POSTED January 9, 2018
Working together to give marginalized people a voice
New initiatives in India with changemakers, including Tata Trusts and Google India, are bringing women and children together
By Patrick Canagasingham, CEO
We need to work together. That was the alert (not appeal) António Guterres, secretary-general to the United Nations, issued as we rang in the new year. He was imploring global leaders to bridge divides and bring people together in this increasingly volatile world we call home.
Indeed, we need to break down systemic barriers and make change together in areas of conflict and peace. Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) seeks to help those in need every day as we work in global communities across 12 countries.
I visited some of these communities just before the holidays, specifically our program areas in India.
I saw how cultural practices are preventing people from achieving their full potential and ultimately pushing their economy forward. I’m talking about gender-based stereotypes and castes (class systems) where the lowest “Dalit” people are segregated, even though the practice was abolished in 1950.
The good news is we’re making inroads. I saw how CCFC is working with peer groups to raise awareness about issues. In fact, I met Supriya (pictured above), a girl from a Dalit community in rural Andhra Pradesh and her peers who are advocating against child, early and forced marriage and its impact.
There’s also big change happening online where there’s staggering stats to back up the need.
Case in point: India has the world’s second-largest Internet population, with more than 450-million users, yet only 30 percent of those users are women, according to the India-based, Internet and Mobile Association of India. Despite the large user-base, Internet access is limited and not perceived to be valuable to women.
So, I’m buoyed by the Internet Saathi (friend) project we’re joining to fund in India with the country’s Tata Trusts and Google India. It’s bringing the Internet to 15 districts through 15 partners working in 4,000 villages with more than 1,000 women who will receive training to become “digital agents of change” or “Internet Saathis.”
Training these women on digital devices is the first step — the second will be when they share their knowledge with 700,000 more women, creating a chain reaction.
On the back of this project, participants will also learn the dangers of early forced marriage as well as the advantages of keeping girls in school, further highlighting our goal to break down cultural barriers.
Ultimately, partnering in this initiative will unleash digital entrepreneurs to build careers. They’ll act as agents for outreach on behalf of enterprises, they’ll deliver market intelligence and work in online sales, among other jobs.
The joint project, which began with Tata Trusts and Google in 2015, is quite a feat. It’s creating awareness in rural communities about the Internet and its benefits, it’s building digital literacy and it’s creating the largest digitally connected rural network in the country.
And, women are excited by what the Internet is doing in their lives. They’re finding stitching techniques to start or grow businesses, they’re enjoying new recipes and they’re using the Internet to advocate for change.
It’s further proof collaboration is a sure-fire way to make a real, sustainable difference in hundreds of thousands of lives.