Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the tech giant, on Monday said it will provide USD 25 million in grants to non-profits and social enterprises globally, including in India, that are working on empowering girls and women. The company, which has committed support one million rural women entrepreneurs in India, also stated that its Internet Saathi digital literacy training programme has benefitted over 30 million women across the country. “In India, in the past few years, we have invested more than USD 40 million alongside the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the non-profits who are doing amazing work. We announced another million dollar initiative building on that work in particularly to help getting digital skills to those who are most vulnerable, including women,” Jacquelline Fuller, Vice President at Google and President of Google.org, said in a virtual briefing.
She added that one of the first initiatives under that effort is led by the NASSCOM Foundation, wherein the organisation is getting a USD 500,000 grant from Google.org to support one lakh women agri workers. “They (Nasscom Foundation) are going to reach one lakh women farmers and provide digital skills and financial literacy. Learning these skills has been shown to increase their incomes by about 30 per cent,” she said. Talking about the new USD 25 million grant, Fuller said this is a global impact challenge aimed at non-profit organisations that are working towards helping women and girls. “We are providing USD 25 million, it’s an open call. So any non-profit or social enterprise anywhere around the world can apply. And the winners will get funding up to USD 2 million per organisation. We’re also going to provide Googlers, so there’ll be expertise, whether that’s in software engineering or user experience, or even marketing to come alongside and help bring these projects to fruition,” she said. Fuller noted that while more girls are now going to school and more women are represented in the workplace, the COVID-19 pandemic has had gender-regressive effects. “The COVID crisis is one of the greatest threats we have ever seen to this progress. We know that globally, women are about twice as likely to have lost their jobs during the COVID crisis. And we see women who are doing double duty around the world while they are working, also teaching children at home in many places, providing caregiving,” she said.
She pointed out that around a billion children globally have seen their education being disrupted, girls are much less likely to return to school after the pandemic. “At the same time, there’s just not enough funding going to women and girls. If you look at all of the philanthropic funding, only about 1-2 per cent of all funding is targeted to women and girls. So that’s why it’s so important that we’re we’re doing this and we’re doing this alongside of our partners,” she said. Sapna Chadha, Senior Country Marketing Director at Google India and Southeast Asia, said based on learnings from the Internet Saathi program, the company has launched the Women Will web platform that will be complemented by community support, mentorship and accelerator programmes for rural women entrepreneurs. Available in English and Hindi, the Women Will platform is designed especially for women aspiring to explore entrepreneurship. Through a ‘how to’ curriculum on turning an interest into a business, managing an enterprise, and promoting it for growth, the platform will provide guidance and support to women who want to convert an existing hobby or talent such as tailoring, beauty services, home tuition, food processing, etc into income. To begin with, Google will work with 2,000 Internet Saathis to help other women gain from this resource and start on their entrepreneurial journey.
Google, in partnership with Tata Trusts, had launched the Internet Saathi programme in 2015 to empower women across rural India with digital literacy skills and bridge the digital gender divide. The joint effort, upon completion, has reached across 3 lakh villages. Over six years, this pan-India effort has benefitted over 30 million women across India through training provided by over 80,000 Internet Saathis. “Two in 10 women included in the Internet Saathi programme started small businesses of their own, and 73 per cent of them stated an interest to learn new skills. And almost three-fourths of them felt they were able to start their own business in the future…The next leap with this insight is taking digital Literacy to digital livelihoods, to help women generate income, create livelihoods,” she said. In a statement, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said when women have equal access to opportunity, everyone can benefit from their perspectives, creativity and their expertise. “Yet, when it comes to accessing opportunity, deep inequalities persist. Building on the Internet Saathi program success, we’re making a new commitment to help one million women in rural villages in India to become entrepreneurs through business tutorials, tools, and mentorship, he added. Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Trusts, said the organisations had embarked on training women trainers to familiarise other women on how to utilise the internet, all in the rural environment, that would otherwise never take place. “In bringing today’s technology, and perhaps tomorrow’s technology, to bear for the benefit of rural women is a great move forward. Over time, these efforts will ensure that the true value of the internet can come into the fore. I would like to congratulate the two teams that have worked together to help make this happen,” he said.