Although many schemes have been set to skill women in India, the hurdles and loopholes continue to overshadow the efforts being taken, keeping the female workforce from flourishing and widening the work-gap between genders.
Tucked away in one corner of India, in the dusty alleys of Kutch in Gujarat, the ‘Kala Raksha Trust’, literally the art preservation centre, is skilling the local women on how to economically and creatively take forward their traditional art and craft. The women here have been practicing traditional surface art since generations but have never really been benefiting from it on a large scale. The trust is now skilling them in subjects like marketing and designing so they are at par with the industry standards and can use their unique knowledge of the age-old Kutchi embroidery work and transform their lives for better. “The woman artisans are well versed with their craft but are not too educated or socially aware. This often leads to them being treated as only labourers. We don’t want that to happen to the artisans and are thus working towards imbibing marketing and designing skills in them,” Mukesh Bhanani, manager at Kala Raksha Trust tells Biz@India.
The lack of proper knowledge and awareness remains a hurdle for many across the country. Just like the artisans of Kutch who possess the skills of a unique art-form, there are craftsmen in other corners of India who remain in the dark due to lack of some ‘modern’ skills, such as marketing. While Kala Raksha Trust has been able to benefit from help by the Government of India (GoI), The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and private donors, there are institutions that have had to retire due to lack of proper aid and backing. There are not many institutes or organisations in India that work towards the protection of traditional art and empowering the artisans, making the Kala Raksha Trust one of its kind.
“There are artisans in Bengal who have been involved in making pottery since ages. There is a unique factor to their craft, which can be taken to new heights if exploited correctly,” says Shabistan Gaffar, former chairperson, committee on girls’ education, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) and present chairperson, All India Confederation for Women Empowerment through Education, New Delhi. “Currently the talents are underpaid for their produce and treated like labourers. We need to free them from such clutches,” she adds.
Gaffar, for her research related to skilling, has travelled extensively across India particularly to West Bengal where she has seen immense lack of infrastructure, that if build could polish the existing skills of many craftsman.
“There is definitely a lack of proper infrastructure across India; and the institutions that are existing, lack credible affiliation or government recognition. So, even if schools or institutions train people, the trainee is unable to fetch a job because of no degree or diploma in hand. Yes, we need more institutions but also a proper mechanism for the existing ones,” says Gaffar.
Gaffar tells us that her studies have shown that the lack of a mechanism or monitoring creates a gap between the government and the beneficiaries. So, even if there are schemes that define a modus operandi and 100 pc input is given in the first place, only 20 pc reaches the beneficiaries. Although the most affected remain the women at rural levels, loopholes also persist at the urban level.
Gaffar further explains that the problem with skilling and then ultimately employment at urban level is that people are still conservative about their daughters or wives going out and doing something ‘unconventional’. Women are still pushed towards studying subjects that don’t interest them. Although they fetch a degree, they lack the motivation to work in the field, which further widens the gender gap in workforce.