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Scripting a digital success story

Village Startup Rewrites Rural Future
05:00 AM Jul 02, 2024 IST | Gulzar Bhat
scripting a digital success story

In a remarkable tale of rural empowerment, a small building in Daril, Tarathpora, an outlying village of north Kashmir's Kupwara district, has become an unlikely hub of digital education. The Digital Institute of Computer Education, founded in 2020, is bringing modern technology skills to this remote area located 35 kilometres from Kupwara town.


Inside a spacious classroom, students from diverse backgrounds, including those from socially and economically marginalized communities, are engrossed in various computer-based activities. The air buzzes with the sound of typing as learners work on assignments, design posters, and create tables and charts.


The institute, offering both short and long-term courses, is the brainchild of 28-year-old Gazal Manzoor, a local graduate with a diploma in computers. "This type of institute was much needed in this far-off village," Manzoor explains, highlighting the transformative impact of technology education in rural areas.


Manzoor credits the establishment of the institute to "Rutba," a Self Help Group (SHG) she formed following an outreach by the Jammu and Kashmir Rural Livelihood Mission (UMEED). UMEED officials visited the village, informing local women about SHGs and various assistance and training programs available to them.


This initiative represents a significant step towards bridging the digital divide in one of India's most remote regions. By providing access to computer education, the institute is not only imparting valuable skills but also opening up new opportunities for the youth of Daril and surrounding areas.
SHGs are voluntary associations of people living in rural areas, particularly women,  who come together to seek ways to enhance their living conditions.  SHGs catalyze transformation among the impoverished and marginalized. They emphasize the principle of self-reliance to promote entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty.
Following the formation of SHG, Gazala went ahead to give wings to her lofty dream of teaching rural students.


"I received ample financial assistance from JKRLM to launch this initiative," she said.
Over the last 4 years, the institute has provided diplomas to hundreds of local youth, enabling them to earn their livelihood.


According to Gazala, some of the students, who learnt typing from the institute received government employment in different departments.


“At least five students who earned diplomas from our institute went to Gulf countries and are working in reputed companies to earn their livelihood," she said.
Presently, over 200 students are enrolled with the institute, pursuing different computer programs.
“Many of the students are from the marginalised communities," she said.

Gazala said that it was difficult for the students with economically weak backgrounds to travel to Kupwara town or move to other cities to pursue such courses.

“A round trip fare for a shared cab from our village to Kupwara town costs Rs 120," she said.
Gazala not only took the computer courses well-nigh to the door steps of the rural youth but also generated employment.

“I have engaged three teachers and pay them good emoluments," she said.
Gazla’s efforts were also recognised by the civil society groups and reputed non-governmental organizations.

In 2022, she was felicitated with the Emerging Women Entrepreneurship Award by Women Entrepreneurs Forum, New Delhi. The award is given to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women entrepreneurs.

“There are a plethora of government schemes available for the youth particularly for the women. The youth must avail such schemes to launch their own initiatives," said Gazala.
She said that the youth must think  beyond government jobs.