Digital Empowerment Foundation and Facebook’s mentorship programme Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) is ready to roll out its first phase of implementation across five Indian states namely- Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. The programme that uses virtual interface for mentoring young girls from rural and tribal communities, especially from backward and aspirational districts, is now also supported institutionally by NITI Aayog. Apart from 100 mentees and 24 mentors, three Members of Parliament—Supriya Sule, Navneet Kaur and Nusrat Jahan—have also joined the initiative as ‘Patrons’ and will oversee the project execution in their respective states.
Mentees were selected following a strict process— through one-on-one interaction, Skype calls, etc.—based on their socio-economic backgrounds and commitment to the programme. They were briefed about importance of the programme and how their involvement affects their personality development.
24 urban women mentors, known for their leadership skills or roles to empower and personally mentor young tribal and rural girls, were selected.
Most of the girls attending government schools in villages do not even get any proper computer or digital education at their secondary level because formal education in India does not focus on skill development and remains limited to text books. No computer subject in their course outlines skill training and non-availability of computer labs in their school premises makes it difficult to attain digital education. After schooling they have no knowledge or skills which will allow them to use a computer or mobile with some proficiency.
GOAL, through a mentorship programme, endeavors to provide digital education in the rural and tribal communities where young girls are deprived of digital education. It will help to enable these girls to get exposure and access to a digital course, create awareness about its uses and the latest technology innovations that are going on in the world.
DEF has been working to improve the level of digital literacy by imparting skill-based training amongst the rural women. Our work on the ground has provided us valuable insights indicating that the journey for empowerment in a developing country like ours, especially for women, can come through smartphones and essential digital skilling. For this project, only those areas or districts are explored that has a significant rural and tribal population. The girls from rural and tribal communities, who do not have any access to quality education, will be mentored through the programme. While the focus is not driven by income level, the general experience is that the girls from remote, rural villages come from a weaker socio-economic background. With the help of our ground staff, and keeping in mind NITI Aayog’s list of aspirational districts—which are worst performers on various indicators like-gender equality, education, unemployment and poverty—the selected locations were tapped.