The internet has made its way into the urban societies and now is seeping increasingly into the rural areas as well. The accessibility of phones in rural India has opened up new avenues. Rural women are not aloof from this miraculous technology and are in fact using it to their benefit. Starting with Whatsapp and Facebook, women in rural areas are seen searching recipes or artwork, etc. on YouTube and upgrading their skills.
Skill enhancement and knowledge consumption are two of the many by-products of the Internet. Social media and online news platforms are tools for knowledge consumption from the net. Videos and podcasts help enhance skill learning from online material. Given the illiteracy level in our country, visual media has a higher consumption rate, especially in rural India.
Organisations empowering women through the internet
Organisations like Change.org and Graam vaani, an initiative by students of IIT Delhi in 2009, are using the power of the internet in transforming the lives of the people of rural India. The initiative Saathi, run by Google has delivered a very positive output. According to an article in Mint, the ‘internet saathis’ have helped over 15 million rural women across the country out of which 50% claim that their economic conditions have improved. Women are running businesses such as selling potato chips with help from the internet. They even teach their kids through the help of the internet to build experiments for Science Olympiad.
Time Utilization for women
Videos and audios via internet help women gain a new set of skills almost immediately. Their free time is properly utilized and the economic independence gained by converting skills into income helps them assert their power in their domestic spheres as well. Also, the removal of middlemen in the selling process increases connectedness and awareness between the consumer and the producer.
Sanju Devi, a 40-year-old handicraft artist from Bihar, uses Whatsapp to export pictures of her handicraft to parts of India and abroad. Her phone bills estimate to around 300 to 1000 rupees a month. For her, Whatsapp has provided her with the convenience of running a successful enterprise from home. She has also become independent of her children who moved out from home to study.
Rather than a group of self indulgent Instagrammers we find a contrary and powerful force of women, using the net, to learn and harbour a skill set to make themselves economically independent.
What do the statistics say?
These stories of women empowerment, feel like a short rain pour in the arid zone of crimes and gender disparity. A report by Boston Consulting Group says by 2020 half of the internet users will be from rural India out of which 40% will be women. The cultural barriers have restricted rural women from getting an easy access to mobile phones. The cost of mobile phones and the freedom it offers is too much for our patriarchal societies to offer.
However, the affordability of phones now is and will impact the flow of technology in a positive direction.
Rachna Chandira is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv