Vocational Training and Information Technologies for Rural Women
Rural women education and training are essential components of any strategy to improve agricultural and non-farm productivity and rural incomes. Learning about improved production technologies and methods, new products and markets, business skills, as well as life skills (such as health management, decision-making, self confidence, or conflict management) can make a big difference for many of the rural poor, particularly the women folk (ILO VI, 2008]. Access to training is a major constraint among rural people in developing countries. For instance, nearly 90 percent of agricultural workers in India have no formal training [Singh, R. (2008)]. Rural women and girls are often the most disadvantaged. The global secondary school attendance rate for rural girls is 39 percent as opposed to 45 percent for rural boys and 59 percent for urban girls. [UN: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009]. Environmental degradation and climate change pose threats to subsistence farming and call for new technologies, alternative crops or growing processes – which demand new skills [ILO-V, 2008].
Training outside the formal training system is often the most important source of skills training in developing countries. For example in Benin, Senegal and Cameroon, informal apprenticeships account for almost 90 percent of all trades training. [ILO, (Geneva: 2007)]. For that, they face great disadvantages when trying to enter urban labour markets because of their low level of women education and lack of relevant skills.
Female Workforce in India (Nos. in Millions)
|Female Workforce in India||148|
|Female Workforce in Informal Sector||135|
|Female Workforce in Formal Sector||13|
|Fresh women workforce added to labour market every year in informal sector||3,5|
|Fresh women workforce added to labour market in formal sector||0,2|
Source: by Mr Dilip Chenoy, Power point presentation, slide no 5, at GEPD forum II, 2012.
The above table presents the current scenario of women workforce in India; one can clearly observe the huge concentration of female workforce in favor of the informal sector. It reflects the urgent need that prompted the government to take serious note of this awful situation in training and skill education.
Rural Women and ICT in the Rural Setting
The contribution of information and knowledge in bringing about social and economic development has been well recognized globally. However, communicating this relevant knowledge and information to rural communities continues to remain as a major challenge even today, though the world has been better connected than ever before. Donors, intergovernmental agencies, national governments, NGOs and the industry (IT and non-IT) during the last two decades have invested significantly in extending the reach of ICTs. Many of them have also experimented with its new and varied applications in promoting development and this includes areas such as health, agriculture, governance, financial services, employment and women education.
Capacity Development and Training for Rural Women
In order to make a positive link between rural women s livelihoods and ICTs, capacity development must be rooted in the societal context and linked to improving conditions. Projects can change women’s negative perceptions about how they look at ICTs through practical and participatory training. Training delivered by women to rural women is generally more successful. A short-term strategy is an appropriate choice of technologies that are user – friendly, affordable and physically robust. Long-term strategies should address literacy levels in order to expand the choice and use of ICTs. Training interventions need to be aware of cultural and social conditions and trainings should be conducted where rural women congregate. In some instances, telecentres are appropriate and useful venues if the community culture enables rural women to comfortably use the centres.
Suggestions for Improvement and Implications for the skill development programmes for Rural Women
There are several suggestions and implications tor the overall improvement of the skill development programmes in India, with particular focus on concerns a related to women’s skill development. There is a wide range of policy initiatives that can be undertaken by governments, the social partners and local communities to improve the situation of rural workers through skills development and thereby contribute to increased productivity and incomes and improved social welfare.
- There is a need of development of HRD. It implies focus on improvements in access to women education and training for girls, including the provision of services, such as transport, hostels, scholarships, and other incentives to encourage rural women to enroll for women education and training. [Comyn, P. (2012)].
- Complementing technical and vocational training with basic women education (literacy and numeracy) and life skills (e.g. confidence-building, health management, social awareness) (Brewer, 201.3). [Brewer, L. 2013]. This enables participants to benefit more from technical and vocational training, and may be particularly relevant for those most marginalized. Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and private Industrial Training Centers (ITCs) are the main institutions under the craftsmen training scheme in India. Though they have the responsibility of providing skilled workers to the informal sectors, evidences show that the performance of both the institutes is not satisfactory till now.
- The main institutions under the craftsmen training scheme in India are public Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and private Industrial Training Centers (ITCs). The aim of the it is and the ITCs is to provide skilled workers to the informal sector; however, evidence shows that both the institutes have performed poorly on their mandate. ITIs have been criticized for offering training in trades that are out dated and not relevant for the modern day employment requirements.
- Rural women face complex ground realities, including low levels of literacy, discriminatory social customs and traditions, limited hours available for training and work, and limited exposure and unfamiliarity with new technology. Hence, the need to make the skill development process accommodating and flexible to encourage rural women to enroll. [Chenoy, D (2012)].
- Integrate skills development into rural development policies and strategies, such as agricultural policies, and private sector development and entrepreneurship policies.
- Develop diversified skills development policies that consider formal, non-formal and informal training. [Non-formal training is structured, usually school/institution-based training that is not recognized by the formal training system, for example, training imparted by NGOs. Informal training is commonly non-structured training, for example, at the workplace.]
- Consider linking formal with non-formal training, or combining institution-based women education with enterprise-based learning. Facilitate rural entrepreneurs’ access to micro-credit schemes, business development services and market information. This may require expanding the scope of these services and ensuring that the right legal framework is in place.
- Collecting and analyzing data, disaggregated by gender, age, ethnicity, disability and other relevant dimensions, to enable appropriate services and programmed to be designed.
- Facilitating access to training materials, toolkits, and modern equipment and technology, as well as better remuneration, for teachers and trainers.
- Promoting a gender-responsive learning environment, for example, by providing safe transportation and training facilities, separate sanitation facilities, dormitories and provisions for child care.
At lasts, the suggestion for the successful implementation of the vocational women education programme was that the Directorate of Vocational Women Education should be strengthened. Financial assistance to the institutions offering vocational courses should also be increased in order to build up infrastructure facilities. Part-time teachers should be offered better financial incentives. Students should be given assistance in the form of scholarships, loans and financial assistance at the time of field visits. Non-government organizations can be approached for cooperation to provide more financial assistance to vocational courses.
Empowering rural women and engaging them in the workforce may require a more holistic policy approach as women education, discrimination and local communities requires more than just VET programs in order to have a skilled and productive workforce. VET programs may be more effective in rural areas where household income is low and skills training can create job opportunities. Therefore, the Government of India should focus its training efforts regionally to address local employment issues and provide appropriate skills training.