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Skill Development Initiatives #YouthMatters

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By Mahitha Kasireddi:

“India is a remarkably young country with an average age of 28 years. 65% of the population is below 35yrs of age. We have a demographic advantage of having 540 million young people which in turn implies that we need dynamic and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the other nations including China are aging”- Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor

vocational trainingThe biggest concern of our leaders since the past two five year plans has been ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘sustainable development’. With less that 1000 days left for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals target in attaining ‘poverty alleviation’ merely providing incentives and subsidies will not help; providing training of green skills and employment opportunities in different sectors will. The wide gap between the rich and poor can be well attended by bridging the urban-rural gap. The urban biased education shall be well countered with equal effort in upgrading the skills of labour market from the grass-root level. Demand for skilled workforce in the market is increasing whereas many labourers at rural level are unable to compete due to low and outdated skills. Also the current education system is incapable of meeting the demand requirements of the Industry. The government has announced the invitations of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country which promise at least 10 million jobs. A skill labour force is required to fill the titanic vacuum.

Keeping in mind the demographic trend of our country, i.e. a working population between the age of 15 and 59 years, the government had launched a National Skill Development Mission. A National Skill Development Corporation Board (NSDCB) and Prime Minister’s National Skill Development Council was established. A special budget was allocated in the financial years 2011-12 and 2012-13 setting up a target to shape 500 million labour force by 2022. On 9 May 2013, the government had approved the setting up of an autonomous body called National Skill Development Agency. The National Skill Development Council (NSDC) has recognised around 21 departments to impart training in both organised and unorganised sectors. These include automobiles, electronic hardware, textiles and garments, leather and leather goods, building and construction, food processing, handlooms and handicrafts, media, banking and financial sector etc. The candidates acquiring skills and Industrial Training Institute (ITI) graduates are given certification which is internationally recognised.

The government has invested in bringing in the required machinery and infrastructure for training. In order to implement the mission, the centre has entered into a first ever Public-Private-Private partnership. The funds for training purpose shall be complemented by private funding. Government promotes training and various companies have come forward as an initiative of Corporate Social Responsibility. Examples of private sector companies contributing skill development initiative are Tata Motors, who helped in upgrading technical training institutes, IL&FS education in a joint venture with NSDC to build and manage 100 multi skill schools across India, Bharati-Walmart had launched a training centre in Karnataka which trains 100 candidates every month and make them eligible for employment in retail sector.

The most inclusive form of skill development training is proving a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at every level. The targets group for this program would be school dropouts at village level. By 2012, it was estimated that there are 57 millions school dropouts or illiterates. SC/STs constitute to about 28 per cent of the learners. There are about 68 per cent women learners and male contribute to about 53 per cent of school dropouts.

There are hundreds of vocational training centres per state across the nation each with their set of methods and policies. Gujarat- The Gujarat Skill Development Mission (GSDM) has introduced the procedure of vouchers. Anybody can purchase these vouchers and join training in any sector. After the course ends they will be assessed. In case the candidate fails the test the cost of training shall be refunded. Rajasthan- Gujarat launched a scheme in 2007 to expand the TVET system in lagging areas- Lagging districts, lagging sub-divisions and lagging blocks, Under this scheme the state government provides incentives for private companies to setup technical institutes.

The international associations of vocational and technical training are with International labour organisation, World Bank and European Union which give important advice to the government and provide necessary funds. The World Bank had planned to fund the skill development initiative of India with an initial amount of 480 million dollar.

Investing in skill development helps in attaining socio-economic empowerment of rural women. There is always a limited scope for women and girls in rural areas to develop their skills in a male-dominated industry due to social, economic and cultural constraints and with lower wage payments. Offering women extension services, technical training, stimulating basic education and gender sensitive approaches and support by NGOs and Self help groups can improve their condition.

Despite various investments in shaping a huge labour force there are grave drawbacks the system. Shifting of labour from farm to non-farm sector is a major concern, the number of entrants in the non-farm sector is only increasing every year. Farm based jobs have remained stagnant and there is an uneven growth in skill training provided in sectors such as retail, customer services etc. Meeting the training requirement of such large workforce has remained a challenge. The PPP model adopted by the government only led to delays in decision-making regarding staffing and course fee. The ITIs dominate vocational training centres. There are only 11 ITI centres in the country for women. The government is investing a lot in training costs and infrastructure, but unfortunately this is not yielding in creation of robust workforce for the industry. The under quality of training programme offered and lack of interest by the private partners is a major disadvantage. The local government plays an important role in finding the rightful and needy youth to train. The power of the community in the local government should be integrated to achieve this.

Our education system requires a renovation and restructuring. The curriculum for professional courses such as Engineering and MBA shall be prescribed in a way such that it makes students industry ready. The youth today hold mere degrees but lack the expertise to compete and fit in the industry as per the demand. Vocational training shall be provided right from high school. The CSR initiative companies shall be offered high incentives so that they show enthusiasm in upgrading the skills of the candidates. The best solution is to entirely privatise the skill development program and upgrade the quality of training. Technical skills alone will not fetch opportunities, soft skills training shall also be offered in parallel. Upon addressing these issues India will be ready to produce 500 million skilled labourers at par with global standards eventually helping us realise sustainable growth and development in the economy.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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