Gyaan shakti (Power of Knowledge)
We plan to involve women residing in low income urban clusters who are unemployed or are looking to upskill. The idea is to create a sustainable network of empowered women who can step into the workforce and make the image of an empowered and economically contributive woman the norm. We will utilize schools located near low income urban clusters as Empowerment centers or Knowledge centers. The ubiquity of schools and their setup allows for them to be used with minimum investment as an empowerment centre. These centers will serve as platforms to impart holistic skills and rights education. They will also serve as placement agencies for the enrolled members, charging a small fee so that this model is sustainable.
We will utilize schools located near low income urban clusters as Empowerment centers or Knowledge centers. The women in the nearby clusters would be invited to be part of this platform where they will be imparted vocational and other relevant training. We will develop a Women's Empowerment curriculum for these centers - which will include vocational training, human rights education, financial literacy and self-defence. The vocational training will be along a number of tracks - beautician, teaching and others - each geared towards ensuring the participant is trained to a sufficient degree to be certified and placed in suitable, well-paying employment that uses her newly acquired skills - and placement will be arranged for a fee from the employer (contributing to the financial self-sustainability of this program). Crèches will additionally be provided so that women with young children can attend. The beginning of the curriculum will involve the women's husbands so that they can understand the program's benefit to them and their families.
The participant will also have access to a call centre which rings back on a reverse-call basis (so that the women don't need to use credit). The call centre will provide additional rights training and support to counsel women who may be at risk of not completing the program.
Finally, the participant is connected with a partnering local bank where a female teller helps the participant to set up a bank account into which her income can be paid.
We think this might succeed because it offers the key ingredients for a woman to enter the workforce and become an active participant in the economy. She will bring additional income to the household, earning her husband's respect, raising her status in the household, and gaining self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency. She will also be a part of an enabling network where she would be connected to other motivated peers for advice, encouragement and support.
Explain your idea in one sentence.
Using holistic skills and rights education as a tool to make empowered women the norm.
What is the need you are trying to solve?
Low income urban areas have a significant population of women who are unemployed. This group could very well tap into the various employment opportunities available in urban areas but are prevented by lack of skills, awareness ,etc. This considerable population, if included in the workforce, would have a tremendous impact on women’s status in the society. The image of women would change from what is propagated in a distorted manner by media to an empowered and motivated member of the society. This mass of women would go on to define what a normal society looks like – one where women are active and important contributive members.
Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?
The primary target group for this project would be women from low income areas. Typically, she is the non-earning member of her family, and spends her time cooking, cleaning and taking care of her family. She can be from any age group – early teens to post-menopausal; the common feature among these women is that their situation in life, including their non-contribution to the family’s income makes them vulnerable to disrespect from the community (perhaps even contempt) and poor self-esteem. They interact with women similar to themselves, and these interactions may be their sole source of information; they do not have access to information that might empower them, and have no mechanisms to report threats to their safety, which can be common.
Potential metrics for monitoring success could be – the number of women participating in the project, number of calls made to the helpline, no. of women trained and placed in work-places, no. of bank accounts opened, etc. To measure changes in the big picture, it might be worthwhile to run a quick baseline survey in the area chosen for the intervention; such a survey would record indicators like crime index, no. of police complaints, etc. and women’s views on how safe they feel. The survey can be repeated a year into the implementation.
Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?
The ideal implementer would be an organization engaged in education and skill development, with some experience in dealing with women’s issues. Pratham and Nandi Foundation are examples.
Where should this idea be implemented?
While the above description of target group would fit a very large proportion of Indian women living in urban and rural areas, it would make sense to begin the intervention in urban slums where even as threats to women’s safety are the highest, the close community living makes it possible to socialize such an idea quickly. We would like to see the idea coming to life in slums in Delhi and Bombay to begin with.
How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?
We would prototype this idea in one slum with one school and a bank. The assumptions that we would want to test out would be around the potential barriers that would prevent women from taking up this opportunity. These could range from lack of motivation to familial pressure to lack of self-confidence.
What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?
Mala and her family stay in an urban slum and her kid has started going to school. With the increase in expenses from the school fees and the free time available to her, Mala thinks she should look at employment opportunities. However, she doesn’t have the money to attend any vocational courses and is quite unaware of how she should go about getting a job. Her neighbor tells her about the Gyan shakti circle that’s operational at the nearby school. With weekend classes, she can train to be a tailor and will also get the opportunity to connect with like-minded women. Plus, she will be placed at a reputed employer after she finishes her course. Mala completes the course and is now part of the group of women from her slum that step out of their houses every morning to go out and earn their share of the household income. She has commute buddies on the train routes as well as a group of work friends who she looks forward to meeting every day. They swap stories, share advice and are part of the teeming mass of women who are slowly changing the image of a country going to work.