ET Women's Forum: Necessary to upgrade skill sets of rural women & girls and give them a neutral platform
There is no formula for empowering and mentoring women.
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Understanding the issues that are proving to be barriers to empowering women and providing relevant solutions will be the key to creating new leadership with the right skill sets, said women leaders.
Thought leaders driving several successful initiatives for women through organisations such as Facebook and SEWA Bharat as well as international forums like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said that a deep dive into women-centric issues is required to put together a set of solutions that will ultimately create impact on the lives of women.
“There is no formula for empowering and mentoring women. You need to learn what the need is. Unless we understand the problems, we cannot come up with solutions,” said Sanchita Mitra, national coordinator, SEWA Bharat, in a panel discussion on New Leadership: Skilling and Mentoring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs.
She recounted her experience when she started visiting girls’ homes to understand the reason behind low response to one of SEWA’s initiatives. As she puts it, the programme could not have moved ahead without a granular understanding of the baggage and barriers. According to Kanta Singh, gender lead, UNDP, information is the first key barrier as women and girls don’t always know the right sources to get it from.
“Empowerment will be knowledge and skills-driven and that’s where we are working,” Singh said. We need to understand what their aspiration and dreams are… We will fail our girls, if we don’t act now.”
Experts agreed that the need of the hour is to upgrade the skill sets of rural women and girls digitally as that would provide a neutral platform for information exchange. While rural women may be able to handle phones, they find it difficult to work with computers.
“It’s a challenge, but also is an opportunity,” Singh said.
Ankhi Das, public policy director for Facebook in India, South and Central Asia, appealed to delegates at The Economic Times Women’s Forum to participate in the company’s mentoring programme.
“We are mentoring tribal women in five states of India, we seek more women to join this programme,” she said, adding that 10 Indian states account for 83% of the country’s indigenous population. “Of this, we would be working in five states, including Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal with 25 mentors—100 girls spread across these five states.”
SEWA Bharat’s Mitra believes the organisational support has been a major help in building confidence and mentoring women through her programmes. “Community approach is much better than individual mode. The process may be slow, but proves to be effective,” she said.