The digital divide refers to the inequality between urban and rural areas in access to digital technology and the Internet. Urban areas have better access to high-speed internet and digital resources than rural areas, which often need more infrastructure and connectivity. This divide can lead to disparities in education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, as those in rural areas often need help accessing and utilizing digital resources, especially girls. Consistent efforts to promote digital literacy in rural communities are required to bridge this gap.
This is Manisha’s story: she hails from a small rural village of Sihri in block Punhana, district Nuh, an aspirational district by NITI Aayog. She comes from a low-income family with eight members in the house. Sihri is a small village with a population of 2,400. The people here lead a simple life and, owing to patriarchy, girls’ education is not given much attention; girls usually study only till grades eight and ten. The village people still do not encourage girls’ mobility, and they hold conservative thinking. Manisha wanted to advance further, but her family wasn’t willing nor did they have many resources to spare for any vocation and further education.
Manisha’s interest in learning computers had almost faded; however, when she heard about the launch of a digital and life skills awareness center under a CSR-supported project implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation in her village, she wanted to enroll. Manisha shared her willingness to learn computers at the center and, on persuasion, her family members agreed to her admission to the five-month course that started in February 2023. The conduct of classes in the village has been a tremendous enabling factor for girls to join the system.
Increased Awareness and Empowerment
The digital and life skills awareness training is comprised of sessions in personality development, goal setting, communication skills, gender equality, computer basics, and the internet. “When Manisha first attended the class, she was modest and unassuming. However, her participation in the sessions sparked a transformation in her character,” shares Priyanka, the trainer at the center.
Just three months into the training, Manisha’s favorite was the gender equality session, which significantly influenced her. She applied the knowledge she gained at the center and shared it with her family. After discussing the topic with her family, she noticed that her father changed for good. Previously, he tended to ignore the opinions of women, including his wife and daughter; but through the session sharing by Manisha, he began acknowledging their views. As a result, Manisha and other female members see a gradual shift as they receive respect and recognition within the family. Manisha now feels confident talking openly in front of others.
Seeing Manisha’s progress, her parents also sent her sister to the center so that she could benefit from the knowledge being imparted and learn valuable skills for her future. Her journey is a testament to the importance of digital learning and life skills education as she became empowered through her own new digital and life skills awareness.