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How Is Technology Impacting Rural Economy And Employment?

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Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future of India lies in its villages”.

He quoted this decades ago, probably being hopeful that the country will tap the rural potential. According to the 2011 Census, the majority of the population of India resided in the rural region. Data had also revealed that the rate of unemployment in the rural regions saw a steady rise with each coming year. It is a perceptible inference from the above statements that we as a country need to seek a closer look into the scenario.

Computer education is the backbone of any given prospering economy, ours is no exception.  The government did devise schemes aligning with the cyber age ideologies such as the distribution of laptops and tabs to the students. However, National Statistical Office in its July 2020 survey released numbers that spoke volumes about the digital divide that exists between the urban and rural areas. Only 4% of the rural households had been reported to have access to computers.

She is offline: India's digital gender divide
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In this day and age when almost every sector is shifting towards digitalisation, it is paralysing to one’s skill set to be deprived of cyber knowledge. The occupants of these regions migrate farther from home to look for green pastures but are bound to find themselves incompetent under certain circumstances.

Poor education is one of the important facets that constitute poor employability. India as a country always held great regard for our age-old teaching methodologies. We have now evolved from the open-aired classrooms and are trying to nestle ourselves into the digital age. The District Information System for Education report of 2018 had released that only 53% of rural schools and colleges had access to electricity and the numbers went further down with respect to the availability of computers and internet connection. Science labs form the foundation of a child’s illustrious career in the field of technology.

With the absence of amenities to foster these labs, we take away the curiosity of children who would have wandered further into the field.  Whilst the country boasts about prestigious institutes that offer world-class education, research and innovation in the field of science and technology, the sad state of the rural institutes deprive many bright minds of the opportunity to partake in this arena.

Glaring digital divide in education in India: Covid-19 gives opportunity for digital inclusion - Education Today News
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COVID-19 proved to be a rather horrendous event for the entire world, India too faced its share of hurt. We had to improvise on our methods to sustain in these testing times, thus the concept of hosting every possible thing over the internet was booming. This was instrumental in making visible the disparity that exists between rural and urban areas of the country.

With the education sector clinging to video conferencing for its own survival, it challenged the survival of students in schools. As of September 2019, the TRAI reported stated that only 27.57% of rural India had internet, both math and logic are enough to question the present and future of the students who inhabit these areas. India is progressing significantly in the telecom sector, although it is concerning how the beneficiaries of the progress are limited to certain areas only.

The presence of multiple players in the video conferencing category goes on to suggest the immense importance that they have gathered off recent. From international interviews to important conferences, everything has been housed via a virtual presence. Training programmes, learning new skills and the success of the ed-tech sector are indicators of the new era of education.

India coronavirus: Online classes expose extent of digital divide - BBC News
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The reverberation of ed-tech will see new heights hereon as it is declared to be the most funded business in India in 2020 and according to Omidyar, Redseer report 2020 is expected to touch a size of $3.5 Bn by 2022.  Gone are the days when primitive schooling and graduation were enough to sustain, in the age of competition it has become pivotal for the youth to keep up-skilling.

Privilege protects one from prejudices and probably that is why we see urban residents exploiting these chances to the fullest, and by all means, they should. This also widens the merit gap between them and rural residents, for no fault of their own. Whilst technology is helping the world come together seamlessly, which would have been unimaginable years back; it is also creating a world of difference.

India as a country has enormous potential to produce an able and skilled workforce in many prominent fields.  According to NITI Aayog, 70% of India’s workforce resides in rural areas and it is rural India that will also tomorrow form the majority of the country’s workforce.

In such a case it is only fair to mitigate the inconsistency in procuring the technological benefits.  Even today when some of the Indian villages are farfetched from receiving electricity connection and undisrupted water supplies, climbing onto the digital bandwagon seems like a distant dream.  A dream that is distant but attainable, with efforts and integrity.

From the provision of electricity and internet connections to the schools to the good execution of cyber age schemes, we can steadily inch towards increasing rural employability. Esteemed institutes can take the rural school and college labs under their wings and foster them to perfection. Ed-tech firms might as well house centres for rural students pooled in together and given the chance to access various programmes as a part of their CSR. Industrial giants from various sectors such as banking, IT, automobile and others can curate training programmes specifically aimed at nurturing rural talent.

A lot of similar measures may have been initiated time and again but it does no harm to introspect and improvise. It’s the responsibility of the government alongside stakeholders from various fields to anticipate the value of the human resource in the country and act towards its welfare. Together as a nation, we have embraced milestones that ranged from the oceans to the skies, and we shall keep moving forward, after all, the sky isn’t the limit!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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