At Google, we believe when people get online, good things happen. However, there are still lots of people around the world who don’t have access to the internet - and most of them are women. In India alone, only 30% of Internet users are women. In rural India, only 1 in 10 internet users is a woman.
Google is determined to bridge this gender gap by enabling women in villages to use the Internet for their own benefit and the benefit of their communities. In July 2015, Google India partnered with Tata Trusts and launched Internet Saathi to equip women in villages across India with basic Internet skills and provide them with Internet-enabled devices. These "Saathis" then go on to train their neighbors and women in nearby villages to access and use the Internet to find information online about topics such as government schemes, health, and weather. This training starts a cycle of education, positively impacting the young and rural population throughout India.
Check out the stories of four inspiring Saathis below!
The Story of Sarita
Sarita, a mother of two teenage sons, is an extremely empowered lady. About ten years ago, her husband fell ill and, due to a hip injury, could not continue to work. Sarita took charge and started tending to her farm and looking after her family.
While she had heard about the Internet, Sarita’s first interaction with it was when she attended the Internet Saathi training in her village. At the training, she used a smartphone for the first time, learning how to swipe left and right, curious to see a phone working without any buttons. After a day, she was able to conduct her first search — the weather in Dholpur for the coming week. As she got more comfortable, she started searching on the Internet for all sorts of farming and cattle related information, leading to a 50% increase in her farm field.
Today, Sarita goes from village to village helping women learn about the Internet. She’s helped women learn about Rajasthan's welfare schemes like the Bhamashah Yojana, which offers medical reimbursements. Her own family has applied for the Shauchalaya Yojana — the toilet-building sanitation scheme. “When I first started talking to women about the Internet, they weren’t sure why they should learn. Today, they come to me asking me for help and I feel happy I can”, says Sarita as she settles down for a training lesson.
Usha, helping her community increase their income
Usha lives with her husband, their son and daughter, and her husband’s extended family. Many women in Usha’s village work as seamstresses, stitching blouses, bags and other such items for a living. Once Usha got a hang of using the Internet, she started looking for blouse designs online. She’s shared this knowledge with the women in her village, providing them with inspiration and techniques to do higher quality work.
As a result of Usha’s work, her community has begun to flourish: Munni now makes more money through the clothes she stitches. She is engaged to get married and working hard to gather money for the big occasion. Raja Beti has been married for a year and is using the Internet to find new recipes and cook different food for her family. A relative of one of Usha’s students learned how to make ‘chowmein’ and has opened a ‘dhaba’ on the highway near their village, making extra money with his food shop.
The two sides to Phoolwati
Phoolwati belongs to a relatively backward village. While she is admired by women and is training to get online, her own family doesn’t share her sense of pride. She has to follow all traditional norms expected from a daughter-in-law, like sitting on the ground while the rest of the family sits on an elevated platform and keeping her face covered in front of the family men. Phoolwati has no qualms. After all, this is a tradition, and she’s seen women in her village follow the same practices.
But Phoolwati has another side to her: the Internet Saathi side. Ever since she understood the power of the Internet and its use, she’s been looking for ways to help others in and around her village. Phoolwati helps schoolgirls get information about their exam centers, dates and results. The two-hour travel time to the district center has been replaced with a ten-minute walk to Phoolwati’s house.
Phoolwati’s biggest test came when some women asked for her help to shut an alcohol shop in the village. People were getting drunk and causing a nuisance for anyone living close by or walking past the store. Gathering information online, Phoolwati mobilized village support and was able to get the store shut down, creating a huge change for everyone in the village.
Bujji is 28-year-old mother of two daughters. She lost her husband a few years ago, and has been raising the family by herself. When she appeared for the Internet Saathi trainer test, some of the other contenders tried to dissuade her, saying people would not readily learn from her. Bujji persisted, went on to become a Saathi and is now one of the most popular people in her village.
She’s using the Internet to teach English to the children in her village orphanage. She helped her neighbour, Nagalakshmi, look for new blouse designs online, helping her make more money.
Watch the video below to see Bujji and the power of the Internet bring a change in not just Bujji’s life, but those around her.