Manzil: Destination Empowerment
Young tribal women from Dungarpur, Rajasthan, who had never stepped out of their villages are now working in private companies in other states due to a skilling and vocational training project that is changing lives.
Nidhi Jamwal 27 Sep 2023 6:31 AM GMT
It wasn’t easy for Varsha Katara to leave her home, her village Panchmahudi in tribal-dominated Dungarpur district of Rajasthan, and move to a strange big city in another state.
She knew her parents were anxious. She was only 19 years old, the first wave of the COVID pandemic had just subsided, and she was preparing to leave for Gujarat. It was a tough decision her farmer father Mohan Katara and her mother Jeevli Devi had taken to send their daughter off.
Varsha was raring to go as she had undergone a three-month skill training in 2020, and had been offered a job at a company near Ahmedabad that made wiring harnesses. Also, the pandemic had hit the family income and the private company was offering a salary of Rs 12,000 per month along with free breakfast and lunch. It was not an opportunity to be missed.
“Members of the Manzil project team, which had helped me receive vocational training, approached my parents and allayed their fears,” 21-year-old Varsha said as she sat on a charpoy outside her village home she was visiting for a brief vacation.
For the past three years, Varsha has worked at a wiring harness company near Ahmedabad. She not only sends home Rs 6,000-7,000 every month, but is also pursuing her bachelor’s degree.
The step which Varsha and her parents took in 2020, to send her to a metropolis to work, has been a game changer for other rural girls in Panchmahudi panchayat.
“At least eight more girls from my village now work at private companies in Ahmedabad, something which was unthinkable earlier. They have all received vocational and skills training,” said Varsha, as her mother Jeevli Devi, who sat next to her on the charpoy, watched with pride.
“I never went to school. I cannot read or write but I feel happy that my daughter is working in a private company and earning,” said Jeevli Devi. Varsha’s father is proud of her daughter’s achievements too. “Hoshiyar ho gayi hai. Betiyan bahar jayengi toh samajhdaar hongi,” he said. [My daughter has become smart. Only when daughters step outside will they become confident]
The vocational and skilling training girls are receiving as part of the Manzil project of IPE Global Ltd, headquartered at New Delhi, is why so many of them, especially from tribal communities of Dungarpur district, are dreaming big and venturing out of their homes to make a living and support their families.
In collaboration with the Rajasthan government, the Manzil project of IPE Global enables access to quality vocational/skill education and economic opportunities to young girls aged between 14 and 21 years to work independently and make their own choices. This way the organisation and the state government are trying to prevent early marriages and early pregnancies.
The Manzil project, supported by Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, is going on in six districts of Rajasthan — Ajmer, Jaipur, Tonk, Bhilwara, Udaipur, and Dungarpur. It focuses on mapping girls’ aspirations, linking them with the training opportunities and connecting and improving the quality of skill-based training. The project also helps them access decent work opportunities and break away from regressive social norms and patriarchy.
So far, under the project, 55,000 plus girls have been trained on market-driven and vocational skills, such as stitching and sewing, healthcare, retail, etc. More than 8,000 girls have been provided with on-the-job training and job opportunities.
“In Dungarpur district, we have trained 2,500 girls so far and 85 per cent of them are tribal. Of these, 1,350 girls are already working and some of them have gone as far as Bengaluru in Karnataka to work,” said a spokesperson of IPE Global.
Twenty-year-old Teena Parmar is one of them. She received training in the retail sector in September 2020 and now works at the Reliance Trends showroom in Dungarpur and earns Rs 9,500 per month.
“My father died when I was a baby. My mother died during COVID in 2021. I am glad I work and look after my nani [maternal grandmother],” said Teena. “Retail mein hi life banaungi [I will make a career in retail sector],” she added.
Similarly, Teena Raot from MahadaGramdi village, works at a call centre (after training with the Manzil project) in Dungarpur and earns Rs 8,000 per month. “When my performance is good, I earn Rs 10,000 that month,” she said. Her father is a farmer and she is the only other earning member of the family.
LN Mantri, district collector of Dungarpur said that the state government has special programmes focussing on skilling of girls and making them financially independent. “We are thinking of new skilling programmes for girls such as mobile repair, mechanic works, etc. We also have 12,000 self-help groups in the district with 235,000 women members who are earning a livelihood through various projects,” Mantri said.
Prakash Nath is the Dungarpur district skill development officer of Rajasthan Skill and Livelihoods Development Corporation. He looks after the various trainings going on in the district. “At present, 13 batches are undergoing training with 410 girls enrolled in them. Most of them are in the age group of 18 - 21 years,” he said.
These training sessions are either residential (eight hours a day) or non-residential (four hours a day). “It is mandatory for us to provide job opportunities to at least 80 per cent of the girls trained by us. We have also done a special SMO [sewing machine operator] training for a batch of disabled girls and women,” said Nath.
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On September 5, when I was in Dungarpur visiting villages to meet girls who have received skills training and are now financially independent, at the Dungarpur railway station I met a group of 24 girls waiting to board the train that was to take them to Ahmedabad to work.
Pushpa Damor had just completed her Bachelor of Science. “I finished my B.Sc and could have got married but I wanted to help my family financially,” said Pushpa who is the eldest sibling in her family. Her father is a farmer and mother is illiterate.
“I am the first girl in my family to study till B.Sc. And I am also the first girl to step out of the house to work. My monthly salary will be Rs 11,000. Gharwalon ka bharosa hai mere par [My family members trust me],” she said. “I have younger brothers and sisters and I want them to do well in life, and for that I need to take the lead,” she added.
On cue, the train announced its arrival from a distance with a loud whistle and the girls picked up their bags and rushed towards the platform to board the train that would carry them to their manzil and fulfil their dreams.
Nidhi Jamwal is Managing Editor of Gaon Connection. Views are personal.