Aspirations, Access & Agency: Women transforming lives with technology
Alongside the green shoots of post-pandemic recovery, growth, and optimism, a silent revolution is underway — a digital India has emerged even as we battled COVID-19. Women are at the heart of this upsurge in the demand for information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Published by Reliance Foundation and Observer Research Foundation, Aspirations, Access & Agency, Women transforming lives with technology tells the stories of women leaders who have emerged as agents of technological change and socioeconomic inclusion by using technology to help their communities build better futures. Each story narrates a woman’s leadership journey and explores how she evolved as a digital enabler — banking the unbanked, connecting people to essential e-services, facilitating access to welfare schemes, promoting entrepreneurship, using tech to strengthen livelihoods, advocating for e-health, and much more. This compendium aims to raise awareness about these women’s exemplary work. It also seeks to demonstrate the transformational impact ICTs could have on communities and governance.
The lived experiences of these women show the importance of policy initiatives that support digital literacy and skilling, such as the National Digital Literacy Mission, the National Skill Development Mission, and the recently launched Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood. These women’s stories demonstrate how successful policy implementation and access to technology can drive change.
An e-Dost (digital friend) from Pathardi hamlet in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, Anjali Vajre is using tech solutions to help her village with its banking and utility needs.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Guna district, Archana Sen has identified and trained 100 women entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses using digital tools.
At her village in West Bengal’s Nadia district, Bithika Biswas, who leads a cooperative of over 300 self-help groups, is using smartphones to democratise access to information.
Kajal and Sajida Khan
In Haryana’s Mewat district, Kajal and Sajida Khan are using digital storytelling to bring change and help the local community.
Fostering and catalysing community development, Nirmala Kumari is working towards enhancing mobile literacy among rural women in Bihar.
Digital literacy has helped Nisha Ben, a volunteer with Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Bharat, in realising her dream as a homestay manager in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag.
A digital champion with women’s collectives, Pramila Krishna is using technology to help tribal women expand their businesses of selling forest products in Odisha’s Koraput.
She facilitates the working of the Community Forest Rights Management Committees across the panchayats in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj, ensuring one-third participation of women in decision-making as mandated by the government.
Priya Ravindra Chamat
A grameen mittra (friend of the village) from Maharashtra’s Bhandara district, Priya Ravindra Chamat, is helping women access formal financial systems and bypass systemic challenges.
Priya Prakash Mali
In Maharashtra’s Raigad district, Priya Prakash Mali is working with Haqdarshaka social enterprise in helping create livelihoods for women for ensuring that the excluded are linked to basic social security benefits.
A community leader on issues of hygiene and water access, Ramamani Sahoo, is on a mission to clean Bhubaneswar district’s Ekamra Vihar.
At her village in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district, Sapna Jha is using digital literacy to aid a cultural shift for women.
In Kanpur Nagar district, Sapna Singh, who has fought against all odds to set up her own dairy, is training women in making online transactions.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Shahdol district, Seetu Yadav has leveraged her knowledge of technology to assist women’s education and livelihood.
Singmila Kapai Langkan
In 2019, Singmila Kapai Langkan had launched her enterprise of handcrafted organic soaps and shampoos using the local herbs of Manipur with a Facebook page.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal district, Somti Gathiya is encouraging women to earn a living and be more aware of their rights.
In Rajasthan’s Kujti village, Sushila Devi is working on tackling two complicated issues simultaneously: encouraging women to have access to mobile phones and increasing menstrual health awareness.
From registering people for COVID-19 inoculations on the CoWIN platform, to booking their train tickets through an app, Tanushree Das is making the life of those in her community easier.
In Andhra Pradesh’s Kothapalem village, Tulasi Yeraveda has been instrumental in encouraging women to enrol in self-help groups, and teaching them skills needed to function effectively as a collective.
This book would not have been possible without the unstinting support of several partner institutions: Anudip Foundation, BAIF Development Research Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Centre for Advocacy and Research, Centre for Youth and Social Development, Development Alternatives, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Digital Green, Friends of Women’s World Banking, Grameen Foundation India, Gram Vaani, Haqdarshak, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, PRADAN, SEWA Bharat, Solidaridad, Technoserve, USAID, and ZMQ Development.
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