At only 19-years of age, Radha runs her own small tailoring unit. She lives in Silot village of Madhya Pradesh, a region habited by tribal communities. In a family of five, Radha shares her home with her parents, two younger sisters, a younger brother and an older sister. She wanted to be a nurse when she was young; tailoring is not something she’s opted out of choice but more out of a need to earn a living. However, in the last couple of years, she’s come to love it. “Earlier, I wanted a job but now I realise I have my own business,” she says.
“If somebody gives me an opportunity to go back to studying biology or becoming a nurse, I’d still choose to do tailoring,” she adds.
Radha sews blouses and suits pieces for herself and others in her community. “During the wedding season, I am able to make 10 to 20 blouses in a month alone and each bloused is priced at Rs. 70,” she says, adding that the wedding season of the month, which lasts three to four months, has begun for the year.
Radha’s mentor Geeta Goel, a successful head of a corporate CSR foundation, encourages her to work hard and step out of the house, engage with community members and not be restricted to the indoor setting. Radha also wants to grow her business and hopes that she can meet successful business women who can give her insights into business development to help her expand her tailoring unit.
In the initial few days of her digital literacy classes, she found it hard to use the mouse trackpad on the laptop. She would try to take the cursor to one corner of the screen but it would run to another. But Radha is a fast learner, and knows that she’ll gain a lot under someone’s mentorship. “My digital literacy trainer, Monica, even helps me look up close designs online at her home. I can’t look them up on my own because I don’t have Internet at my home,” she says.
Deepa is a new adopter of digital tools, too. Two years ago, Deepa knew little about what a smartphone or the Internet had to offer her. She had a feature phone at home but besides making calls to her family, she knew little what to do with the device. However, Deepa decided to enroll for a mobile functional literacy classes. That was just the beginning, the exposure or nudge she needed to become digitally savvy. She not only uses her smartphone to search for the answers she needs, she has also become a digital literacy trainer for 10 girls in her village.
GOAL or Going Online As Leaders is a digital literacy and mentorship initiative that seeks to mobilise urban women, known for their leadership skills or roles, to digitally empower and personally mentor young tribal girls in India. The urban women leaders, who will hold expertise in their respective domains—from business, education and health to politics, arts and entrepreneurship—will inspire, guide and encourage rural and tribal girls to become digitally enabled agents of change for their communities. While Digital Empowerment Foundation handholds the young girls in their journey of digital literacy, the urban mentors help them build life skills and leadership qualities.