Digital dawn in Uttar Pradesh

Photography by Bhamati Sivapalan

Nirantar is a Centre for Gender and Education. For the last 25 years, Nirantar has worked across 14 states of India with over 200 organisations to enable girls and women from marginalised communities to better understand and address their realities. This includes the Dalit and Tribal communities that have been historically denied access to formal sources of knowledge and education.

In response to the shift in ways of reading and writing because of digital media, they are now integrating digital knowledge into their literacy work, and have initiated the Applied Digital Literacy (AppDilL) programme. The programme is creating empowering experiences for women by equipping them with digital and literacy skills. Applied Digital Literacy helps girls and women to critically engage with structures of power, and to raise voices in order to access their rights and entitlements. 

The current programme is running with 900 illiterate rural women in the Northern part of India, in collaboration with Gram Vikas Sewa Sansthan (GVSS) and Tata Trusts. The women are members of a dairy cooperative where all the information and tools of the trade have been digitised, but women had no way of accessing that information, or of monitoring their sales and collections. With the AppDiL intervention, they are not only able to crosscheck and keep track of their collection and earnings, but also to challenge the notions of what women can do and achieve. 

AppDiL is being implemented by 30 teachers on the ground. They work with the women for four to five hours every day, mobilising and running the literacy centres in their villages. These teachers come from the same socio-economic and cultural background as the learners, with some history of formal education. Thus, the teachers themselves go through rigorous training and capacity-building programmes, including digital skills training, in order to become adult educators for rural women.  

In her photo reportage, Indian filmmaker and photographer Bhamati Sivapalan invites us to closely follow one of these teacher training courses that was conducted in May 2019.