Reliance Foundation announces WomenConnect Challenge India grantees

Reliance Foundation announces WomenConnect Challenge India grantees

Ten organisations from across India have been selected as grantees under the WomenConnect Challenge India, which was launched by the Reliance Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Over Rs 11 crores (over USD 1.5 million) has been invested in this initiative to assist in closing the gender digital divide, with Reliance Foundation supporting Rs 8.5 crore (over USD 1.1 million) in grants for projects aimed at developing innovative solutions to address the issue.

Over 3 lakh women and girls across 17 states will benefit from initiatives aimed at closing the gender digital divide and empowering women economically.

Nita M Ambani, Founder - Chairperson, Reliance Foundation, stated during the announcement, "It has been our mission to enable and empower women in all walks of life."

When we launched Jio, we envisaged a digital revolution that would be inclusive. We have been providing affordable connectivity throughout the length and breadth of our country through Jio.”

Additionally, she stated, "Reliance Foundation has been collaborating with USAID to close the gender digital divide in India." Technology is an incredibly effective tool for addressing and eliminating inequality. I congratulate and welcome the ten winners of our WomenConnect India Challenge to this transformational journey.”

Anudip Foundation, Barefoot College International, Centre for Youth and Social Development, Friends of Women's World Banking, Naandi Foundation, Professional Assistance for Development Action, Society for Development Alternatives, Solidaridad Regional Expertise Center, TNS India Foundation, and ZMQ Development are among the ten grantees. Women farmers, entrepreneurs, and members of Self-Help Groups are addressed in order to overcome social and cultural barriers and close the gender digital divide.

In August 2020, the WomenConnect Challenge India was launched. From a pool of over 180 applications, ten organisations were selected to receive grants ranging from INR 75 lakhs to 1 crore (USD 100,000 to 135,000) for a 12- to 15-month period. In January 2021, USAID and Reliance Foundation co-hosted a Solvers Symposium, which brought together semi-finalists and external experts to build capacity and brainstorm about India's gender digital divide.

Women's awareness of mobile internet has been increasing year after year. While only 19% of women in India were aware of mobile internet in 2017, this figure increased to 53% by 2020. Women own 67% of mobile phones, compared to 79% of men.

Throughout the years, the Reliance Foundation has undertaken initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide. Over 1.3 billion Indians have witnessed a pan-India digital revolution that has transformed lives through Reliance Jio. Today, Jio is India's largest digital services company and the world's second largest, with 120 million women Jio users, a number that is rapidly growing in order to close the digital divide.

The WomenConnect Challenge is a global call for solutions that will significantly increase women's participation in daily life by fundamentally altering how women access and use technology.

USAID has partnered with the Reliance Foundation to support innovative approaches to closing India's gender digital divide, and new grantees will build on successful strategies from previous WomenConnect rounds to increase women's economic empowerment.