Women play a pivotal role in the development of a country as well as society. For the last few decades, women have been actively participating in various economic & social activities, but they are not given their due respect. We have to recognize that they are still subjected to discrimination in the social, economic, and educational fields. Women are great at multitasking and play an important role in the development of the economy. Making women more skilled and boosting up their confidence – is a priority.
Skills development is a pathway to increase productivity, employability, and earning opportunities for women. At present, it is considered an essential and indispensable tool for women’s empowerment. Indian women are so caught up in their family lives that they face the majority of barriers to accessing skills and productive employment. A great push from the government is required to create a skilled workforce for creating economic prosperity. The aim of skill development for women is not to prepare them for jobs, but also to improve the quality of work they have already been working in. Looking at the importance of the role women play in the development of a nation, there is a long way to go.
Skill development for women
Women have been showing their ability in community development for years. In India, women can be seen leading various areas like – education, business, art and culture, service sector, sports, politics, media, HR, and science and technology. Women form a substantial part of the employed force - but the working percentage rate of women in the total labour force is a bit of a disappointment. The numbers are declining and mostly stuck in informal jobs. All these are a result of a lack of employment opportunities and skills for the women workforce. Currently, a major percentage of the workforce in India is unskilled. They need the motivation to develop their life skills – that will help them get high paying jobs with better livelihood & confidence to earn for themselves. Upskilling them will develop their ability & quality to move ahead and take charge of their own lives. The concept of training and skill development needs to move beyond imparting technical and managerial skills, with more focus on literacy, numeracy, political & life skills. Some skills that need to be highlighted for women empowerment are:
- Communication skills
- Business etiquettes
- Language development
- Personality development
- Leadership skills
- Management skills
- Entrepreneurship skills
- Basic accounting skills
- Basic computer skills
21st-century skilling is the key
Studies suggest that by the next 10 years, 75 million women will join the workforce in India (Niti Aayog), with over 90 per cent of them employed in nontraditional sectors. According to a recently released report by UN Women, the post-pandemic era will witness 96 million people into extreme poverty, out of which 47 million can be women and girls. Whatever the growth and development made by women have been reversed due to the pandemic. This creates an urgency to enable women to expand their horizon of learning opportunities and chart better pathways for themselves, to save themselves from exploitation, abuse, and payment disparity at work.
Social restructuring and innovative thinking need to be undertaken to make a shift by encouraging young females to quality education and training programmes, which will lead them to a skilled workforce. Getting more women in the workforce can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent (WEF). With the help of technology, promotion of incubation space, funding opportunities, and setting up of upskilling centres can boost the number of women participating in the ongoing industrial revolution. However, according to the data, only 35 per cent of Indian women can use the internet effectively. Skilling programs today need modification according to digital training, to keep up with the changing times in the 21st century.
How can CSR be a catalyst for upskilling women in India?
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has called CSR the ‘business contribution to sustainable economic development. It is observed in India that corporate social responsibility works around legal compliance and is usually working on the activities pertaining to women empowerment, environment conservation, sustainable development, health, safety, and child education amongst others. Over the years, we have seen an increase in the number of corporations engaging themselves in social awareness drives on the issues that we just mentioned.
When it comes to women’s development in India, there have been several examples where CSR activities have helped to make a mark in society. For instance, Project Shakti by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) was launched, aiming to empower rural women financially and to create livelihood opportunities in their areas. This project has proved to be a virtue for thousands of women living in the villages or small towns. Under the project, the company trains Shakti Ammas –women entrepreneurs who are well versed with HUL’s products.
There is one more CSR collaborated project by Zee Entertainment and Subhash Chandra Foundation – Program Sarthi. The project works on different objectives such as women’s skill development, alternative livelihood, social justice, health, and education by raising social awareness on the rights and duties amongst the people. When it comes to educating women or women empowerment, Program Sarthi has been successful in diminishing female foeticide and child marriage in several backward areas.
We live in the 21st century and still, we can witness patriarchy-based gender inequalities in societies all around the globe. These gender inequalities have a huge impact on work and occupation, education and health for women. Over and over, women are underrepresented in every aspect of society, especially political and economic decision-making. Gender inequalities can take place in extreme situations where women become victims of violence and discrimination. Which is completely unacceptable in any given situation.
Today India is ready to eliminate all the inequalities and discrimination against women. It can only be done with the help of women’s empowerment. Empowering women is a way to unleash the true spirit of shared responsibility where women and men can live in society as equals in the complete absence of prejudice and discrimination. This would help in catering to the process of achieving the future of a developed country.
In all honesty, CSR can prove to be a catalyst in the process of holistic empowerment of Indian women. At present, the Indian economy is growing at a rapid stage, and the government, as well as the private sector, is flourishing. Hence, we can conclude that corporations have an important role to play in the area of upskilling women in India.