Digital Villages are empowering people and transforming their lives.
Hidden away in the Sabarkantha district of Ahmedabad, is the village of Akodara. At first glance, it looks like any other village that dots our Indian landscapes; Seen one, you've seen them all.
But Akodara is different.
Akodara is the first fully digital village in India – shopkeepers use digital wallets and netbanking to transact with customers, for even the smallest purchases, schools make use of audio-visual teaching aids to help students understand their curriculum better, the anganwadis and school compounds are safer with CCTV cameras installed around them.
Akodara is an example, set by ICICI Bank, of what Digital 'Rural' India could turn out to be. With the success of Akodara, they have pledged to transform 500 more villages into ICICI Digital Villages.
As part of this program, they help digitise retail, commercial and banking transactions, provide loan facilities to the villagers and impart vocational training to help villagers earn a sustainable living.
Bedag is one of the villages adopted by ICICI Bank, and Sunita Limbikai is one of the villagers whose life has changed for the better because of it. She was married at a very young age, but soon after, disaster struck. Her husband passed away due to a terminal illness. She lost her oldest son to the same illness as well. Her family wanted nothing to do with her after this, and so, Sunita was had to leave the family home.
Determined to live for the sake of her other, surviving son, she took up any job that came her way, even working in fields. “I did not have a bed to sleep but I had dreams and I had to send my son to college. I was determined to change the course of my life, but I didn’t know what to do. What should I do with my life?”
Dreaming of a better life
It was during this time that Sunita came across ICICI Bank’s`Digital Village’ program in her village. They had just set up the ICICI Academy’s Rural Institute . It was here that Sunita found talent, resolve and a new kind of confidence with the training she received at the Academy.
Keeping the local economies in mind, the ICICI Academy trains villagers in vocational and soft skills to acquaint them with digital banking, basic communication and entrepreneurial skills. Since the training was free of cost, it attracted thousands of people who may otherwise had no means to earn a livelihood. And so, making women's purses and handbags, Sunita started her journey of financial independence.
Every hardship is an opportunity for Sunita
However, Sunita’s problems didn’t end here. As fate would have it, she was faced with another impediment – an accident that injured her leg, causing her to go through a surgery.Perhaps misfortune is the true perpetrator of success. “I continued with my work and gave it 100%. Work made me happy. It allowed me to dream of a future that I could make for myself and my son with the skills that I acquired. Who knows, at some point I could start my own business,” she says with a glimmer in her eyes that was part pride and part gratitude.
For Sunita every hardship and obstacle was more a challenge and less a hurdle. Today, she is on her way to a much happier life, having fulfilled her first wish, that of sending her son to college. “I want to continue working hard so that I can fill my life with happiness,” she says. And in this statement is an important underlying message – self-empowerment and sustainability are the route to success.
Tales of Transformation: Sunita Limbikai
There are many women like Sunita in our country. Women who are alone, abandoned, poor, mistreated and often misguided. Women in need of an organized program that teaches them not only to make money, but also to use and invest it wisely. ICICI Bank's endeavor is backed by a solid and wholesome plan making it an ideal solution not only for them, but for all villagers. By imparting vocational training and providing loans, it’s a comprehensive approach designed for the upliftment of the villagers.
Through the Digital Villages initiative, ICICI Bank has helped create cashless villages all over India. Apart from the Digital Villages initiative, ICICI Bank is working on six such diverse initiatives that have successfully transformed the lives of about 17 million underprivileged Indians. These figures are proof of the bank’s relentless spirit to strengthen the backbone of our society and their belief in ‘Empowering People, Transforming Lives’.
For more stories, like Sunita's, visit: https://www.icicibank.com
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Zahra Sultan