Synergizing Organizations for Women's Financial Empowerment: A Collaborative Approach
Collaborative initiatives bridge the digital gender divide for rural women entrepreneurs
In the heartlands of India, stories of transformation are brewing, where digital technology is becoming the catalyst for change, especially for women striving for entrepreneurial success. Gayatri, an aspiring woman entrepreneur from Uttarakhand, who owns a smartphone but limited its use to making calls. "I want to leverage it better for my business," she expressed, echoing the sentiments of many like her.
Recent findings from the National Family Health Survey revealed that over half of women (53.9%) in India own mobile phones, yet only 22.5% reported using them for financial transactions. This disparity underscores the critical importance of digital literacy, a vital component of empowerment that plays a pivotal role in enhancing the socio-economic status of individuals and communities.
However, rural areas in India often witness women encountering significant challenges when leveraging technology. Factors like access to quality education, prevailing cultural and social norms, gender gap, and limited accessibility to formal financial institutions contribute to this digital disparity.
Recognizing the potential of digitally-enabled programs in empowering and upskilling women entrepreneurs, nasscom foundation, a non-profit organization, has collaborated with various entities including Firstsource, Gen, and BNY Mellon, collectively impacting over 600 beneficiaries nationwide as part of the Women Entrepreneurship Program which has impacted over one lakh lives last year.
Afreen, an artisan from Madhya Pradesh lacking digital skills, underwent digital transformation through the Women Artisan Digital, Financial & Entrepreneurship Skilling Project in collaboration with Firstsource. Equipped with knowledge of social media channels, she confidently manages platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, experiencing a substantial increase in sales. "Earlier I had zero earnings, but now, I have been able to sell 5 sarees and 6 dupattas," said Afreen, displaying the tangible impact of digital empowerment.
The Mobile Gender Gap 2022 report by GSMA highlights a rise in smartphone ownership for men in India, underlining the necessity to bridge this digital gender divide.
Aarati Sandip Bakhade from Nanekarwadi village, Pune transformed her clothing business after receiving training through another project in collaboration with BNY Mellon, a corporate investment banking company. Using WhatsApp statuses for advertising her products, managing online payment accounts, and handling social media, she narrates, "Meri kamai se, ghar chal jaata hai aur beti ka padhai ke liye bhi paise hote hai," (I can manage the house and my daughter’s studies through my earnings) signifying the financial independence and educational support her earnings facilitate.
Collaborations with BNY Mellon have furthered the cause by enabling beneficiaries to understand digital payment methods, financial literacy, utilize social media for networking, and access crucial government schemes.
Another project supported by Gen, Empowering Women Agri-Entrepreneurs Through Technology initiative focuses on enhancing digital and financial literacy alongside entrepreneurial skills, paving the way for sustainable livelihoods and substantial contributions to the nation's development.
The proliferation of digital technology, primarily smartphones, has opened doors for rural women to establish e-commerce and unique businesses, fostering financial independence from the comfort of their homes. The potential impact of women's equal participation in entrepreneurship on the global economy, as highlighted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), underscores the importance of empowering rural women. Collaborative initiatives aim to bridge this gap and uplift more rural women entrepreneurs, paving the way for their empowerment and a more robust economy.
Indeed, while women entrepreneurship in India has hurdles to overcome, collaborative initiatives like these serve as stepping stones towards making rural women entrepreneurs the powerhouse of India’s economy.
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