Transforming rural communities paving the way for women’s leadership-Swaran Singh, IAS(R)
Women are key agents of change to drive positive transformation in rural India and ensure sustainable development. Empowering women by developing their leadership skills becomes extremely crucial for economic productivity, given that the labor force in agriculture is largely female. According to the census of India, they contribute 48% of India’s population and have the potential to be active agents in driving the socio-economic development of the country. More women in leadership positions can positively transform rural India, as it provides them with an opportunity for personal growth, earning a living and contributing to their community.
Leadership Challenges in Rural India
Although many women yearn to take on more responsibility in their communities, they still face obstacles that hinder their opportunities for growth. One of the main reasons being family conflicts that can arise as leadership roles often require more flexibility, where women have to juggle domestic workload and outside work. Additionally, lack of education can prevent women from taking on more responsibilities as they do not have a knowledge base to draw upon. Digital skills programs should be made more accessible to enable rural women to navigate their finances more effectively.
Financial challenges such as lack of funds as well as low awareness of loan facilities can also discourage women from venturing out on their own. Lack of mobility due to social and cultural restrictions, lack of job training support and ecosystem, societal stereotypes and low health standards also hinder access to potential work opportunities and empowerment.
Family sensitization is also important to enable women to participate in economic activities and be self-sufficient. Awareness of self-esteem, self-identity, awareness of rights and the ability to take control of one’s life are important determinants of women’s empowerment. When communities enable women to become leaders, they enable equal opportunity at decision-making levels, which can drive sustainable economic growth for communities as a whole.
Paving the way to leadership
The Indian government has continued to play an active role in promoting women’s leadership in rural areas through women-centered programs, with a great example of the National Rural Livelihood Mission. The mission has helped form self-help groups for women across rural India, helping these groups increase their household incomes and educate them in fintech so they are able to undertake business opportunities. self-employment.
Along with these efforts, companies are also supporting women and helping them develop entrepreneurial skills for sustainable growth. One such example is the success story of Poornakala which was achieved through the support of Srinivasan Services Trust, the social arm of TVS Motor Company & Sundaram Clayton. Poornakala is from Moolakarai village in Thoothukudi district. She needed advice as she aspired to start her own business in order to earn a living and contribute to the welfare of her family. Through the intervention of the trust, Poornakala founded the Women’s Self Help Group (WSHG) known as Vadabathrakaali Amman Self Help Group and she was able to start her pickle business. With the guidance of the corporate trust, she also applied for and successfully obtained certification from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). His journey began with training in pickle making at the Gandhi Gram Rural Institute, which led to an increase in the scale of the business. With the brand name Bala Vishma Pickles, she sells more than 70 kg of pickles every month and continues to receive orders due to its high quality. She was also informed of the various financial supports available which have helped her to develop her business. Today, she is a role model for her community following the success of her efforts and aims to take her efforts to the international level.
To create equal opportunities for all and ensure better livelihoods for communities, the trust facilitated the formation of self-help groups in Tamil Nadu and later in other rural areas including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Pakistan. Maharashtra. These self-help groups have consistently enabled rural women and their families to lead a better life. There are multiple ways in which women in SHG work together to create employment opportunities and develop entrepreneurial skills such as pottery, mass light bulb making, selling honey, basket weaving, etc. 350 women were trained resulting in an increase in the number of skilled women able to support their households equally through basket weaving and sewing. The Mahamariyamman SHG led by Dhanalakshmi is yet another outcome of a woman’s effective leadership ability. Recognizing her skills and effective mentorship has helped over 550 women within the community.
There is certainly a need for stronger commitment and collective efforts from all stakeholders in society to enable change in the condition of rural women. Government, business and communities must work closely together to ensure women’s equal control over resources and pave the way for true prosperity. CSR programs will play a key role in supporting skills development initiatives, awareness campaigns and equipping women with tools to build their productive capacities. Financially independent women entrepreneurs and leaders set a great example for the younger generation and ultimately create a change in the mindset of the community.
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