Actor-director Farhan Akhtar's MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) movement has been working towards some interesting and relevant causes since its inception in January 2013. Now, it has joined hands with Google India for a new initiative.
A joint campaign (www.hwgo.com/reach) between the two was launched as part of Google's initiative to get women online (HWGO). It will encourage more women to learn and use the Internet and improve their lives. The campaign was launched with a musical work 'Chhulein Aasmaan...' (Reach The Sky), composed by Salim-Sulaiman and performed live with Akhtar and Shraddha Pandit (Akhtar's co-Lyricist).
Speaking about the importance of getting more women online, Rajan Anandan, VP and managing director, Google India, believes that India is on its way to become the second-largest Internet population in the world but the usage of Internet amongst women in India is lower than most countries in the world. "There are," he says, "616 million women in India. Close to half of them are below 25 years. Empowering the young women population with information and Internet-related tools could transform India's future. I am delighted to share that, for the first time in India, women Internet users growth rate in urban India has exceeded that of men in the last one year. And we need to build on this start, and join the campaign with MARD to encourage more and more women to come online."
"Chhulein Aasman..." is a song about female emancipation, a song about freeing women from the roles that they have been coerced into playing for centuries. It highlights the importance of equal opportunity, possibilities and the impact it can have on women. The promotional video of the song features the three points, along with images of women who have been part of this initiative, and serve as inspiration to women everywhere. The song is not only available for viewing on YouTube, but also for legal purchase and download on iTunes.
Talking about MARD's association with the campaign, Akhtar proclaims that technology is not just the domain of men. "Democratising access to information can empower women in our country and raise their status in our society. I am excited to join this initiative with our partners, to gather support and encourage men to support and help young girls and women in both urban and rural India to learn and use the internet to improve lives."
Sharing the details of Google's helping women get online campaign, Sandeep Menon, head of marketing, Google India states that the Mission's aim is to help bring 50 million women online in India. According to him, in the last nine months Google has undertaken a number of initiatives reaching over one million women across five states in India, covering 30 cities and 55 small towns. It has reached out to 950 educational institutes in these states, imparted basic training to over 45,000 girl students and trained over 5,000 teachers who can continue to educate and inform more girl students. "This is a tough task for us and we are constantly learning and adapting to cater to the needs of women in India. We have introduced HWGO Internet Cart, a mobile way of reaching out to women in villages who find it difficult to travel for our training sessions and we will roll it out across rural areas in more states of India," explains Menon.
Since its launch last year, the MARD campaign became a topic of discussion in several social networking sites and has had positive feedback from actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Arjun Rampal and Hrithik Roshan.
Akhtar was seen promoting the cause during the Indian Premier League's sixth season where he distributed 70,000 moustaches among the audience in Eden Gardens, Kolkata during the Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab match in support of the initiative. Adam Gilchrist, Gautam Gambhir, Shaan and others, also sported the moustache during the game to support the initiative.