Access to Digital technology is not just sufficient, equally important is to learn the use of the tool effectively. For the rural women at Chakan, connectivity, public transport and lack of awareness of Digital technology are major challenges. Digital Empowerment Program on using digital technology as a tool for communication has made an impact to increase participation at the village level in Savardhari, Shindethackerwasti, Varale and Bhambhooli. Comfort and ease of using mobile phones have encouraged communication, thereby saving time and costs. Going ahead, Self Help Group Leaders have started using digital technology to maintain their Self Help Group registers and bank accounts too.
Meet Sangita and her daughter Neelam. Sangita is the Forbes Marshall multipurpose worker at Bhambooli village. During one of our monitoring visits, when Neeta asked Sangita to note down the names of the women interested in tailoring, we realised she could not read or write. She asked Neeta to rewrite the list on a piece of paper and she would request one of the women to read out the names.
Seeing a mobile phone with Sangita, I asked her what does she use it for. She smiled and said that she uses it to make phone calls. I requested Neeta to share the list through WhatsApp and got Sangita to start utilising her “Smartphone” as a tool to overcome the challenges that she faced due to her limited ability to read and write.
During the monitoring visit in May 2019, we noticed Sangita could now use the smartphone comfortably to co-ordinate with the Neeta and Group Leaders. “Digitally Empowered Sangita” shared that by memorising the patterns of numbers/words, she is able to call the right person. Her daughter, Neelam, who is studying in the 9th standard helps her save the contacts.
Visiting her home gave us new insights. Sangita’s is a woman headed household where she lives with her daughter and mother in a two-room house. Sangita, 35 years old, was widowed at the age of 25. She manages a small “tapari” (grocery store) on the highway with confidence. She shared with pride that not being literate was never a problem that she faced. A confident Sangita now has even better communication skills and shares an excellent rapport with the community.