Additional funding for young women’s economic empowerment through business development in India

EDINBURGH UK, 29 March 2015 – Youth Economic Justice (YEJ) support leads to the award of €200,000 by Irish Aid to programmes in India.  The award will go towards funding an economic empowerment project for Dalit and Tribal caste women in India.

The project aims to empower Dalit and Tribal women in five sites to become self-confident, active participants in their community and the Indian economy.  Over three years, YEJ’s implementing partner Social Action Ministry (SAM), will work with 750 women and 300 men to raise their awareness about their rights and help them develop the necessary skills to counteract obstacles they face in enterprise development and actively participating in society.  The men will be trained to champion women’s rights and act as agents of change within their communities.

India  is  one  of  the  few  countries  in  the  world  where  the  rate  of  participation  of  women  in  the workforce  has  drastically  declined  in  the  last  decade.  This trend is not simply a reflection of the recent economic slowdown; female workforce participation in India fell from 33.7% in 1991 to 27% in 2012, according to the United Nations gender statistics. The unemployment rate among young women 15 – 24 years stands at 10.6% on average, according to the most recent International Labour Organisation figures. These statistics present a dismal picture of women’s lives across both, public as well as private spheres.

Tribal and Dalit Caste women are among the most affected by this trend.  This is exacerbated by their low status in Indian society and low levels of education means they do not have job security or benefits.  Exploited for their labour, indebted to their landlords, and defrauded of their entitlements under government schemes, Tribal and Dalit women struggle to support themselves and their children.

Whilst it is not unusual for women in India to hold senior leadership roles in all areas of Indian society; however, the average woman is often faced with inequality and subjected to persistent and endemic violence at home and in public.  Additionally, widespread poverty, early marriage, hunger and restricted access to resources for minority Tribal and Dalit women are major challenges for achieving gender equality in India.  Although the traditional caste system is now illegal, it is still exercised, which entraps many in disadvantage.  Tribal and Dalit women are therefore more socially vulnerable, which adds to their economic vulnerability.

They experience severe limitations in access to justice and there is widespread impunity in cases of violence.  The project will target women in particularly vulnerable areas in Garratola, Amravathi, Managalagiri, Mullakalapulli and Sandapalaya in five Indian states.

The women in these areas are often unaware of their legal and labour rights and various entitlements under government schemes set up to encourage enterprise development.  The project will link the women to government schemes and support them in their applications for business loans.  Essential to the success of the project is to work to build the women’s self-confidence and provide technical and legal support in small and micro-business development.  Five project sites will benefit from co-operative structures in buffalo dairy, improved cotton production, handicrafts, as well as improving market links for existing aquaculture ventures. The young women will also learn essential skills necessary to run a business such as numeracy.