Reliance Foundation and USAID’s Joint Initiative to Bridge Gender Digital Divide and Empower Women
Women and girls often have less access than men and boys to technology and the internet. According to the National Family Health Survey, only one in three women in rural India have ever used the internet, compared to 57% men. Inadequate access to digital technologies lowers women’s earning potential and affects their participation in society.
The WomenConnect Challenge (WCC) India, a joint initiative by Reliance Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), aims to help bridge the gender digital divide. How? By supporting innovative solutions to improve women’s and girls’ access to technology.
The first round of the challenge was launched in 2020, where ten organizations that were selected for the challenge, developed solutions to improve skills, confidence, and access to technology, for positive social and economic outcomes, in a period of 12-15 months. Over 3 lakh women and girls will have benefited from the initiatives of the first round.
For Round 2, Reliance Foundation will select up to 10 organizations that will receive funding of up to Rs. 1 crore. If you are a non-profit organization, with an idea to bridge the gender digital divide, you can apply for the challenge here. The last date to apply is 14 November 2022.
Technology for empowerment
Sapna Singh (39), a resident of Dalelpur Village, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the women who benefited from WCC India, Round 1. She was able to overcome the digital divide and grow her business. Here’s her story –
In 2020, Sapna struggled to run her dairy business during the pandemic. Earlier she would make payments to her suppliers and vendors through cash. However, there were bank restrictions and ATM closures which hindered her business.
“I was stressed about how to pay people for the milk they sold me. How would people make their necessary payments if they didn’t receive the money? It then hit me that if I got acquainted with online transactions, I could send money to someone’s bank account directly,” says Sapna.
Adapting to technology
Slowly, she started to use smartphones and adapted digital transactions. Today, she not only runs her dairy business smoothly but also works as a community mobiliser for the Civil Society Organization, Solidaridad India, whose experts trained her in good dairy practices, and financial and digital literacy in 2021. This training was supported through the WomenConnect Challenge India, Round 1.
Now, Sapna is convinced that technology could help liberate women economically.
She says, “I know that the road ahead will not be seamless—dairy price hikes and probable new charges on UPI payments are likely to come up. But given the challenges I have already surmounted, I am confident that I will forge ahead. Financial independence is important for women and that is what I teach my 4-year-old daughter too.”
In the future, Sapna hopes to participate in more training programs and get acquainted with using a laptop. Additionally, she wants to spread knowledge among other women in her village and empower them.
Women Connect Challenge Round 2
If you are an NGO with an innovative idea that can bridge the gender digital divide, you can apply for Reliance Foundation and USAID’s joint initiative – WCC India Round 2. Up to 10 organizations will receive funding of up to Rs. 1 crore each from Reliance Foundation, to implement solutions that close the gender digital divide and increase women’s economic empowerment using these strategies:
Eligibility criteria to apply
Applications are also encouraged from: