In about a decade, India will have the largest number of women in any country in the world. Empowered women mean a stronger and a better world and Reliance Foundation is committed to empowering women to play a catalytic role in bringing about transformational economic, environmental and social change. Towards achieving the UN SDGs, Reliance Foundation has been striving across all its core focus areas to support women across India to achieve their potential and gain agency over decisions that affect their lives. This is being done through various interventions including leadership capacity building, digital literacy, employment and skills development, improving women’s health and enhancing women’s opportunities in education, sports and arts.
Empowering Women Leaders
Empowering Women Leaders in Rural Communities
Reliance Foundation has extensively worked with rural communities across India since 2010 to empower themselves and their societies in locally feasible ways through a three-pronged approach:
- Enabling women-inclusive development planning and decision-making: Increasing participation in households, institutions and community decision-making; supporting sustainable agriculture practices and climate resilience for food and nutrition security of women and children; and enabling better quality of life with improved access to drinking water.
- Strengthening entrepreneurial and livelihood capabilities for women: Increasing access to knowledge, livelihood skills, productive assets, markets, finance and technologies; promoting women entrepreneurship on diverse livelihood options both farm and non-farm and increasing participation of women in various value chains.
- Enhancing access to basic entitlements for social security: Supporting access to information, skills and resources securing basic entitlements and social security schemes.
WomenLead India Fellowship – Empowering Women Leaders in the Social Sector
The WomenLead India Fellowship, powered by Reliance Foundation and Vital Voices, drives an ambitious, urgent agenda for women’s leadership in India by investing in changemakers who are taking on the world's greatest challenges.
This inaugural 10-month long India fellowship aims to strengthen the leadership capacity of 50 inspirational Indian women leaders who are addressing urgent economic and social issues across the key areas of Rural Transformation, Education, Sports for Development, and Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Under these thematic areas, fellows will be divided into three tracks based on their experience: Economic Empowerment & Entrepreneurs, Social Sector Leaders, and Changemakers.
The Fellowship will focus on leadership capacity building and skills development and is designed to ultimately strengthen the leadership of the participants and increase the success of their ventures and efforts. Support services include mentoring, peer-to-peer engagement and visibility.
Bridging the gender digital divide
Reliance Foundation and USAID WomenConnect Challenge India
Women’s inclusion in digital technology is an increasingly important tool for education, financial inclusion, entrepreneurship, civic participation and information. The WomenConnect Challenge India was launched in 2020 by Reliance Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). WomenConnect Challenge (WCC) India aims to identify and support innovative solutions to empower women in India, facilitating their access to and use of digital technology to drive positive health, education and livelihood outcomes for themselves and their families.
Through Round 1 of this Challenge, Reliance Foundation announced grants for 10 not-for-profit organisations between Rs. 75 lakh to 1 crore each for over a period of 12 to 15 months. Programmes supported focused on building entrepreneurship skills, relevant digital literacy for low-literate users, edutainment-based courseware, mentoring and value-chain linkages and support for women working in agriculture. The project includes working with communities and youth. Over 3 lakh (300,000) women and girls across 17 states are being reached through various initiatives focused on increasing women’s economic empowerment through technology. A short summary of the programmes supported under Round 1 can be found here.
These projects have reached and created sustainable impact in the lives of over 320,000 women and girls directly and indirectly, spread over 19 states of India. Women who were trained through these projects have also reported increased awareness of and access to digital tools and services, behavioural changes in community around their use of technology, increased livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities and awareness of financial products and Government schemes. Reliance Foundation also released a publication in May 2023, that highlights stories of impact from these projects, as well as insights and learnings for other interventions focused on bridging the gender digital divide.
Building on the momentum from Round 1, RF and USAID launched Round 2 of the WomenConnect Challenge India in October 2022 to continue to discover innovative ways to bring women online with the support of their families and communities, and create sustainable long-term programming that helps bridge the gender digital divide. Under Round 2, RF will support 7 innovative projects that empower women via access to and the use of digital technology to drive positive development and livelihood outcomes for themselves and their families, with grants of up to Rs. 1 crore each, for projects ranging from 12 to 18 months.
Key focus areas of the Round 2 projects include building digital literacy skills using applications and digital platforms for access to relevant information, promoting entrepreneurship and growing microenterprises, and financial inclusion. The projects include working with self-help groups, women micro- entrepreneurs, women livestock farmers and in post-harvest fisheries, and women from marginalised communities and the unorganised sector.
Her Circle – A Digital Platform for Women
On International Women’s Day 2021, Chairperson Smt. Nita Mukesh Ambani launched Her Circle, an inclusive, collaborative, diverse, interactive, socially-conscious digital movement for the women of India. It is an all-encompassing content, social media and goal fulfilment community that caters to the rapidly rising aspirations, ambitions, dreams and competencies of women from all social backgrounds. Designed as a one-stop destination for engaging women-related content, it provides women space to share their life stories, provide inspiration, hope and resilience to others. As a safe space for their growth, Her Circle’s intent is to bridge the gendered digital divide that exists while keeping women informed, empowered and engaged.
Since its launch, Her Circle has become India’s fastest growing digital platform for women with a total reach of over 50 million. Since March 2022, Her Circle has a Hindi version of the platform as well.
- Jobs: Her Circle has jobs across various specialisations in different organisations listed to help users find opportunities that are best suited for their profiles. The platform has been promoting these opportunities on social media handles for better outreach. More than 5,000 people have applied for various positions through Her Circle.
- Masterclasses: Her Circle users have exclusive access to masterclasses across various themes like dog training, food styling, radio jockeying, professional makeup and fitness training.
- Support: Her Circle users have access to a panel of experts who provide guidance and advice on a host of topics such as health and nutrition, counselling, finance, dermatology, neonatology and pediatrics, gynecology, rehabilitation and sports medicine. Since its launch, thousands of women have reached out and sought help from experts.
- Communities: Her Circle fosters meaningful conversations among the online community so that people with shared interests can come together. With more than 30 dynamic communities across varied interest areas, Her Circle members help each other navigate through challenges with tools of transformation.
Her Circle was also the exclusive digital media partner for FICCI & FLO’s Greater 50 Conclave and Exhibition 2021. Her Circle is partnering with NITI Aayog in 2022 for events, webinars and entrepreneurial training programmes. In addition, Her Circle will be joining hands with UN Women in 2022 for events and campaigns.
Improving Women’s Health
Reliance Foundation also works to increase women’s access to nutrition and health services, preventing anaemia and malnutrition and improving prenatal and postpartum care.
We have collaborated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MSD for Mothers, Tata Trusts and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Project ASMAN (Alliance for Saving Mothers and New-borns), a unique initiative that seeks to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The project deploys innovative tech-enabled, facility-based interventions that help healthcare service providers provide high-quality care during childbirth and in the critical 48-60 hours just after delivery. It plays a major role in helping healthcare professionals monitor cases and equipping them to handle complications better. Over 7.5 lakhs mothers and newborns were reached through 81 government health facilities since the inception of the programme in 2015. During April 2018 to June 2021, 433,100 cases were registered and 165,000 (38%) high-risk cases were detected through the ASMAN app.
Under our Public Health Outreach Programme, women and adolescent girls are screened for anaemia across various rural locations. In addition, under our Rural Transformation initiatives, we have also been working to achieve nutritional security in rural households by helping communities set up Reliance Nutrition Gardens (RNGs) in their unused and waste lands. Spearheaded by the women of the communities, these RNGs have empowered women to take up leadership roles in setting up these gardens, have made rural households nutrition self-reliant and helped in reducing anaemia among rural women.
Improving Education Opportunities for Girls
Established in 1996, our Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarship (DAS) ensures inclusive and equitable education for meritorious students. The main objective of the Dhirubhai Ambani scholarship programme is to provide financial support to the meritorious students so that they can complete their higher education without any disturbance. The scholarship unleashes the potential of the youth of India to grow into leaders in their respective fields. Cumulatively, 12,776 students have received the scholarship, approximately 50% of whom are girls.
Through our ‘Education and Sports for All’ initiative, Reliance Foundation promotes the need to bring together sporting talent and provides them with a platform to excel in sports. Between 2020-2021 Reliance Foundation supported four NGOs working to enhance education and/or sports for girls. These NGOs included Milaan, Sakhi for Girls, Slum Soccer, and Yuwa.
Reliance Foundation also supports girls in the communities around Reliance’s business locations, to help them realise their potential. In Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh, we operate bus services for 400 girls from local villages, encouraging parents to send their daughters to school and college, even in remote areas where transport services may be sporadic and unreliable.
Inspiring Girls and Women in Sport
Reliance Foundation’s strong emphasis on sports is drawn from our belief that sports is a great motivator to enhance the spirit of learning and leadership, especially among rural children.
Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) is a country-wide multi sporting platform that has seen participation from over 10,000 educational institutes and 1,30,000 young athletes since inception. The best athletes receive scholarships and an opportunity to be scouted by professional football clubs and the Indian national team. Nearly 20,000 of the total number of participating athletes in 2019-20 were girls and 83 of these girls have been awarded scholarships. RFYS has also partnered with the All India Football Federation to scout the best performing girl athletes from our competitions for the Indian national team.
The Reliance Foundation Olympics Initiative began in 2019 with an aim to improve the country’s performance at Olympics and other prestigious international events. Reliance Foundation is supporting elite athletes that have potential under its Athlete Scholarship programme and works closely with coaches, the government and sports federations to support these athletes to enhance performance and enable them to win medals for India at the International stage. Out of the current 14 scholarships offered, 8 are offered to girl athletes - Ridhi Phor (Archery), Aditi Bhatt, Unnati Hooda, Palak Arora (Badminton), Tilottama Sen (Shootnig), Manika Batra (Table Tennis) and Sneha Soren, Jhilli Dalabehera (Weightlifting).
In 2022, Reliance announced a long-term partnership Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to enable the holistic growth of Athletics in India. The partnership aims to discover, nurture and develop Indian athletes from across the country and provide them with world-class facilities, coaching and sports science and medicine support by leveraging the Reliance Foundation ecosystem including the Odisha Reliance Foundation Athletics High-Performance Center and Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital. The partnership will have a special focus on girl athletes and aim to bridge the gender divide and enable them to achieve their dreams.
Reliance Foundation also runs the RF Junior NBA Programme which is a school based youth basketball programme that has reached out to more than 11 million youngsters of which more than 45% of the registrations are girls.