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Business News/ Brand Stories / Pragati Entrepreneurs: Enabling Technology Usage by Women at the Last Mile

Women are being left behind in the technology revolution and we must do something about it. Gender stereotypes deeply ingrained in patriarchal nations frequently prevent women and girls particularly from disadvantaged and low-resource homes from having equal access to technology. Girls' poor digital literacy rates, unfamiliarity with digital tools, and unequal access to electronic gadgets are some issues that need to be addressed. According to Oxfam India’s latest ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’, 61% of men in India own mobile phones while only 31% of women did so in 2021.

Acknowledging And Understanding The Digital Gender Divide

Embracing technology is inevitable and we need to ensure that women are in a position to keep in tandem with the paradigm shift that is taking place today. Studies suggest that women face significant challenges in accessing, utilizing, and owning technology, particularly due to the gender divide. The pledge to leave no one behind is the need of the hour, and it is essential to ensure that all women can adapt to and help innovate emerging technology. In addition to providing a sustainable income for themselves and their families, these women can heavily contribute to the economy.

For example, uneducated young girls and women often don't know how to dial numbers or read messages independently. They may not even know their own phone numbers, relying on male family members such as fathers or brothers for assistance. Bridging the digital divide and empowering these women to join the workforce requires the ability to effectively use digital technology.

Technology has a strong gender consciousness, and India has, in turn, struggled with a widening digital divide. Restrictions imposed in the public and private spheres are also applied to the digital sphere for young and adolescent girls.

Core Values Of Pragati Entrepreneurs

In India's under-resourced and vulnerable villages and towns, Pragati, an initiative by Meta and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, intends to create a robust gender-balanced ecosystem with higher connectivity, superior technology, and access to mentors and financial support.

Pragati partners with she-entrepreneurs with the DNA of speed, scale, innovation, collaboration, and sustainability, motivated by social causes and helps them to scale up efforts to improve the standard of living in underserved regions.

Building The Future Workforce

The Pragati program focuses on women from rural and tier 2/3 urban societies, including expectant mothers, adolescent girls, laborers, small and marginal farmers, artisans, and employees. When given the right direction, these women adopt technology that boosts productivity, lessens laborious tasks, advances the value chain, attracts more women, and ultimately increases income and resilience in their households.

Let us take the example of Pabiben. Belonging to a rural pastoral community in Kutch, Gujarat, Pabiben was supported by Kaarigar Clinic to create high-end products with her signature "Hari Zari '' stitch. Today, the craftpreneur's Pabi bags are a hit worldwide, reflecting traditional and authentic handicrafts, and she currently employs 300 women from the local community in her MSME. Her enterprise recently won investment at Shark Tank India.

Another Pragati organization, Aavishkaar, runs training programs for young women from marginalized, rural communities, preparing them to become Math educators. The program focuses on skill building as well as personality development, enabling effective teaching approaches and instruction delivery.

This makes it possible for young girls and women to support themselves by working as at-home tutors, independent content producers, or educators who advance in their careers and expand women's role in developing technology.

Sajhe Sapne is another initiative supported by Pragati that imagines rural women in the modern workforce by training them in subjects like web development and rural management. Programs such as these shift the emphasis from only livelihoods to career and advancement pathways for rural women.

Last Mile Usage Of Technology

Technology holds the power to improve the standard of living for those at the bottom of the economic spectrum. The she-entrepreneurs of Pragati focus on the last-mile usage of technology among women.

The last mile in logistics refers to the final step in the delivery process from a company to the customer. The process is typically the most expensive, making up 53% of the total delivery cost. Pragati draws an analogy from this concept, and the Pragati organizations bridge the gap between the consumers and the creators.

For instance, one of the organizations powered by Pragati by Meta and The/Nudge is Tisser which enables and activates India’s fragmented artisan ecosystem. Tisser works with artisan clusters across India, aids supply chain integration, establishes procedures to empower craftspeople, streamlines producer groups, and supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Till date, Tisser has facilitated the integration of 10,000 artisans/women producers into the value chain.

Similarly, Kaarigar Clinic improves the transparency and visibility of the artisans by helping them establish a "Karigar Ki Dukaan." The artisans freely interact with the customers about their products here and are able to sell their products on their own terms. Karigar Clinic’s efforts have brought identity & dignity to 1000 artisans and sustainability to craft.

Various other organizations supported by the Pragati program work on the principles of transparency, efficiency, and knock-on benefits for female consumers of technology.

Challenges In The Process Of The Innovative Entrepreneurs

While working towards a better livelihood for the underserved gender of society is a huge challenge, the she-entrepreneurs involved in the process witness several social and economic hindrances. One of the key challenges is in reaching out to these women which involves intensive financial and people resources. Another challenge is in designing programs that respect and cater to the deep vulnerabilities of these women. Additionally, technology must be designed for the environment in which it will be used. Commonly, gender disparities in digital literacy allow male family members to interact with the platform on their behalf, controlling women's working lives. Pragati organizations lead the way in showcasing that although surmounting these challenges is difficult, it is very much possible to create technology that enables underserved women to create better livelihoods and resilience in their households.

Summing Up

Addressing the complex livelihood challenges faced by marginalized communities at scale requires the innovation of social entrepreneurs. That's why Pragati by Meta and The/Nudge offers grants, mentorship, fundraising opportunities, and strategic connections to high-potential female entrepreneurs who are competent and driven. The program empowers these women with the resources they need to enhance the lives of underprivileged women and facilitate widespread adoption of technology."

Disclaimer: The opinions shared in the article represent personal views of the authors, and they don’t represent the views of the organizations they work with. This article is a promotional feature and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times does not endorse/subscribe to the content(s) of the article/advertisement and/or view(s) expressed herein. Hindustan Times shall not in any manner, be responsible and/or liable in any manner whatsoever for all that is stated in the article and/or also with regard to the view(s), opinion(s), announcement(s), declaration(s), affirmation(s) etc., stated/featured in the same.

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Updated: 16 Feb 2023, 06:15 PM IST
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