Tribal youth are significantly less connected digitally than those elsewhere in the country. This particularly impacts socially marginalised youth, who lack awareness of the digital resources that can be tapped to further their growth prospects. Thus, mainstreaming these citizens is of utmost importance for the socio-economic development of the country.
In what gives cause for hope, technology is coming to the aid of tribal youth. Tribal men and women in rural and far-flung areas are using digital platforms to not only connect with the rest of the world, including domestic and international markets, but also enhance their interpersonal skills and learn new ways of doing business.
Skalzang Dolma, a 27-year-old woman from the Bot tribe in Leh district is one of the many who have turned their lives around by using technology. Brought up at Tunah, a small village located at a height of 3,400 m, she had had limited access to the internet and the digital media, preventing her from expressing views and sharing experiences. “Though I was a national-level boxer and would take part in the National Ultra Marathon in Ladakh, I also aspired to become an entrepreneur and run a medicines business. One day, an unforeseen surgery compelled me to stop participating in sports, depriving me of all hope. But, as they say, it often gets worse before it gets better,” she says, talking about how things changed when she discovered GOAL, a programme that made her realise her true potential and altered her life for good.
The Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) programme was launched in 2020 by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) and Facebook (now Meta) with the aim of enabling tribal communities across India to harness digital platforms and tools and become self-reliant. The programme seeks to help tribal youth discover their innate talents, leading to their personal development as well as allowing them to contribute to society.
The programme focusses on three core areas – digital literacy, life skills and leadership and entrepreneurship across segments like agriculture, art & culture, handicrafts & textiles, and health & nutrition. After a successful pilot run of GOAL, MoTA and Meta recently launched GOAL 2.0, which aims to digitally empower a million young people from tribal communities across India.
The digital literacy module designed for the programme covers training on how to leverage Facebook effectively, including tools like Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Pages and Facebook groups. After undergoing the training, Skalzang created a page, “Lamstan”, where she posts regularly about her community, with a view to preserving her culture and spreading awareness.
Skalzang is refreshingly honest as she recounts her experience with the programme and how it paved the way for the launch of her own venture, Lamstan Young Association. “GOAL is how I met my mentor Ishtiaq Ali, who assisted me in ways I could not have imagined.” She says he not only helped her hone her soft skills like speaking fluently in Hindi and English but also taught her the ins and outs of confidence building and leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
“With all that I have learnt from my association with GOAL, I feel confident that I will be able to make a difference to my community. I am very happy that Meta and the tribal affairs ministry have announced the second phase of the GOAL programme to empower a large number of tribal youth. I hope other women like me will also benefit from this programme,” Skalzang summarises.
Making a difference
The programme focusses on digital literacy, life skills and leadership and entrepreneurship
After GOAL 1.0, about 69% of youth could leverage digital commerce for increased reach
GOAL 2.0 will impart skills to build a business via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp