Microsoft awards YouthSpark grant to Shakti Foundation to empower undeserved Bangladeshi women to become IT entrepreneurs

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Microsoft Philanthropies today announced a financial award from the Microsoft YouthSpark grant to Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the social and economic empowerment of underprivileged women through its initiatives in microfinance, health, and agriculture. Microsoft Bangladesh, in partnership with the Access to Information (A2I) unit of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), has provided Digital Literacy Training to women in 5200 Digital Centers across Bangladesh. To graduate from the Digital Literacy Training program Microsoft Bangladesh, in participation with the A2I/PMO, has now entered an agreement with Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women to further empower these women through training and financing opportunities. The Microsoft Youth Spark award will support Shakti Foundation to enable more women to operate their own IT repairs and services businesses across the country.

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IT entrepreneurship program equips women with the relevant IT skills through training in computer hardware and software use, repair and troubleshooting. Upon graduation, they are enrolled into Shakti’s microfinance program to secure a loan for opening a small IT repair center in one of the over 5,200 Digital Centers nationwide provided by the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Dr. Humaira Islam, Founder Executive Director of Shakti Foundation said: “Imparting IT skills to underprivileged women will help them gain social and economic independent through a holistic approach to IT entrepreneurship. To date, Microsoft Bangladesh has trained 3,300 women of the 5200 women with IT skills and Shakti Foundation will kick start the first group of 50 of these already trained women to open their small IT repair business in Digital Centers by March 2017.“

The program builds on the Women Entrepreneurs in Technology for Digital Centers (Windows Women) initiative between Microsoft Bangladesh and the Prime Minister’s Office signed in January 2016. This program provides Digital Literacy training to women and links them to a government-run Digital Center to provide hardware and software support to the local community. Located in every union, district, and city ward, the centers also provide a number of government and private services as well as help generate female employment and entrepreneurs.

Sonia Bashir Kabir, Managing Director, Microsoft Bangladesh, said, “Women play a pivotal role in raising families and contributing to the local economy. Microsoft YouthSpark grants help nonprofits such as Shakti Foundation to scale so that more women can benefit from their programs as well as gain economic and social independence. I am very passionate about bringing technology to women and empowering them to become IT entrepreneurs. We are also very excited about introducing technology for the first time to MFI women in Bangladesh. Our ambition is to have over 5,200 women operate their IT own businesses in the 5200 Digital Centers nationwide by June 2018.”

Last year, Microsoft Philanthropies announced grants for over 100 nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in 55 markets, including 29 NPOs in Asia Pacific (APAC) which include Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The grants are part of a three-year the $75 million commitment Microsoft has made to increase access to computer science education around the world. Microsoft is partnering with nonprofits by providing cash grants, content and other resources they need to bring computational thinking and problem-solving skills to youth, women and underserved communities, important building blocks to help them succeed in today’s tech-fueled economy.

Dr. Daiana Beitler, Philanthropies lead, Microsoft Asia, said, “Microsoft aims to empower nonprofit organizations that work with youth and women by providing them with skills training, technology and solutions, our employees’ time and financial support. We hope that the Microsoft YouthSpark grant will truly level the playing field for these communities.”

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