BT (BT Group plc) and the British Asian Trust have launched a landmark three-year programme which will use apps, videos and other interactive digital technologies to empower young people, with a particular focus on adolescent girls, in India. Working with innovators and sector leaders, the programme aims to create a sustainable movement for change that will increase the opportunities available to girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The programme also aims to address critical areas such as education, health, economic empowerment and life skills.
India’s population includes 120 million adolescent girls, which is about 10 per cent of the population. Many of these young women have little control over their own futures and face multiple barriers to fulfilling their potential. India has the highest rate of teen pregnancy globally and 18 per cent of girls drop out before they finish secondary school; furthermore, 27 per cent of women are married before the age of 18.
The British Asian Trust and BT’s partnership will encourage young people to recognise their potential, with a focus on young women. Working in and around some of India’s largest urban centres, near to BT operations in Gurugram, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kolkata, the programme aims to help improve the education opportunities, health and skills of around 500,000 young people, giving them greater control over their futures.
The BT-British Asian Trust partnership will explore the different ways technology can be used to break down social barriers, as well as use BT’s technology and the skills of its people to positively impact the lives of young people in India, focusing on:
- Education of girls and boys in India – building a strong foundation for life-long learning and skills development
- Employability of adolescent girls – improving their skills in key areas, as well as encouraging their curiosity and passion for learning
- Health choices – increasing the confidence of young women and their ability to make decisions about their own health
- Autonomy – Helping women and girls to understand their rights and gain greater control over their futures
The four partners chosen under the BT-British Asian Trust partnership to date are:
- Breakthrough, which will work through schools as well as the government health system and communities to ensure that young women and men adopt positive gender norms to tackle gender-based discrimination. It will use digital media and tech to sensitise communities and girls about gender roles and health and hygiene services, and train teachers and frontline health workers to improve services for girls.
- IT for Change, which will work with girls in schools through workshops and classroom-based training in rights-based perspectives on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and digital literacy. This will include creating digital labs in schools to train girls as well as teachers, and video clubs that enable girls to create digital learning materials that will be used for peer learning among other girls in Bengaluru.
- Going To School, which will design content for young people that connects employability and skills training with gender norms change, including games, movies, lessons and case studies, delivered both through direct delivery in schools and a mobile app that will reach hundreds of thousands of girls.
- Splash, which will equip public girls’ schools in Kolkata with quality washing infrastructure: hand washing stations, water filtration systems, sanitation facilities with doors and locks, and menstrual hygiene waste bins. It will utilize technology to manage both the large-scale change process and to monitor behaviour change at individual level.
As part of their collaboration programme, BT and the British Asian Trust are also partnering on an innovative funding initiative called a Development Impact Bond (DIB). This DIB aims to improve literacy and numeracy skills for more than 300,000 children, drive a focus towards outcomes in the development sector and transform the way education is funded in India. This DIB brings together an impressive coalition of public and private sector partners, and the funding in year one will be invested into three education NGOs.
BT Group Chief Executive, Philip Jansen, said “The world of work has changed enormously during the 30 years BT has been in India. We recognise that digital technologies have the potential to transform opportunities for this and future generations of girls. We’re delighted to be partnering with the British Asian Trust to deliver sustainable social impacts, and hope to galvanise our team of 10,500 BT people based in India to support this programme.”
The British Asian Trust also brings its own strong track record in delivering ambitious and innovative partnerships that drive economic empowerment and growth in India.
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, said “At the British Asian Trust, we pride ourselves on taking an innovative approach to tackling development challenges. Brokering partnerships and promoting economic development through scalable solutions is at the heart of what we do.
“We’re delighted to find a partner in BT who shares this vision and we’re excited to be working together with them on a programme that will directly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls across India.”