Hailing from a commerce background, I was meant to be a part of the service sector. Social sector had been an untouched domain for me, until I joined Niiti Consulting. I was unquestionably excited and adequately jittery for the step I had taken towards this sector and was looking forward for the first assignment I was going for. A part of the project operates in 10 villages in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan which are the most backward & marginalized, both socially and economically. The project centers are responsible for digitally strengthening the villages around the six pillars of development- health, education, livelihood, governance, finance and entertainment.
The centers are providing villagers with micro-ATM facility, awareness & registration for government schemes, creation of government documents, organizing health camps and providing basic computer skills to school children. Inter alia, we observed kids working on Paint Brush and were amazed at the quality of their output and their untapped potential. Throughout the visit, we met innumerable people, had so much to add to our learning and we could also provide some valuable feedback for improving the centers’ processes and efficiency.
Amidst, struggling with communicating in the local language of the villagers, fascinated by their simplicity & innocence, plea
santly surprised by the betterment of villagers’ lives in such a short span of time, recognizing areas with scope of improvement and providing some valuable suggestions from my own work experience; deep inside I was constantly evaluating whether this sector is the place where I belong. Sometimes, the answer was a whooping yes and at times, it felt too early to say anything.
We met some bright little boys, a couple of times during our visit. They had overcome their shyness and were talking more candidly with every meeting. On the last day, while traveling to the center, honestly I wasn’t expecting much from the day, other than similar work at a different village. When we entered the IT area at the village center, we saw 16 young girls working on the laptops. Intrigued at the sight, we came to know that these girls had come to learn basics of computer after attending their school in the village.
It is important to note here that, the Bharatpur area we visited, has mind-numbing statistics. The average sex ratio of all the villages is 896 females for 1000 males and female literacy rate is as low as 12.6%, as per last Census Report. Also, as per National Health Profile 2018, Rajasthan is a state where average marriage age of the girls is the national lowest, being 16.6 years. The condition in the rural Rajasthan is worse, the same being corroborated by conversations with the locals at the hub village. This practice leads to girls’ dropping out early from schools, completing only till 6th-7th grade and getting married soon after reaching puberty.
Due to the visit of two female employees from Niiti, the parents were motivated to send their girls for computer education and the word had spread through other children as well. During our conversations with people, we had been constantly motivating the parents and children, especially girls to ask their parents, to let them complete their education atleast till 12th grade and allow them to learn basic computer skills at the center. Also, we were persuading the IT teacher & giving ideas to mobilize more children at the center.
Gleaming young girls excitedly and coyly posing for a friendly picture
I can’t say which factor worked & to what degree, I felt worthwhile at that moment. Without exaggerating, it was an overwhelming feeling for me being able to bring out these girls from their homes and from their expected regular roles of tending to household chores & taking care of the younger siblings. It is not only about digital literacy, but it was beginning of their unchaining from the prevalent social stigmas. When we are able to build trust, mindsets change. A simple act of being there & talking to people could create such an impact, though only 16 girls, but yes not zero.
As per my perception of life, the most empowering experience is to be able to empower others. This sojourn made me value the opportunity provided at Niiti Consulting, ponder over new life goals and decipher some answers for myself! I hope, with the new found empathy and mind brimming with ideas, supported by this comprehensive ecosystem of CSR consultants & companies in India, I keep having such gratifying experiences in life.
Author – Vashali Garg