Good way to boost women's skill

The education system has little to offer in training students in employable skills.

Does announcing the launch of National Skills Mission give space for women to celebrate Make it Happen Women’s Day this year with fervor? What are the challenges that are to be faced to bring inclusiveness of women which would someday bring them on a par with men in the skills sector and thereby better livelihood and equality?

A highlight of the Union Budget 2015-16 is the assurance to launch a National Skills Mission which is a clear indication that the country is tired of churning out engineers and doctors and need other “skilled” people too, if it has to thrive locally and globally. Skills mission would also address the demographic dividend that the country hopes to harness from. There would be 116 million workers in the age bracket of 20 to 24 years in 2020. Skills mission would help shift the mindset of hiring in India which is stuck with education and experience as qualification to one of becoming skill-based.

Rs 1,000 crore would be allotted for skills development which would also consolidate skill initiatives across several ministries and 31 sector skill councils said the finance minister. How much money has been allotted takes less precedence when compared to the onerous task of developing systems which can converge different ministries which have various requirements as also ensuring that education and skill development lead to employability, a decent one at that for both men and women.

Given that half of India’s population is women, the mission will have to cover them if any meaningful result is to be achieved. However, the constraint to transit women and facilitate their participation in the skills sector - whether it is global or Make in India are many. Low level of education, 65.46 per cent of women are literate compared to 82.14 per cent men, low rate of participation in the labour force, 35.7 per cent compared to 94.4 per cent men has restricted women to contribute to the uneducated and semi- skilled population.

Stereotypical notions

In the agricultural sector, women are marginal workers and in the industries they are in occupations such as beedi rolling, match manufacturing, spinning. Women are inherently associated with certain skills; the stereotypical notions of women caring for the comfort of others, serving food has resulted in slotting them to “fit” into industries such as hospitality, catering and accommodation operations. Women work as housekeepers, front office managers and are in low paid jobs with little scope to move up the occupational ladder.

Low skill levels ensure that they stay in low paid jobs. In construction industry where they contribute to 51 percent of the labour force, they carry brick, sand, water, cement. Skilled work such as plumbing, carpentry, electrical wiring remains in the male-domain. Women face decent work deficit as they face involuntary unemployment, income insecurity, abuse of rights.
The education system has little to offer in training students in employable skills. Introducing curriculum covering vocational education in schools has remained a distant dream. This is in spite of introducing schemes for vocationalisation of Higher Secondary Education which draws from the country’s mandate of empowering women and the National Policy of Education which emphasizes on facilitating girls’ participation in vocational and technical education.

NGOs’ contribution

The vocational training institutes have stereo-type skill development programmes, those which are tailor made for girls are “soft” than those which are offered for boys. The enrolment and retention of girls in polytechnics and ITIs have a different story to tell than that of boys. If anything, the NGO sector has shown some ingenuity in introducing skill trainings such as motor driving for girls and one often hears of how well women radio cab drivers and chauffeurs are managing in Delhi, supported by AZAD Foundation. Other example is that of skilling poor and uneducated women of Tilonia village in Rajasthan who have become proficient in harnessing solar energy thanks to the Barefoot College set up by Bunker Roy.

Budget highlights

Setting up of Apprenticeship Training Institutes for Women, introducing digital vouchers for qualified students to benefit from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin Kaushal Yojana with Rs 1,500 crore funds are also the budget highlights. Critiques say that skills are not being talked about for the first time, programs like MNREGS and Aajeevika (revamped now as Deen Dayal Yojana) also aimed at skilling and have faced uphill task to achieve targets.

If the proposed skills policy focuses on inclusionary measures taking cognizance of women’s constraints and needs that would be the best gift that the Centre can give to women this year. Skills Policy should ensure that women participate as valued, respected and contributing members of the society.

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