Google unveils $25 million in grants aimed at empowering women and girls

Google announced a range of programs as well as grants worth $25 million on Monday to fund works of nonprofits and social enterprises that are committed to empower women and girls.

Google.org’s new Impact Challenge, unveiled on Internet Women’s Day, is aimed at addressing systemic barriers and inequities so that women have access to economic equality, opportunity to build financial independence and pursue entrepreneurism, said Google chief executive Sundar Pichai at a virtual event.

“Whatever these teams need, we are going to be alongside them and help carry out their vision,” said Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org, at the event. The company said it will accept applications from teams worldwide until April 9.

Fuller also announced that Google.org is going to invest an additional $1 million to help underserved women in India. Even as India is the world’s second largest internet market, women make up a small percentage of online users in the country.

Five years ago, Google launched a program called Internet Saathi to bring internet literacy to women in rural parts of India. The company said the program, for which it collaborated with Indian conglomerate Tata, significantly helped improve women’s participation on Indian internet.

Four of 10 internet users in rural India are now women, said Google, up from one in 10 in 2015. The company, citing its own research, said Internet Saathi program benefited more than 30 million women in India — and that it’s now concluding the program to focus on other efforts to continue this mission.

“This program created a cascading effect,” said Sanjay Gupta, the head of Google India, at the event.

But simply getting online “isn’t progress enough,” said Sapna Chadha, Senior Marketing Director for Google in India and Southeast Asia. “Women in India have traditionally been held back from economic participation.”

The company has partnered with Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of influential Indian trade group, to bring digital and financial literacy to 100,000 women farmers in India, and is creating a program called “Women Will” to enable and support 1 million women entrepreneurs.

As part of Women Will program, Chadha unveiled a repository website that she said will feature tutorials, business ideas and other opportunities in English and Hindi languages.

Google is also working on rolling out a new feature on Google Pay app that will allow entrepreneurs to showcase their business pages within the payments app at no charge, said Chadha. And women entrepreneurs can now choose to highlight that their business is led by a woman or women across Google Search and Google Maps listings, Chadha said.

“I call upon you to come together to build a future we can all be proud of — a future where no daughter of ours is shackled by the burdens of her gender,” said Smriti Irani, Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of India, at the event.

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