Tribal Youth Across India Leverage Digital Platforms To Turn Entrepreneurs Through Ministry Of Tribal Affairs Program GOAL

New Delhi (India), January 12: Despite continuous development, tribal communities in India face a digital divide with respect to connectivity. It affects communities’ resilience and ability to adapt, grow, restructure, and thrive in the changing social and economic environment. The Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) program launched by Meta and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in 2020 aimed to address this by leveraging technology to bring hope to tribal youth. To enable these communities to harness the full potential of digital platforms, the program was designed for capacity building across the country and mentorship through digital mode focusing on three core areas – Digital Literacy, Life Skills and Leadership and Entrepreneurship across sectors like Agriculture, Art & Culture, Handicrafts & Textiles, Health, Nutrition, among others.

Technology has truly come to the aid of tribal youth. Here are a few stories of the participants who benefitted through the GOAL programme from across the country.

Pooja Lohra belonging to the Asur tribe in Jharkhand, known as the ‘Lohars’, is one of the many who was fortunate to come across this programme through one of the WhatsApp groups. Pooja always found a lack of education as the biggest challenge in her community. She was blessed with parents who understood the importance of education and supported her to study and turned her life around using technology. She had a keen interest in Resin art and wanted to build her entrepreneurial skills so that she could take her interest to a profit-generating business. Through the GOAL Program, she was given access and training on how to use Meta’s tools and resources and created a page on Facebook called ‘Siblings Garden’ where she promotes her products and showcases her art. Given that tribal youth are significantly less connected digitally than the rest of the country, especially the young tribal women, through this page, Pooja wants to spread awareness about the programme and inspire others like her to become digitally empowered. She is a scholar and loves to teach her siblings and other kids through tuition. Today, she supports her family by providing tuition. In future, Pooja aims to open a digital library to educate children in her community.

27-year-old Skalzang Dolma from the Bot tribe in Leh district has also inspired many through her story. She grew up in the small village ‘Tunah’, having limited access to digital media and the internet. Digital and social exclusion thereby restricted her from expressing viewpoints, sharing experiences, and communicating with the world. Through the GOAL programme, she met her mentor Ishtiaq Ali, who not only helped her in honing her soft skills, like speaking more fluently in Hindi and English but also in the peculiar in and outs of confidence building, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. This gave her the confidence to create and run her own Facebook page that goes by the name “Lamstan” to post regularly about her community with an aim to preserve her culture and spread more awareness. She states, “The GOAL programme has helped me build my own venture called Lamstan Young Association. Today at least one person from every household in my village has become a part of this association, and we all share and teach each other our skills. While the craftsmen in my village, like my grandfather, create musical instruments and their traditional hats called ‘Sertot’, the women are better known for their weaving and knitting skills. Through my Facebook page, I showcase their work beyond their village and also get to talk about my community, culture and tradition.”

Belonging to the Banjara (Lambadi) tribe in Telangana, 29-year-old Divya Bhukiya has always aspired to become an entrepreneur and start a business in the food processing industry. Given the power of technology, Divya strongly believed that it is imperative to become digitally literate in order to harness the full potential of digital platforms that are available today. After she came across the GOAL program by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and Facebook (now Meta), it enabled her to take one step closer to her mission to become an entrepreneur. She recalls her experience during the program “It was an immense pleasure to be a part of this prestigious program launched by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Facebook in 2020. The program structure was flexible and easy to connect; it helped me refresh my skill set in digital literacy and improved my passion for entrepreneurship. Through the entrepreneurship sessions and listening to guest speakers, I learnt finer details of starting a business and about potential challenges that may arise during the journey.” Divya is confident that the teaching she got from the GOAL program will help her become an entrepreneur and digitally empower the people from her community who aren’t as privileged as her.

Suman Singh Negi, 32 years old, from the Kinnaur tribe in Himachal Pradesh, also participated in the GOAL program. While he was working in a corporate setup, the Covid lockdown forced him to return to his Doubling Village and help his mother in Apple farming. During this period, he discovered his interest in Organic farming and also in social work. When he joined the GOAL program, he learned various skills which helped him communicate his tribe’s problems to the local administration easily. Using the teaching and skills imparted during the program, Suman plans to help his mother in organic apple farming and grow it into a big business. He aims to use the skills and knowledge he gained from the program to also be the voice of his tribe and inspire others.

The GOAL Program, in its first phase, trained and improved the skills of 167 tribal youth from across the country. After the successful pilot phase 1, GOAL 2.0 is now aimed at upskilling and empowering 1 million women & youth like Suman, Skalzang, Pooja and Divya from tribal communities across India.

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