Empowering Indian women through skill development - Hindustan Times
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Empowering Indian women through skill development

May 23, 2024 01:05 PM IST

This article is authored by Rajesh Mehta, public policy consultant, New Delhi.

Women’s empowerment remains pivotal to the growth trajectory of every nation. Despite India's rapid advancement, the journey towards empowering every Indian woman is still a work in progress. With only around 65% of rural women literate compared to 86% of rural men, the gender gap persists in educational attainment. Socio-cultural norms and structural hurdles continue to hinder women's access to skill development opportunities, perpetuating the divide. Traditional gender roles confine women to domestic duties, limiting their ability to acquire new skills. Mobility constraints, alongside familial and transportation barriers, further impede women's participation in training programmes. This disparity extends across various indicators, including literacy rates, labour force participation, and digital inclusion.

Students take participate in skill development training courses organised by Delhi Police under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana at New Usman Pur Police Station in New Delhi, India, recently. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Students take participate in skill development training courses organised by Delhi Police under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana at New Usman Pur Police Station in New Delhi, India, recently. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Additionally, the prevalence of unpaid agricultural labour among women often remains unaccounted for in official statistics. The digital gender gap exacerbates these inequalities, restricting rural women's access to online education and skill-building resources. Addressing these challenges requires multifaceted strategies. Corporates, as part of their CSR programmes, are increasingly venturing into deep rural geographies to bridge gaps and promote sustainable development. Initiatives like the HDFC Bank Parivartan’s Nursing Kaushal College in Jharkhand exemplify this approach. Over two years, it has provided skill training to 600 young women in residential ANM/nursing courses. Many graduates have since secured placements in premier medical institutions in India or abroad, enhancing their employability and economic independence. Moreover, a rural development project in Assam has been instrumental in promoting diversified handloom products and improving product quality for 500 handloom artisans. In Assam, a marketing platform has been established for 300 rural artisans, aimed at boosting incomes for women handloom workers and related labourers. Additionally, the promotion of community weaver institutions encourages the sustainable revitalisation of traditional weaving, empowering women in rural areas.

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In parallel, national policies and initiatives complement grassroots efforts by fostering gender-inclusive skill development. Government programmes like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) aim to encourage female participation in skill training. Financial aid in the form of scholarships and loans alleviates the monetary burden of training for women, making skill development more accessible. Tailoring skilling programmes to local industries or agricultural practices enhances their relevance and attractiveness to women, thereby increasing participation rates. Furthermore, providing digital literacy training equips women with essential digital skills, expanding their access to online learning opportunities and information resources.

To drive synergies with government initiatives, ITC’s Skilling of Youth programme equips potential job seekers with market-relevant skills to enhance their employability. Aligning with the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the programme is present in 17 states and has successfully trained a cumulative total of 1 lakh youth. In FY 2022-23, 34% of enrolled youth were from SC/ST communities, and 46% were female students. The programme offered courses in 8 skills with the most sought-after courses being electrical, computer skills and bedside assistance. The youth were also given assistance in getting jobs after completion of their training which enabled them to access a better livelihood, enhance their self-esteem and contribute to the well-being of their family as well. Furthermore, a pilot for skilling persons with disabilities, including those with locomotor and hearing impairments, was launched in Bengaluru, Karnataka, with two batches featuring 53% women, focusing on life skills, computer skills, and English language.

Bridging the rural gender gap in skill development necessitates concerted efforts across multiple fronts. Policy interventions, financial support mechanisms, tailored training programs, and shifts in societal attitudes are essential for empowering rural Indian women and fostering inclusive economic growth. Hyundai Motor India Foundation (HMIF) introduced the Drive4Progress initiative to provide driver skill development training and employment opportunities, including soft skills training, practical driving lessons, licence processing, and employment placement. The project aims to cover over 1,500 youth, including women, from Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal over the next three years. In March 2024, HMIF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ‘Navjyoti Transforming Lives & Careers Society’ NGO and BluSmart to provide employment to 250 trained women drivers who are beneficiaries of HMIF’s Drive4Progress initiative.

By investing in women's education and skills, India can unlock the full potential of its rural workforce, driving sustainable development and prosperity for all.

This article is authored by Rajesh Mehta, public policy consultant, New Delhi.

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