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Working Towards Digital Literacy in India

A Simply Transition for Girls: Working Towards Digital Literacy in India

Radhika Iyengar and Pooja Iyengar
|March 7, 2023

March 8 is Worldwide Girls’s Day, a world day celebrating the achievements of girls and pushing for motion to speed up gender parity. In response to the United Nations, this yr’s theme is “innovation and know-how for gender equality.” Beneath, examine how researchers on the Columbia Local weather College’s Heart for Sustainable Growth and the non-profit group Mahashakti Seva Kendra are serving to to show digital abilities to ladies in India. 

Allow us to start with the place we have to go.

In response to the Worldwide Labour Group, a simply transition means “greening the financial system in a approach that’s as honest and inclusive as potential to everybody involved, creating respectable work alternatives and leaving nobody behind.” Sadly, ladies are shedding the battle to accumulate inexperienced abilities and the inexperienced jobs of the long run. The transition we’re discussing is already dropping the phrase “simply.”

Why are ladies shedding the battle for getting expert? Allow us to take a deeper look. The labor statistics in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa present that extra ladies are becoming a member of the casual employment sector. In South Asia, 95% of girls within the labor power are in casual employment. The share for sub-Saharan Africa is 89%.  These massive populations becoming a member of the casual sector are alarming as a result of a lot of the actions carried out might be unpaid and exploitative.

map shows that in India, women make up 19% of the workforce, while men make up 70%

Additional, ladies are at an obstacle within the job market because of the digital divide. The digitization of economies is increasing, however the skilling of girls in STEM and digital literacy  are restricted. A UNICEF literature assessment sheds gentle on the dearth of digital entry and utilization particularly for girls and women, on account of social norms, low ranges of infrastructure, and prices. The report factors out that fifty% of the world’s ladies are offline. In South Asia, ladies are 23% much less doubtless than males to personal a cell phone. This can be a critical drawback with over 90% of jobs worldwide having a digital element.

Within the case for India, there’s a important gender hole within the formal employment sector employment. Girls are dropping out. Our organizations — the Columbia Local weather College’s Heart for Sustainable Growth and the non-profit Mahashakti Seva Kendra — are working collectively to reverse this development.

Mahashakti Seva Kendra (MSK) is a non-profit engaged on offering inexperienced abilities and livelihoods to ladies in Bhopal, India. MSK at the moment affords inexperienced jobs for round 50 ladies who reside in close by re-settlement colonies or slums within the Dwarka Nagar a part of Bhopal. All through the group’s historical past, many ladies have acquired trainings to be taught abilities. The group has been selling a “no extra chemical compounds” message in response to the 1984 Bhopal Gasoline Tragedy, the place an accident in a pesticide plant launched poisonous fuel throughout town. Among the many 800,000 residents of town, it’s estimated that round 2,000 died instantaneously, with over 300,000 bodily injured and as much as 20,000 individuals dying within the aftermath.

The Heart for Sustainable Growth (CSD) labored with MSK to develop a digital literacy curriculum that it first carried out in Mahbubnagar, Telangana. The curriculum helped to bridge the digital gender divide by equipping marginalized younger to middle-aged ladies artisans with 1) technical digital abilities to assist them develop their companies and develop their networks, and a couple of) life abilities to assist them remodel their very own gender biases and perceived limitations. After a fast success at Telangana — underneath the supervision of Srinivas Akula of The Vitality and Sources Institute (one in all our collaborators) — the mannequin was tried in Madhya Pradesh State with MSK with the assistance of the Municipal Company of Bhopal metropolis.

The curricular framework was developed by Haein Shin and Tara Stafford Ocansey at CSD, and was based mostly on work by CSD economist Nirupam Bajpai. Dr. Bajpai has been engaged on an financial improvement mannequin that leverages data, communication and know-how (ICT) to catapult social reforms, particularly in well being and schooling.

Studying periods happened within the MSK-run middle, which is just for ladies, and timings have been designed to suit into their schedules to maximise entry. The ladies-only format relies on findings that girls in India are extra comfy talking freely, experimenting with gadgets, or attending public areas with out males current. Girls in India who do not need entry to computer systems at residence draw back from utilizing men-dominated cyber cafes; thus, this ICT Heart supplies a protected place.

The curriculum included specifically curated audio-visual aids that may assist the individuals relate to and perceive the bigger social ecosystem and inform their eager about biased societal norms. The content material evokes discussions about methods to collaboratively develop the boldness to combat in opposition to injustices in their very own lives. CSD developed frameworks, facilitator guides, and supplies to broach delicate matters utilizing interactive group actions.

The ICT Heart has been working since 2018 with MSK’s Shivani Batham, a teacher-facilitator who has expanded the lesson plans to incorporate Bollywood movie screenings to debate gender matters. The course runs each three months; by now, greater than 100 ladies have graduated from the middle.

women in saris hold a certificate

A commencement ceremony for the latest batch of scholars. Picture: Pooja Iyengar

In response to Shivani, getting ICT abilities is an important requirement for girls to work in authorities service jobs, which many aspire to in India. Nonetheless, on account of a scarcity of entry to computer systems of their faculties and houses, women get disregarded of getting access to digital abilities and employment alternatives. Shivani additionally acquired lots of demand for studying methods to use accounting software program.

It’s simple for her college students to understand digital abilities, Shivani says, however she should work arduous to spice up their confidence. She carried out many confidence-building actions and gender sensitization icebreakers for the ladies to be open to studying pc abilities. Well being data, homework assist for teenagers, and oral English language competency abilities are different well-liked matters which have been added to the curriculum.

The MSK program avoids among the pitfalls and challenges that girls face in attempting to enroll within the Indian authorities’s licensed technical vocational schooling and coaching applications. A research based mostly on interviews with ladies at MSK’s ICT Heart famous that girls wanted permission from their relations, particularly males, to hitch these authorities instructional alternatives. The research additionally revealed that house responsibilities and taking care of the kids was thought of primarily the ladies’s job — subsequently, attending a authorities program with strict hours that require them to be within the classroom throughout busy family work hours can be troublesome. Literacy was additionally a barrier; whereas the MSK ladies knew the essential Hindi language, some have been unable to learn the advanced textual content required for the federal government program. Subsequently, it was simpler for them to be taught on the job and apply whereas additionally incomes some cash from it, which is what the MSK program does.

women pose for a picture outside the school

An alumni meetup lately organized by MSK’s Shivani Batham. Picture: Pooja Iyengar

The research revealed that girls are nonetheless restricted by many patriarchal guidelines and societal obligations. Because of this, ladies who want to get digitally expert and contribute in direction of the inexperienced financial system want a complete ecosystem of assist to entry instructional alternatives. For a very simply transition, we have to open many doorways for girls proper now, with a view to safe  a fairer future.

Radhika Iyengar is director of schooling on the Columbia Local weather College’s Heart for Sustainable Growth.

Pooja Iyengar is chairperson at Mahashakti Seva Kendra.

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