letter from the editorial team

Dear Readers,

We celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 through a daylong social media campaign. We used #MainHoon as the Twitter hashtag to highlight the arduous journey every woman has to undertake just to come on to her own, irrespective of her social class and standing.

That being said, we celebrate women every single day at Digital Empowerment Foundation. We believe that they are the driving force of society and everything flows from them. Once you impart knowledge to a woman, you can rest assured that it will naturally flow into the social consciousness.

We understood very early that constructive impact at the grassroots could only take place through women’s empowerment. History proves that societies that have subjugated women have not evolved. Unfortunately, in India we have a number of instances where women and girls have been restricted from accessing mobile phones over one pretext or the other. However, these instances are also offset by some very inspiring stories that keep our faith alive. We would like to recount two inspiring stories from our Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC) programme.

Nusrath Bano was only 11 years old when she started work at a saree mill to support her family when her father died. Her mother wanted her to dropout of school, but Nusrath refused and worked hard to pay her tuition fees. She was ultimately successful in completing a Bachelor of Computer Applications and is today working as a trainer at our CIRC in Nagavara village of Bengaluru district in Karnataka. She is currently providing computer literacy training to over 100 students.

Somti Gathiya’s keen interest in learning computers paved the way for her to be selected as a woman

entrepreneur of the CIRC based in her Raipur village of Betul district in Madhya Pradesh. Her curiosity and dedication made her excel in the class although her formal education was limited. Today Somti is in charge of digital literacy in her village. She wants to make her village a Smart Village.

We celebrated women’s day by singing paeans to Nusrath and Somti, and many others like them who are not letting societal prejudices and hurdles stop them from moving ahead in life. We believe digital empowerment is about access to information. And information is power. An ill-informed person is like a dead person walking. A well-informed society is an evolving society.

In the past 3-4 years, social media has revolutionized the way information is shared. Facebook and Twitter have become prime media for outreach during distress and natural disasters as was evident during Nepal earthquake and Chennai floods, or for mobilizing people for protests.

When we started the Social Media for Empowerment Awards three years ago, people were just beginning to grasp its potential. In retrospect, it seems like a visionary move. We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of entries every year. This year we received 266 entries from eight South Asian countries. This means innovation is on the rise, even though incrementally.

Cover Story
You teach a man, you teach a man. You teach a woman, you teach a generation

Since March 8 is International Women’s Day, it is only appropriate that we celebrate women throughout the month. We at Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) decided celebrate the annual occasion by sharing stories of women achievers and believers from across our 150 regional centers in the country.

This year’s theme for the International Women’s Day was Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality. In line with that, we decided to reflect upon how we as an organisation have helped individuals, societies and communities to move towards gender parity in whatever way — big or small.

Our introspection resulted in a book titled Digital Roshini (see image on left). The illustrated book put the spotlight on stories of 25 women who shared how their lives and perceptions have changed since DEF’s digital intervention. What they also share, which has been beautifully shown through this book, is how they will raise their daughters, and it will be different from the way they were raised. It was revealing how their approaches have changed dramatically.

The book was launched during a daylong social media campaign to discuss the impact digital inclusion can have on women. As part of the campaign, we launched a short video with the message---women will rise despite their struggles.

Over 1.7 billion females do not own a mobile phone in low and middle-income countries, according a report by Connected Women. It states that women in Asia are 38% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. This is a huge gap that must be filled at the earliest. Read More


Knowledge Hub & Database

SM4E feliciates 19 Winners & 4 Special Mentions
Nineteen initiatives were announced Winners and four others received Special Mentions at the Social Media for Empowerment Awards 2016 amid much discussion, debate, networking and celebration. On March 15, 2016, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) — with the strategic partnership of Twitter — organised the 3rd Social Media for Empowerment Awards and Summit at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Earlier in the day, a packed house was welcomed for the inaugural session by DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar who broke some myths with his first few sentences. Read more
‘Individual Rights & Social Media’ leaves a lot to think about
DEF and FNF organised a 90-minute panel discussion that brought together some pre-eminent thinkers and academics of the individual’s rights in the digital medium, specifically on the topics of access, openness, security, privacy, policy, regulation and ethics. The panel, titled ‘Individual Rights and Social Media’, was planned as part of the 3rd Social Media f or Empowerment (SM4E) Awards organised by DEF, and hosted at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on March 15, 2016. Moderated by Mint Editor R Sukumar, the power-packed panel shared some very interesting and enlightening views. Read more
Nominations are now open for mBillionth Awards 2016
mBillionth Awards has launched its 7th edition to explore, recognise and honour excellence in the field of mobile innovations, applications and content services for development and empowerment across South Asia. We are now accepting nominations for mBillionth Awards 2016. If you are the brain behind an innovative mobile app or technology that is empowering the masses across our 10 categories, then nominate your initiative by logging on to www.mbillionth.in. mBillionth Awards is platform that was first launched by DEF in 2010 to pick best practices across South Asia. Read more

Research & Advocacy

Human rights activists attend ICT training in Bhubaneswar
Buddhadeb Halder and Rajat Kumar from DEF’s Research and Advocacy wing were invited by the Civil Society Forum on Human Rights, Bhubaneswar, to deliver a training on ‘The use of ICTs for human rights monitoring, campaign & advocacy’ from March 8-10, 2016. This training focused on the use of ICT and digital tools to protect human rights activists and furthering their cause. The broad areas covered in the training were Digital Security for Human Rights Defenders; Using ICTs for Monitoring and Advocacy; Digital Strategies for Campaigning; Crowd Sourcing for Development; Domain for Development – Empowering Organisations with Digital Tools.

Enterprise & Markets

Kiran aspires to open a multiskilling training centre
Kiran Kumari lives in Mansoorpur town of Bihar. She is the trainer and coordinator at CIRC Mansoorpur. Kiran (28) and her husband Raghav have been consistently working towards the upliftment of her community. A runaway couple spent their initial years after marriage at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan. There, Raghav used his experience of running an illegal community radio station in Mansoorpur to help the College set up a legal community radio station. Kiran, on the other hand, learnt solar engineering and had soon become a pro at making solar lamps, solar cookers and other solar-powered devices. Read more
Fareeda wants to share Ammi’s jam with the world
Fareeda Isaac (47) is a social entrepreneur from Puducherry. As a dynamic social worker, Fareeda began her journey in 2005 when she created a women’s only self-help group (SHG) in Orleanpet region of Puducherry. Soon, she had formed two more SHGs. Once every month, she would organise a meeting with each SHG at her house and give them training on efficient budgeting and micro-finance. By 2009, Fareeda was working with over 100 SHGs in and around Puducherry. She also regularly organised training sessions on producing handmade goods such as soaps, mats, toys, fashion accessories and recycling waste cloth. Read more
Somti is determined to make Raipur a Smart Village
Somti Gathiya, a resident of Raipur village in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, was a facilitator of a SHG supported by a local NGO called Pradan. She was extremely fond of the NGO’s wors and dreamt of handling bigger responsibilities. However, a middle school dropout, Somti deemed herself under-qualified to ever pursue her dream. A year ago, when she came to know about an integrated digital resource centre being run by DEF in her village, she was delighted. She could see an opportunity knocking on her door but she was terrified to even touch a laptop. Read more
Digital designing classes commence under project DigiKala
On March 3, 2016, digital designing classes were started under DigiKala, a project initiated by DEF and Microsoft in Barpali and Nuapatna clusters of Odisha. The first batch of 20 students from the weaver community, who have completed a basic computer digital literacy course, have begun learning textile designing through CAD/CAM software. DigiKala has so far registered 200 students that are divided into 10 batches receiving basic digital literacy. Meanwhile, students from the centre recently organised a street play on the ‘The importance of computer literacy in the society’ to mobilise the community.
Digital literacy starts in Saidanpur
Basic digital literacy classes have now started in Saidanpur, Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, which has been selected by DEF, in partnership with Ericsson, to introduce digital interventions in an effort to uplift the weaver community. At present, 78 individuals are being trained at the integrated digital resource centre, which is equipped with 10 computers, a printer-scanner, a photo printer and a digital camera. Mobilisation drives are underway to enroll 100 more students this month. Meanwhile, eight access nodes have been identified in the village to provide Internet connectivity under ‘Wireless for Communities’.
Digital interventions give boost to local businesses
Nestled in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Avani is a community built on the principles of sustainability and local empowerment. Avani (meaning earth), the organisation, was founded in 1997, originally as the Kumaon chapter of the Barefoot College. In 1999, Avani was formally registered as a non-profit organisation. Avani also runs an eCommerce Portal, Earth Craft, that is powered by the eNGO network of DEF like its parents website Avani. Earth Craft is a platform to display the elegance of these naturally dyed natural fiber textiles handcrafted by rural artisans living and working in magnificent Kumaon Himalayas.

Access & Infrastructure

CIRC Halduchaur participates at Swarozgar Mela
Swarozgar Mela (self-employment fair) was organised at CIRC Halduchaur in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, on February 10, 2016, to encourage people to become self-employed and show them new prospects of livelihood. Cabinet Minister Harish Chandra Durgapal was the Chief Guest at the event while other special guests included District Officer Shri Deepak Rawat, SDM Shri Pankaj Upadhayay, Mandi Committee President Shri Sumit Hardesh as well as the local partner of CIRC Halduchaur, Shri Ravindra Sharma. Local CIRC coordinator Naval and trainer Kamla also participated at the fair to introduce people to CIRC and encourage them to enrol for digital literacy.
Women in Dhanpur learn about the importance of digital literacy
On February 15, 2016, dCIRC Dahod in Gujarat organised an awareness rally in Dhanpur village in partnership with anganwadi workers and local self-help group Vanita Sangathan. The main objective of the rally was to generate awareness about digital literacy among the people of the village. The rally garnered the support of 80 women who went around the village, calling slogans and distributing pamphlets to educate people about the dCIRC and the digital services it offers to the people at affordable rates. The rally was successfully led by leaders of local organisations and staff of dCIRC Dahod.
Haryana’s Mewat district welcomes its first CIRC in Tain
District Mewat in Haryana got its first CIRC on February 20, 2016. The CIRC was established in Tain village, and inaugurated by the former Director of Finance (Delhi) RN Chandelia and UNICEF Media Coordinator Gazali. The inauguration was attended by several other dignitaries and local organisations’ representatives who expressed their happiness at the start of an initiative which will not only provide digital literacy but also various digital services. Ahead of the launch, Zakir — from the Delhi team — and Mohd Arif — the newly appointed CIRC Tain centre coordinator — mobilised the local community to enrol for digital literacy.
Kesla hosts a fair for tribal women’s empowerment
An elaborate village fair was organised at Kesla block in district Hoshangabad of Madhya Pradesh on February 23, 2016. More than 10,000 women participated in this fair, which gave Hoshangabad network of CIRCs a great opportunity to spread awareness, especially among tribal women, about the importance of digital literacy. A CIRC stall was set up at this fair, and it managed to attract a huge audience. Besides informing women about CIRCs, the stall provided them with digital services such as photocopy, photography and application submission for government entitlements. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was also present.
Mahila Sammelan an eye opener for women in Nichalagarh
CIRC Nichalagarh in Sirohi district of Rajasthan organised a Mahila Sammelan on earlier this month to commemorate International Women’s Day. The day-long event saw several sessions, ranging from awareness on CIRC and availing digital services to educating people on the importance of e-Mitra, the common services centre. The issue of alcoholism, as a public health menace, was also addressed during the conference. Over 250 people, including representative from village governing bodies and administration, were present at the sammelan, which was followed by an evening of folk dance and music dedicated to womanhood.
CIRC Srikulam hosts a workshop on mushroom cultivation
CIRCs across the country have been adopting unique approaches to offer new knowledge to the local community. Keeping up with the trend, centre coordinator Benny Srinivas at CIRC Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, organised a workshop, on March 5, for the local farming community on the cultivation of ‘milky mushroom’. Milky mushroom is a low investment all-season crop and has significant demand in the market. Benny, with his first-hand experience of mushroom cultivation, provided information to the farmers while underscoring the advantages of mushroom farming. The CIRC is planning to conduct more such workshops soon.
dCIRC Angara organises women empowerment conference
Commemorating International Women’s Day, dCIRC Angara in Ranchi, Jharkhand, organised Mahila Sashaktikaran Sammelan on March 8, 2016. The programme was graced by the presence of the panchayat heads of Saram and Bariyatu — Kiran Devi and Subala Devi, respectively. Speech-giving competition was held on topics related to women empowerment and social issues such as ‘Save the Girl Child’ and ‘End Child Marriage’, among others. Women also sang songs of empowerment, and discussed strategies to build a future founded on equality and safety for women. About 100 women and 15 SHGs attended the sammelan.
Women’s Day celebrated with great vigour across CIRCs
The 41st International Women’s Day was celebrated with great fervour across the country at CIRCs on March 8, 2016. CIRCs at various locations either co-organised or participated in meets, conferences, rallies and fairs dedicated to women, marking the onset of celebrations days in advance. The main agenda at each of these events was to disseminate the objective of educating women on their rights and encouraging them to stand for their rights and empowerment. Many centres revelled the day by cutting cakes and conducted activities or games in which women participated with great enthusiasm. Read more
Chandauli home to 2,890 digitally literate individuals
The once underserved village of Chandauli can now boast of 2,890 digitally literate persons, courtesy DEF’s implementation of the Minority Cyber Gram Yojana (MCGY). In late 2013, the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the government of India decided to launch MCGY. The objective was to provide basic digital infrastructure, Internet access, digital literacy and information services related to citizen entitlements in minority concentrated areas, beginning with Chandauli village in Alwar district of Rajasthan. The ultimate aim was to mainstream such minority groups and communities towards digital and development inclusion along with rest of the country. Read more

Governance & Entitlements

Soochna Seva celebrates Women’s Day with special baithaks
On March 8, 2016, Soochna Seva commemorated ‘International Women’s Day’ at all its Soochna Seva kendras. A range of activities took place at various target locations such as aaganwadi centres, primary health centres, community health centre, government schools and gram choupal. These activities were conducted with diverse audience such as students, school principals, aaganwadi workers, ASHA workers, self-help groups, villagers and the pradhan (village head). The team also launched a day-long campaign on its social media platforms to share women-oriented impact stories under the Soochna Seva project with as many people as possible. Read more
Sevaks encourage troubled mother to send kids to school
Our local Soochna Sevaks were at a bank in Itki block of Ranchi, Jharkhand, when they bumped into Sangeeta Kerketta (38) whose husband Sanjay is suffering from paralysis. A mother of five, Sangeeta is not just troubled by her husband’s ailment but also by financial difficulties that have forced her to send away her two eldest daughters to live with relatives. Our team gave her courage and convinced her to enroll her youngest son and daughter at a primary school. The Soochna Sevaks helped fill out the forms and the children were at Sr. Ignas Balika School the next day.
‘Tumne bahot achcho karo bhaiya’
The old age pension that Ratan Lal, a poor man of Pardichak village, used to receive was stopped unexpectedly in July 2015. He filed several applications but, as he could not read or write fluently, his forms were rejected every time on account of some error or the other. He finally decided to approach Soocha Seva where Rajpal Kewat helped him file a complete application form following which the gram panchayat secretary issued Ratan’s Life Certificate to the bank. Ratan now receives his pension regularly. He recently met Rajpal and said, “Tumne bahot achcho karo bhaiya!”
The 100-day Jawabdehi Yatra comes to an end
March 10, 2016, marked the last day of the 100-day Jawabdehi Yatra. Thousands of people participated in the concluding march in Jaipur from the Albert Hall to the Vidhan Sabha, demanding a strong Accountability Law. DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar, who participated in the Yatra on multiple occasions, was also in the rally. He said, “The Yatra has generated almost 9,000 grievances from people across all strata of lives in the villages, putting tremendous pressure on the government and emphasizing that without an Accountability Law, optimum delivery of entitlements and services to citizens may never be possible. Read more

Social Sector & CSO

200 NGOs trained and 35 validated at ‘Domain for Development’
With an aim to build the digital capacity for non-profits, DEF’s eNGO Programme frequently organises ‘Domains for Development’ workshops. Last month, two workshops were organised in New Delhi (in partnership with the Federation for Education Development) and in Udaipur (with the Astha Sansthan) on February 13 and 16, 2016, respectively. On March 4, another was conducted in Kolkata with CINI as local partner. Overall, 200 NGOs have been trained through these three workshops and 35 have been validated with the .ngo domain. Four more are scheduled for Mumbai, Bettiah, Lucknow and Bahraich. Visit www.engo.ngo for more.
52 Parindey covers 6,745 km and 17 locations
Rahul Karanpuriya, who’s on an adventurous and challenging journey to travel for 52 weeks across 52 locations to find 52 individuals involved in eco-careers, has so far found 17 ‘parindey’. Their stories are shared through the project’s official website, Facebook and Twitter. After starting the journey in November, Rahul has travelled across Delhi, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, recording a total of 6,745 km on his odometer. He will continue his journey till he finds all his 52 parindey. The project is supported by DEF and backed by the Swaraj University and Swapthgami.
Regular Features

Cyber Champ of the Month

Aaghaz-e-Dosti is forging friendship across border
A brainchild of Aliya Harir and Saraya Islam, Aaghaz-e-Dosti won the Social Media for Empowerment Award 2016 in the Communication, Advocacy & Development Activism in New Delhi on March 15, 2016. Started in 2012, Aaghaz-e-Dosti is involved in peace bolding and conflict resolution by facilitating people-to-people contact, challenging hatred and suspicion, creating a culture of peace among the people of both the countries, and highlighting issues of victims of conflicts. Aaghaz-e-Dosti is a joint initiative of the Catalyst and India-based youth group Mission Bhartiya. Read more

e-NGO of the month

Empowering the youth through skill development
Yuva Vikas Samiti was formally registered on October 17, 2007. As the name suggests, the organisation is focused towards training and upgrading skills rural youth, besides providing support to services like health care, technical inputs and market linkages, among others. At present, Yuva Vikas Samiti is working directly and indirectly in three districts — Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar and Siddharth Nagar — of Uttar Pradesh. Akshaya Project, Qualitative Basic Education, Library and Reading Room, National Environment and Awakening Programme and Mahila Sashakti Karan are the projects that the organisation has implemented in the three districts. To know more, visit yvsindia.ngo

Scheme of the Month

Creating a better space for women in India
Janani Suraksha Yojana is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and neo-natal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among the poor pregnant women. The government has appointed ASHA workers to do the task by allotting specific geographical area and number of households but her performance has not been seen up to the mark by the Soochna Seva Fellows at the ground where the programme is implementing. Soochna Seva has decided to work in close coordination with ASHAs. Read more
Column of the Month
Digital Banking: Innovating for Inclusion and Efficiency

Namita Vikas, Group President & Country Head - Responsible Banking, YES Bank Ltd

“Banking is just about Bits and Bytes,” John Reed, American journalist and poet, said over a century ago. In banking for the 21st century, however, with massive technological advances, transformed consumption patterns and globalised economies, it is important to place these “bits” and “bytes” at the right places to service newer customer dynamics and catapult the age old sector into the next orbit. Digital payments now bring the promise to achieve this next phase of growth. Read more

Videos from DEF archive

Trainee turns trainer

A second chance at education

Data & Analysis

Columns & more

To stay updated with DEF Founder-Director's columns, featured this past month in Mint newspaper, click here

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Click here to read interesting facts and figures from the digital world, published in collaboration with Mint newspaper on a designated page called 'Digital Edge'.

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About Us

With the motto of 'Inform, Communicate and Empower,' Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) started its journey in the month of December, 2002. Based out of New Delhi and registered as not-for-profit under the "Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, the effort at DEF has been to find sustainable Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions including digital and new media to address digital divide in under-served and unreached regions and communities. With a non-political approach, it was founded to contribute to an enabling social and economic order in India as well as in developing societies with the need based support of ICT tools and means. With ground work since 2003, DEF has reached over 22 States and 8 countries.
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