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Monday, July 23, 2018

Sandvik Gender Award for 'Bridging Digital Gender Gap'



Shri Sorath Mahila Vikas Sahkari Samiti (SMVSM), ACFs Women's Federation in Kodinar, has taken home the prestigious Sandvik Gender Award for its work in 'bridging the digital gender gap' in Gujarat.   
This is their powerful story...

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In 2017, Internet penetration in urban India was 64.84% against a mere 20.26% in rural India.  And it was male dominated, with only 29% of online users being female.



Recognizing the advantages of digital literacy to women, in 2015,  ACF, Tata Trusts and Google India, launched a ground-breaking project to bridge this gap. Armed with 2 tablets/smartphones, sim card and charger, an army of 50 women set out on bicycles. Their purpose? To teach rural women to 'surf the net.'



But road blocks came in their way. Local men didn't believe women could learn technology! Wasn't ACF better off to teach young people how to use the internet?  Their trust wasn't gained until they saw tangible results. Manishaben had abandoned her saree business when travelling costs to purchase stock made it unviable.  But with internet at her fingertips, she dealt direct with wholesalers - ordering via WhatsApp, paying on net-banking.  Today her profit is up to Rs 1000 per saree.



The men were on board - some buying smartphones for their girls so they could earn too.  But whilst women were curious, they doubted themselves.  Many didn't even own a phone, let alone smartphone. But they saw the internet opening doors and their confidence grew.  Anitaben stumbled upon the 'Manasvini' scheme - where women were selected to distribute sanitary napkins. Today she earns Rs 10,000 monthly as the local coordinator.



Word of the internet spread rapidly.  In 2015, 50 Internet Saathis reached 7000 women. But by 2017, 130 Internet Saathis trained over 1 lakh women - now 'tech savvy' ladies! Best of all, they can buy their own smartphones now!

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Of course this is just one program of many!  The ACF supported Federation, comprising over 6000 members, has also played an instrumental role in helping vast numbers of women achieve financial independence, whilst mobilsing them to tackle various social issues including alcoholism, domestic violence, sanitation and widow discrimination.

In the rigorous selection process, SMVSM was selected as one of 24 finalists out of the 384 applicants, and was later declared the winner in the Community Organisation category. The award was presented to Ms. Motiben Chavda, Director, SMVSM by Sindhutai Sapkal, a renowned Indian social worker and activist.

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