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Dilemma of women in rural areas: To skill or not skill

Life&More March 13, 2018
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Ms Manju Gill, senior manager- concepts (livelihood) at Fiinovation, a global consulting company operating in multiple disciplines of social development sector with emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability talks about skilling rural India.

I have witnessed a lot of great work that skill development schemes have done for the empowerment of women especially in rural areas. Courtesy my job, I once happened to visit one such skill center. It was nothing less than a five-star facility with air-conditioned classrooms, well-equipped laboratories, a dedicated library, a pantry, separate washrooms for boys and girls, and it was in close proximity of a bus stand. I was highly impressed with the infrastructure and then to witness a real-life example of how it is affecting, rather improving the lives of youth, it motivated me to converse with a few students.

The first person I talked to was Rani, she had joined the center for a beauty and wellness course and was all praises for the trainer. In my mind, I thought, Desh badal raha hai. She told me that she had joined the center with high hopes but she will have to leave the training in between as she is getting married and will be moving to a different village.  Unfortunately enough, she can’t be transferred from one skill center to another, just like schools. Although I congratulated her for her wedding and tried to motivate her to continue the dreams, it left me thinking.
Suman was another trainee, dressed in her training course. She looked like the face of “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”, one of those girls who is ready to take on the world. But, a while later the conversation with her disheartened me again, after she mentioned that she was allowed to study but not to take up a job. She wasn’t allowed to travel 20 km one side in public transport, owing to the safety issues.

These two experiences made me realize, that it is not the only world-class infrastructure that is required to “skill India”. We, as a society, need to tackle women-centric challenges that restrict girls. But before losing hope, I visited the government website, I filtered the training programs to few which are popular among women like Beauty and Wellness, Sewing Machine Operator, Self Employed Tailor, Handicraft with a hope that at least in other parts of India, girls are getting jobs through these skill development schemes.

The data left me disappointed when I calculated the numbers. In a data of three states, only seven per cent , six per cent and zero per cent fall under the category of total placed.
Now, the question arises as to why, even after so much investment into these skill development schemes, have our women either not joined or have opted out of these courses. The reasons are many, the solutions that come to my mind are:

There is a huge need to sensitize the rural communities about benefits of these schemes along with creating a secure and safe environment for women to travel to these centers.

Most of the women are cutting on family time (home chores, leaving kids behind, etc) to come to these centers. They need to be compensated for the opportunity cost.

A mere support of Rs. 1,000 or Rs 1,500 cannot act a motivator.

There is a huge requirement to customize the courses according to states/districts.

Most importantly, there is a need to make the women aware about their rights.

I feel until women are aware of their legal rights and motivated, they wouldn’t stand up and create their “space”. In addition, Women must become their own saviors.

Also, the government should take inspiration from local NGOs who are working towards community development, women empowerment, income generation through local resources. An example comes to my mind: A Norway-based NGO has taken up a programme in Chandelao, Rajasthan, wherein this NGO is empowering a lot of women to earn a livelihood through traditional arts and crafts, along with promoting traditional crafts local of Rajasthan.

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