In March 2021, DT Global inaugurated an incubator challenge—launching on International Women’s Day—for women-owned social enterprises: Transforming Women’s Lives Through Digital Technology. This challenge worked with women-owned enterprises to develop a concept that advances female economic or social empowerment through digital technology.
After months of deliberation, one winner was chosen from the five participating organizations: It Will Be, a Spanish-based NGO working in India. All participating organizations received mentorship on their project concepts, and the winner also received a prize of seed money.
On November 25, It Will Be stopped by DT Global’s Madrid office to provide us with details on how the prize money is helping to develop its project concept, as well as to share some general insight into their work.
Founded in India in 2008, It Will Be focuses on investing in technological innovation to improve the social impact of projects in the fields of education, gender equality, and human rights. Although their technological projects are scalable to other countries, the bulk of their international projects are based in India. In Spain, the NGO has already implemented several Digital Rights awareness campaigns and is helping other organizations with their innovation and tech strategies.
Women in India – A contextual overview
Unfortunately, women in India are subject to constant discrimination. Female literacy continues to be lower than that of their male counterparts (65% vs 74%), and Indian society is based on patriarchal values. Approximately 27% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18, and 60% aged between 15 and 59 work full-time in their respective households. Only 23% of the female population that has reached working age is looking for a job. According to the latest index, these factors place India with a 66.8% gender gap — a worrying statistic that must be addressed.
To help alleviate this issue, women have established Self Help Groups (SHG) in India as effective programs to improve access to credit and training for vulnerable women. A Self-Help Group is a circular economy group led by and aimed towards vulnerable women. It is established to provide them with access to financing and small markets in order to help develop their communities.
More than 75 million women are now part of SHGs in India, most of whom are poor and illiterate. These groups are composed of 10-15 women who place their savings collectively in groups, thus allowing their members to ask for credit when needed. It is methodology based on both mutual trust and support. In turn, this contributes towards the enhancement of these women’s livelihoods, which are predominantly related to the agriculture sector or small businesses.
However, factors such as the digital gap and isolation in remote areas impedes them from marketing their products in larger markets. Also, a lack of timely finance prevents SHGs from reaching their full potential in today's digital age.
DT Global and It Will Be – An overview of the #IWD challenge project
With the prize money that they received from DT Global, It Will Be has taken considerable steps to realize their newest project: Ecosystem to ensure digital inclusion of women in rural areas and slums.
The objective of the program is to co-create a digital platform that will enable the digital inclusion of vulnerable women participating in the SHGs in India, aiming to generate collaboration between them and to grow their businesses in the process. By digitizing the work and interactions of SHGs, It Will Be is helping to modernize the way SHGs operate and evolve, responding to important challenges that these groups face constantly. These include isolation of their businesses in rural areas, the barriers to selling their products in other locations, and the difficulty in accessing financing.
Last May, the project underwent its opening digital literacy phase, which consisted of a 3-day training imparted to managers and social workers of Don Bosco, It Will Be’s local implementing partner in India. The project trained the participants, who work hand-in-hand with the women they support in the SHGs, on basic digital skills and on the use and functionalities of new technologies.
Thanks to DT Global’s economic contribution towards their project efforts, It Will Be recently completed the listening phase of the project. During this step, It Will Be organized an annual meeting with the SHGs, to help understand the dynamics and current functioning of these groups (e.g., meetings, savings and fee returning organization, and registering process).
Now, It Will Be can focus on the final prototyping phase, which analyses challenges from an end-user perspective and then defines the first version of that Digital Platform, built on the basic software already in place that helps store the SHGs digital information.
One of the key functionalities that the digital ecosystem will have is to offer vulnerable women training through technology. The program's activities include a major effort in digital literacy and providing each of the participating SHGs with access to technology and trainings to help breach the digital gap for all women.
Thanks to It Will Be’s work during the previous phases, and DT Global’s support of the project, the platform will offer a catalogue of trainings based on the women’s needs. These trainings will complement the soft skills of women in SHGs, help them to develop better investing skills and saving habits, maximize the success of their businesses, and generate employment.