The need for skill development is the national clarion call, which is being earnestly taken up by various states too. Roshni Sen, IAS, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal, shares about the skill development initiative of her department with Elets News Network (ENN)
How is the Government of West Bengal trying to develop the status of the women and children of the State via skill development?
Since the new government came to power, the overall status of the women of the State has improved considerably. The State Government rolled out a plethora of projects targeting the all round development of the women of the State. The State Child and Women Welfare department targets the women as well as the children. We equip them with proper technical as well as vocational training, which later helps them in gaining ground in the job market. We believe in the philosophy of ‘catch them young’ as young adults are an excellent learners and that is the best time to enhance their skills through systematic learning.
We focus on women and children who are in conflict with law, who are destitute and in difficult situations. We offer well-designed skill development courses for the girls and boys who are living in the juvenile homes
How does the department focus different segments and create specific courses by keeping the targeted need in mind?
We focus on women and children who are in conflict with the law, are destitute and in difficult situations. We offer well-designed skill development courses for the girls and boys who are living in the juvenile homes. As these women and children cannot be placed into mainstream education, we prefer technical education for them, which gives them financial independence, after being free from legal complications. We train women in making different jute products and also help them market those products. We are also zeroing in on short-term computer training courses and also on different financially viable courses such as retail, which has huge potential in the state. We are also training them in ‘Zari’ art work which is also in high demand in the market. These courses will not only empower the women in the State, but also create a ground for them, who are left in the lurch by society. We are empowering these girls who are living in destitute homes, with these courses. Different corporate and NGOs are joining hands with us in building the future of these girls.
What special steps is the State Government undertaking to rehabilitate girls rescued from the clutches of trafficking?
Everyday several girls are rescued by the anti-trafficking authorities and rehabilitation becomes a major jolt for them. By keeping this as a priority, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee conceived a project “Muktir Alo”. The project is at the nascent stage and will be announced by the end of this month. Under this project, the rescued girls will be trained in different skill sets such as masala grinding and block printing. Both the existing sex workers and girls who have been rescued from different states of India will be enrolled under this training camp. We are doing this in association with the Nijoloy Home, as they already have an existing set up that runs under the Price Andrew Charitable Trust. These girls will be getting training in making kimonos and jute bags and specific handicrafts, and these products will be sold in boutique shops in London and their money will be credited directly into their accounts. Initially, the project has handpicked 50 girls from different parts of Bengal and later, we had plans of expansion by gauging the viability and utility of the project. We have also trained several girls under the Shukanya project.
How does financial empowerment of women benefit the overall growth of the State?
Today, every girl needs to be self-reliant and financially independent because through micro-level research, it has proved that if a state is investing on the growth of a girl child, then that financially empowered girl adds up to the GDP of the country further adding to its 360 degree development.
What is the outcome of the coveted State project, ‘Kanyashree’?
Kanyashree, till date has benefited several girls of the State and it has also created a buzz among the girls against early marriage. This project has also increased the literacy level of the girls in the State and included lesser privileged girls into the education process though financial inclusion. It has also helped in mending the health parameters of the girls of the State, which is again linked to the child mortality rates. I believe Kanyashree project is a true symbol of women empowerment. In Nadia district, several girls under this project got training in voice modulation and are currently working in BPOs. In Bankura, many girls are trained in organic farming under the umbrella of Kanyashree. In Coochbehar also, we got splendid results under the Kanyashree project. The project has developed confidence within the girls and also made them aware about education and other social nuances.
What were the roadblocks the project faced in its nascent days and how were these overcomed?
There were several hurdles but we managed to overcome all of them. We convinced the banks and also motivated the teachers and did a smart publicity campaign which motivated many girls to join back schools. We handled trafficked girls in a separate way and motivated them to join Kanyashree. We made schools the epicenter of all activities related to project, which ushered more students in the schools.
How are the Self Help Groups (SHGs) working with the government?
The SHGs are playing quite a crucial role in different state projects. They are preparing and supplying food to different state-governed projects, also helping us in convincing girls in joining the Kanyashree project. We are also using different folk artistes such as Chhau and Baul in publicising the Kanyashree project in different parts of Bengal. This is helping in reviving the dying folk arts and also giving Kanyashree a unique platform.