The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive global economic downturn with global growth projected at –4.9 per cent for 2020. Already encumbered by gendered labour-market disadvantages, women have been disproportionately affected by job loss, reduced working hours and financial losses. Also, health risks to health workers, paid and unpaid care work and violence against women have escalated with COVID-19 and lockdowns. Women contribute 37 per cent of the global GDP. Moreover all types of women’s care work, including unpaid work generate USD 11 trillion globally (9 percent of global GDP). Deploying women’s full potential is critical to economic recovery.
On the other hand, with the network of more than 50,000 women VLEs, CSCs are enabling women’s potential fully and equally with men promoting sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth, improving the representation of women within the rural economy. This is also ensuring government commitments to gender equality and accelerating the implementation of Atam Nirbhar Bharat Development Goals.
Take the story of woman VLE Santi Malla Manik who runs her CSC in a remote area of Jolaibari in South Tripura. Economy of this village is primarily based on agriculture, animal resource development and fisheries. Mainly paddy, pineapple, jackfruit, banana, nuts, mango etc. are cultivated here. In this district fisheries are one of the main sources of income. In Jolaibari, VLE is delivering services like DigiPay, BBPS, Tele-law, Electricity Bill, PM-Kisan etc. Through her CSC, digital tools are empowering, and serving to support a new source of inclusive economic growth in South Tripura.
“Three years back, I was not able to contribute even Rs. 1,000 to run my house. Today, I contribute Rs. 25,000,” beams woman VLE Santi. She recalls the harsh financial conditions she and her family faced before they started CSC in the year 2018.
The coronavirus pandemic has made it tricky for most business operations to function. VLE Santi forged new paths to stay afloat. She came forward to battle social challenges, all by modifying her operations and pivoting to newer opportunities. From selling sanitary napkins to produce masks, she has shown the way to thrive amid a global pandemic.
In the last 8 months, she has sold 1800 napkins and 3000 masks. VLE says, “To seize this opportunity it is essential that no one, and especially no woman, is held back in trying to achieve their aspirations. Now is the time to step up the efforts and take advantage of the digital transformation to ensure that it represents a leapfrog opportunity for women and a chance to build a more inclusive digital India in rural areas.”
VLE Santi is providing Inclusive governance by ensuring women’s active participation and leadership in the indirect employment generation through CSC digital services. The use of digital platforms through her CSC is providing women in Jolaibari block, with greater access to markets, knowledge and more flexible working arrangements. This is resulting in higher female employment rates in this remote hilly area of North East. Furthermore, DigiPay service is proving a powerful source of inclusion for the migrant workers in this area without a formal financial account. In the last 5 months she has done transactions worth 8 lakh rupees through DigiPay.
The VLE is actively involved in tele-law service. She is providing prevention and protection services, including reporting, shelters, health, speedy justice to survivors of gender-based violence.