Many Indian women and girls today are hoping to become the business women of tomorrow, yet only 25% of India’s workforce is female.[i] This number is compared to 57% of women participating in the labor force in the United States[ii] and 70% in the UK.[iii]
Why are so few Indian women working?
The main issue is gender inequality in the workforce and an age-old patriarchal belief that a woman’s place is in the home, taking care of her husband, children, and aging parents-in-law. It appears shameful in some Indian families if a woman works; it means her husband is not providing enough. It is difficult for women to move out of a subservient role. These women are often voiceless in any talks about how money is spent, and they lack power in decisions for the family.
Another roadblock is literacy, which is why education becomes integral.
There are solutions. A combination of government and private sector initiatives are needed. Government could increase legal protections and make sure women’s political voices are heard. Private initiatives like increasing women’s access to the internet and teaching computer literacy would improve employment options as well. Less than a third—or 29%—of women in India use computers, which, again, is due to their gender.[iv] For this reason, many women are not given the chance to earn money or become a business leader. The study said that as little as a 10% increase in women workers could add $770 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in the following seven years.
However, the bigger issue is changing traditional views of women in the workplace. How do you change the mindset about women’s roles at home and at work?
With education, the perception of a daughter is changed to think of her as an asset with her ability to earn higher income. Within a school, girls and boys interact with each other, learning interpersonal skills. They learn management, working as a team, and creativity, all of which are valued in the “real world.” At school girls are given permission to dream and to have goals. Here, in the United Staes, education is a basic right that paves a path to reaching my goals. It is only fair to allow this basic right to all women in the world. It is mind bogging to me that education can be considered a burden for many disadvantaged families where the expense of education outweighs the benefits. Education is what brought me to this internship. As a young woman who will soon embark in the “real world,” I have realized through research that I have taken some things for granted. I have access to a computer and the internet. The computer has allowed me to communicate with other members of the Kiran Anjali Project, conduct research on the subject of girl’s education, and it is where I wrote this blog post. I have had the opportunity to go to school. I have been given a chance to learn, while many women in this world have not had that privilege.
Here are some specific ways that the Kiran Anjali Project’s sponsored programs are preparing girls for employment and higher earning power:
- Baale Mane and Wings School have recently added computer labs and the girls are being instructed in basic computer literacy.
- Starting this academic year, Plus2 girls in Hyderabad are required to attend life skills classes that include legal rights workshops, career planning, and other skills.
- A new program for Plus2 graduates attending university is under development to offer internships and/or part time jobs to students in their chosen career paths
Shravya, the young woman quoted at the start of this post, is a shining example of a girl who is storming toward her chosen career in business. She is now in her second year of university classes and doing very well academically. In 2018, Shravya met with the accountant of the Kiran Anjali Project. He found out that she had the skill set to be trained as an accountant herself. The Kiran Anjali Project’s accountant not only offered to fund Shravya’s financial training, he also offered her a part-time job at the completion of said training. This not only gives Shravya much needed income to help her struggling family, but it also increases her marketable skills and resumé. Her parents, who once thought she should get married early, are now very proud of her accomplishments and happy that she is contributing financially. She will be part of KAP Academy and continue to be mentored to further her skills and resume.
Your support helps fund big dreams for girls like Shravya. She has already broken barriers and changed mindsets in her own family and community. She is now one of India’s future business women thanks to you!
This blog is part of a series produced by our interning college students Anjali Patel and Monica Sager.