The Maharashtra State Commission For Women has started giving digital training to rural and tribal women to make them self-sufficient. It would help them in using the Internet to pay utility bills, access government schemes, and register complaints online.

To be eligible for the program, all women need is a smartphone. Since November, 50 workshops for 1000 women have been held across Maharashtra. Moreover, encouraged by the participation, the commission aims to organise 450 workshops for one lakh women.

How The Workshops Have Helped Rural Women

The workshops have helped several women come forward and share their experiences. In Maharashtra’s Daregaon village, a 16-year-old girl last month used her phone to register an online complaint. She filed a complaint on the Tejaswini application against a local boy who was sexually harassing her.

In the nearby Ramnagar village, Neeta Nene learned how to upload all identification documents on Digilocker. Neeta’s neighbour Radhika Kishore has learned how to use Google Assistant to learn recipes.

For trainer Usha Shinde, the best outcome has been the motivation it has provided to school girls. Especially two girls aged 15 and 16 in her village Daregaon who registered sexual harassment complaints on the Tejaswani App. They complained against boys from their school who were harassing them. Both could not dare approach the police hence they used the safety app taught to complain.

In Wada, a town in the tribal Palghar district, Akshata More (39) attended the workshop with a notebook and a pen in the hand. She was ready to take notes and was accompanied by 200 women in the Panchayat Hall.

More owns a basic smartphone and knows how to dial a number. She does not understand what the Internet is but however plans to teach her three daughters. Her eldest daughter, aged 18 uses the phone for educational material.

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 A Day Into The Workshop

The session began with the trainer, Komal Jadhav explaining the differences between a basic phone and a smartphone. In addition, she taught the women basic uses of smartphone including taking pictures, connecting to WiFi and setting up wallpaper.

Jadhav then proceeded to the second session which was comparatively more complex. This session comprised of how to download a mobile application. As the trainer, gave the instructions step by step, the women were glued to their screens asking which icons to select. Some without phones made notes to try it on later at home.

Several women had brought their husbands’ phones for the day.

After every workshop, spanning over four hours, the women are added to a WhatsApp group and given daily exercises. Says trainer Usha Shinde, from Jalna, “There is excitement in middle-aged women to learn more. Every day we ask them to try something new on the phone, make a digital payment or scan and upload documents.”’

The Commission has trained 50 women to give digital training, and each is paid Rs 3,000 per session. Tejaswini, Bhim, Aaple Sarkar, Umang, NaMo, and Digilocker apart from Google Assistant are the six apps that the women are taught.

In the nearby Ramnagar village, Neeta Nene learned how to upload all identification documents on Digilocker. Neeta’s neighbour Radhika Kishore has learned how to use Google Assistant to learn recipes.

While the Umang app provides information on 440 government schemes, the Bhim App is useful in making digital payments. Maharashtra’s Aaple Sarkar provides a portal to register complaints against government officials.

The Problems Faced By Rural Women

39-year-old Manasi Sawant, a villager in Palghar, said: “My son knows how to use a smartphone, but never had time to teach me. I want to learn how to make calls, chat on WhatsApp so that I don’t need to rely on my children for help.”

Kamini Waghat (23), who came along with her newborn baby, said learning how to use the Internet will help her family in farming. “There are new techniques on the Internet about farming. We can now use it to improve crop production without relying on the local administration,” she said.

“I want to learn more about farming and how to sell our produce online. There are so many fertilizers to choose from. I thought I can learn how to use the Internet, and teach my husband,” said Archana Sambre (34), a villager in Wada.

Her neighbour Kanchan Palekar (24) is more digital savvy, she knows how to use WhatsApp. “But I want to learn more, all these apps that we can use for payments,” she commented.

The Commission has trained 50 women to give digital training, and each is paid Rs 3,000 per session. Tejaswini, Bhim, Aaple Sarkar, Umang, NaMo, and Digilocker apart from Google Assistant are the six apps that the women are taught.

Tackling The Issue Of Sexual Harassment

The Tejaswani App has been instrumental where women register complaints of sexual or domestic violence or workplace harassment. For trainer Usha Shinde, the best outcome has been the motivation it has provided to school girls. Especially two girls aged 15 and 16 in her village Daregaon who registered sexual harassment complaints on the Tejaswani App. They complained against boys from their school who were harassing them. Both could not dare approach the police hence they used the safety app taught to complain.

Another issue during these sessions is of the NaMo App. Women are taught to operate this app so that they remain abreast of the latest policies of the PM Narendra Modi. However, the app is 50 MB in size and takes up 30-45 minutes to download in poor network regions.

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Image Credits: The Indian Express

Gaurika Taneja is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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