Empowering women through 'digital literacy'

Ministry of WCD and Facebook announced initiatives to accelerate digital literacy efforts in India

Embracing issues of digital literacy among women, and security of children and women on social networking websites, Facebook and Indian government together announced several new initiatives on November 19.

These included a content partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), formation of an 'Ideal Internet Consortium' to propose recommendations for online child safety, and launch of 'We Think Digital' in India – a global digital literacy programme. Speaking at the second edition of the South Asia Safety Summit, organised by the Ministry of WCD and Facebook, the WCD minister Smriti Irani mentioned, "While the internet opens doors for women and children to learn and gain knowledge, it also comes with the responsibility to ensure their safety, and to enable them to express their views without any apprehension. Our constant effort has been to provide equal opportunity to women and ensure a safe environment for children. Together with Facebook, we want to build ways, in which we equip and educate people to help them make smarter choices online and learn about Internet safety."

Facebook also announced to launch another Thumbstoppers programme, focusing on empowering and educating people on issues like gender equality, domestic violence and education for the girl child, with a series of short creative mobile videos, from India's advertising community.

Speaking further, the minister emphasised on the urgent need to ensure safety for women and children within their homes and create safe neighbourhoods in order to protect women and children from violence and abuse. Quoting NCRB data from 2017, the Minister stated that the 300,000 crimes registered by women are committed by husbands and relatives, so the challenges to women and children safety issues lie closer to home. She further added that as per the NCRB data 42 per cent of men justify domestic violence and 62 per cent of women support domestic violence.

Irani also thanked her predecessor Maneka Gandhi for expanding one-stop centres country-wide. These centres are to serve the needs of women in the locality. She claimed that by the end of this year, every district will have an operational one-stop centre. Thanking the Ministry of Home Affairs, the minister further said that every district of India will have anti-trafficking units. To make police stations more accessible for women and children, women's help desks are being set up in each police station across the county, said Irani. Along with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of WCD has launched a cyber-crime portal so that women can lodge complaints of cyberbullying, online shaming and online threats.

Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy, Facebook India emphasised the need for addressing problems of digital literacy and social media. "We are building programmes that are aimed at Internet users' digital hygiene and maintaining online privacy and security," she said.

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