Tottho Apas (information sisters) have turned themselves a bridge between underprivileged rural women and digital literacy through providing easy access to information technology (IT) generated services.
The Totto Apas are basically the information service officers at the rural areas who mainly facilitate different IT enabled activities like access to internet, ensure availability of government services, video conference, e-learning, e-commerce for the rural women.
The first phase of the project was successfully implemented in 13 upazilas while the five-year second phase is now being implemented in 490 Upazilas to endure the availability of information technology to grass root women.
The major objectives of the project are to establishment of Information Center in 490 upazilas to sensitize one crore village women to solve their everyday problems through information technology.
Under the project, e-commerce assistance through Information Centers are being provided to women while a technology based team through e-learning is being formed in the rural areas.
Each information center has one Information Service Officer and two Information Service Assistants, who are known as Tottho Apa at the project area, for providing information services in the rural areas across the country.
Apart from this, the IT literate these women visit the village households in the project area and provide information related to education, health, law, business, gender and agriculture using the laptops.
Moreover, the information center provides free services regarding employment information, examination results, and information of different government services.
Besides, the Tottho Apas are offering primary healthcare services at free of cost like blood pressure test, weight measurement and diabetes test.
The Information Service Officer and Information Service Assistants also visit door-to-door in the concerned Upazilas to solve problems relating to education, health, laws, business, gender and agriculture through using their laptops.
They provide prompt and effective remedy by making communication through conversation in Skype with the beneficiaries and the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) along with other officers of the concerned departments.
The Tottho Apas are also conduct regular courtyard meetings with grassroots women to inform and educate them on various issues such as health problems, child marriage, Fatwa, (religious edict) violence against women, employment, legal issues and the various aspects of digital services like e-mail, messaging, chatting and video conferencing.
In each meeting, 40-50 rural women participate while each information center organizes two meetings in a month.
The concerned UNO, agriculture officer, education officer, fisheries officer, health officer, IT experts and other relevant government officials are also present at these meetings.
Apart from this, local women entrepreneurs, women lawyers and social workers
also present in such courtyard meetings to provide their advices on the issues such as prevention of child marriage, dowry prevention, and domestic violence and women policies.
Information Service officer of Keraniganj upazila Naznin Nahar said they are playing a vital role in ensuring women empowerment through providing access to information and ensuring IT services to the helpless, poor, under privileged or less-privileged women in the rural area of Bangladesh.
Women empowerment has been emphasized in Vision-2021 and in the Seventh Five-year Plan (2016-2020) of the government of Bangladesh and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).