The digital connectivity of tribal youth is significantly lower than that of their counterparts elsewhere in the country. However, technological advances are bringing hope to tribal youth. 27-year-old Skalzang Dolma from the Bot tribe in Leh district is one of the many who turned her life around using technology.
Brought up in a small village ‘Tunah’ amidst peaks of snowcapped mountain ranges at a height of 34,000 meters, Skalzang had limited access to digital media and the internet. Digital and social exclusion, thereby restricted her to express viewpoints, share experiences, and communicate with the world.
A sportsperson who participated in National level boxing and was running in the National Ultra Marathon in Ladakh, she, however, had to stop playing due to a major surgery. That is when she got to know about the GOAL programme of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Facebook (Now Meta). “I took up the opportunity it provided. With this, the youth of tribal communities are digitally skilled and empowered,” Skalzang said.
The Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) is an affirmative action programme by Meta and Ministry of Tribal Affairs which aims to provide mentorship to tribal youth to enhance their digital literacy and interpersonal skills. It was launched on May 15, 2020, to help tribal youth discover their innate talents, leading to their personal development as well as allowing them to contribute to society.
“I met my mentor Ishtiaq Ali through this GOAL programme. He helped me with various skills like English and Hindi speaking, confidence building, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills development,” Skalzang said. She now runs a Facebook page that goes by the name, “Lamstan” where she posts regularly about her community, with a view to preserving her culture, and spreading awareness.
When asked how digital literacy changed her life, Dolma said ” The GOAL programme has helped me build my own venture called Lamstan Young Association. Today at least one person from every household in my village has become a part of this association and we all share and teach each other our skills.”
“While the craftsmen in my village like my grandfather create musical instruments and their traditional hats called ‘Sertot’, the women are better known for their weaving and knitting skills. We can now showcase this work to the world,” she added.
Skalzang shares information, photos, and videos of her community on her Facebook page. She has been receiving likes and comments on the posts mostly from users based in the Ladakh region, along with a few users from other parts of the county. She has also received a few individual sales enquiries for Dramyin, the traditional musical instrument, on her page.
The programme provided mentorship to tribal youth through digital mode focusing on three core areas including digital literacy, life skills and leadership and entrepreneurship across sectors like agriculture, art and culture, handicrafts and textiles, health, nutrition, among others. In its first phase, the programme trained and improved the skills of 167 tribal youth from across the country. Recently MoTA and Meta have launched GOAL 2.0 which will aim to digitally empower 10 lakh women and youth like Skalzang from tribal communities across India.
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Skalzang completed her graduation from the University of Jammu and post-graduation from the Central University of Jammu in National Security Studies. Recently, she has been selected for the constable post in Ladakh police. “In future, I not only want the communities in Sikkim and J&K to get inspired but also youth and women across the country living in the most remote corners of the world to hear my story and realize the true potential of digital platforms,” she added.
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