Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)


March 2020 onwards, COVID lockdowns have significantly disrupted the education sector and has impacted the lives of millions of adolescents. In India, 320 million students have been affected by COVID-19 school closures, and even though the government recommended shifting to “online teaching,” this transition ignores India’s immense digital divide—with embedded gender, caste, religion and class divides.

The 2017-18 National Sample Survey reported only 23.8 percent of Indian households had internet access. In rural households (66 percent of the population), only 14.9 percent had access, and in urban households only 42 percent had access while only 12.5 percent students have access to smartphones. Therefore, the majority of counterparts in education sector have completely shut down for not having access to e-learning devices or solutions and thus creating a long term societal and economic impact on the young learners of rural households. A survey done by DEF and Centre for Catalysing Change shows that this gap is intensified by the COVID pandemic.  While equal access to digital literacy is a right of its own, this further impacts the chances of gathering need-based content that supplement STEM education and aptitudes.


Digital Empowerment Foundation is a digital action organisation founded in 2002. Over the past twenty years, DEF has been focussing on information empowerment of the disadvantaged communities by providing digital access to information, knowledge and contextual capacity. The organization operates through its 1000 Community Information Resource Centres and 10,000 digital barefoot community workers located across 24 states and 135 districts in rural, tribal, marginalized, and unreached areas. DEF uses action, advocacy and capacity building tools to provide digital rights, fight information poverty and create agency to access rights and entitlements.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s grant to Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) will be focused on bridging the gendered digital divide, supporting DEF integrate a gender lens and a mental health lens into their work. EMpower’s grant will have 3 components: 

  • Digital literacy programs for adolescent girls and young women (14 to 24 year old) in marginalised communities across 8 states of India; More than 50% of the program participants will be from marginalised groups belonging to ‘backward castes’ and categorised as ‘Below Poverty Line’ Groups

These programs are going to be led by young people from the community (including Muslims, Dalit and Tribal leaders)


  1. Knowledge Partnership on embedding a gender transformative approach with Voice4Girls and their local gender focused consultants; 
  2. Program Partnership in integrating mental health and emotional wellbeing component in their curriculum and in their approach through trainings provided by Bapu Trust and their local mental health focused trainers (to be trained by Bapu Trust). 
You can support our work with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and our other grantee partners.

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