By Srinivas Rayappa
Several studies have highlighted that women’s economic empowerment is central to realizing women’s rights and gender equality. Women’s economic empowerment includes women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets; their access to and control over productive resources, access to decent work, control over their own time, lives and bodies; and increased voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions.
However, the female labour force participation rate in India fell from 30 percent in 1990 to about 20.7 percent in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown which followed, have made things much worse for women participation in the labour force. Though the National Sample Survey found that women, especially in rural settings desire to work, in reality, most women in rural areas are rarely engaged in work outside of their homes. Preliminary data collected through Participatory Rural Appraisals in 1300 villages across 53 taluks in Karnataka shows that for 57% of women the primary activity is working on the family farm. The primary reasons cited for this trend are the lack of opportunities for women to work outside of their homes/farms and the lack of skills to undertake any specialized work outside of their villages.
When more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to several other positive development outcomes. As a market, women represent an opportunity bigger than China and India combined. They control $20 trillion in consumer spending, and that figure could reach $28 trillion in the next five years. In fact, women drive the world economy. A study reveals, that growth does not automatically lead to a reduction in gender-based inequality, however, increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden, could boost GDP by over USD 6 trillion.
In an attempt to empower young women in rural India, the Jharkhand government has embarked on a very ambitious project – “Tejaswini Yojana”. Tejaswini Yojana intends to catalyse the socio-economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women in select districts of Jharkhand. Adolescent girls and young women are a critical entity for a growing economy like India and especially for the state of Jharkhand. This Yojana (policy) has been designed to cater to a group of women who despite having tremendous potential, have unmet aspirations. Their stark vulnerabilities point to an urgent need for comprehensive empowering interventions, focused on education and employment. Women’s access to services and programs remains limited and it is in this context that the Government of Jharkhand with the support from the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice of the World Bank designed the Tejaswini Yojana – A Socio-economic Empowerment Program for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW’s). The project serves as a best practice example of how to leverage context-specific diagnostics and global evidence to design a holistic package of services to improve outcomes for girls and young women in a low capacity environment.
The project will be implemented in 17 districts of Jharkhand where SABLA scheme of Government of India is not being implemented. The programme has already been implemented in two districts Ramgarh and Dumka and is now being rolled out at other 15 districts as well. This five year project will be implemented at a total cost of $90 million, of which $63 million will be provided by the World Bank in the form of a loan. The eligibility criteria to avail this scheme would be adolescent girls and young women in the age group of 14-24 years from the state of Jharkhand. The Tejaswini Yojana will be implemented by Jharkhand Women Development Society (JWDS) under overall supervision and guidance of Department of Women, Child Development and Social Security (DWCDSS), Government of Jharkhand.
The three major goals of the project include:
1. Expanding Social, Educational and Economic Opportunities
2. Developing an Intensive Service Delivery System
3. State Capacity Building and Implementation Support
Before embarking on the Tejaswini project, a team of experts engaged in a two-year capacity-building Technical Assistance program with the help of the Government of Jharkhand. During this period, the team conducted a state-wide survey of male and female youth to assess their aspirations and the barriers to their economic and social inclusion. This survey was complemented with in-depth qualitative research with girls, boys, parents, and teachers to understand the socio-economic environment for girls’ empowerment. An estimated 56 percent of adolescent girls and young women (ages 15–24) were neither engaged in training, education, nor employment (“NEET”), compared to 19 percent of young men from the same households. School attendance dropped significantly as girls enter adolescence, at a time when marriage and domestic pressures predominate. Only 68 percent of girls ages 14–15, and 44 percent of those ages 16–17 were enrolled in school. The vast majority (69 percent) of young women (ages 18–24) participating in the labour force were self-employed, and were mostly concentrated in subsistence agriculture and unpaid family work. Finally, the survey and focus groups underscored the importance of other decision makers in AGYW’s lives. Indeed, AGYW under the age of 18 named fathers as the main decision maker in matters affecting their lives, and those over 18 named husbands.
The Jharkhand skills gap study undertaken by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) uncovered a number of particular constraints faced by Jharkhand’s high share of SC and ST citizens to accessing services. Some of the other specific concerns were gender specific. For instance, most of the women cited lack of vocational training institutes dedicated to women in vicinity of their place of stay as a major reason for not opting for vocational training. Also as most of the districts do not provide job opportunities for women after completion of vocational training, women prefer not to opt for vocational training.
Objectives of Tejaswini Yojana:
The objective of the project is to improve completion of market-driven skills training and secondary education for adolescent girls and young women in select districts of Jharkhand. In the 17 districts covered by the project, there are about 2.1 million adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in the 14–24 age group, of which 13 percent belong to SCs (Scheduled Castes) and 25 percent belong to STs (Scheduled Tribes). Here are the objectives of Tejaswinin Yojana –
1. Establishment and Operation of Tejaswini Clubs where groups of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) from 17 districts of Jharkhand are identified and enrolled.
2. Life Skills and Business Skills Training will be imparted to all the AGYW beneficiaries enrolled with the project under Tejaswini clubs. Besides, community-level business skills training will be provided to the interested beneficiaries for increasing young women’s capacity to generate income through self-employment and micro-enterprise.
3. Non-formal Education and Vocational Skills Training shall be provided through an open schooling system to the beneficiaries aged 14-20 years, to bridge the gap in skills acceptable for participation in today’s highly competitive world. In addition to the training, beneficiaries aged 16-24 years will be linked to vocational skills training through performance-based contracts with select qualified providers. This scheme is applicable to both wage employment and self-employment.
4. For enhanced outreach of the project through intensive service delivery, the project will pilot and evaluate intensive community-level service models focused on increasing access to educational interventions, training and employment opportunities. The intensive intervention model will first be implemented in two districts, Dumka and Ramgarh, before expanding to the other 15 districts of Jharkhand where the focus will be on non-intensive interventions. The sub-activities include the following –
4.1. Compared to one facilitator for every two clubs in the 15 districts which will have a non-intensive intervention, additional youth facilitators will be deployed for every Tejaswini club in the two districts of Dumka and Ramgarh.
4.2. Establishment of a Cluster level resource centre for AGYW
4.3. For enhanced outreach to hard-to-reach populations, a local full-time designated safe space called a “Cluster Center” shall be established, which shall be leased and operated by the NGO provider in approximately 200 sites.
4.4. For the more vulnerable population, top-up cash grant shall be provided to Tejaswini Clubs, to help aid self-employment opportunities.
4.5. To further motivate the growth and progress of Tejaswini Clubs, better access to informal credit support shall be provided to comprehensively complete business and livelihood skills training and also pursue self-employment.
5. In an effort to facilitate inter-departmental coordination and convergence, a state strategy shall be formulated and a plan of action shall be mapped out in a consultative manner, subject to approval by the state government, thus providing a platform for convergent action of existing programs and institutions for socioeconomic empowerment of AGYW in Jharkhand.
6. In an effort to strengthen M&E (Monitoring and Evaluation), a robust system will be put in place to monitor beneficiary mobilization, participation, case management, and payments as well as any grievances or appeals. The project will support the design, development, and operation of an automated program MIS.
7. NGO service providers will be engaged to implement the community-level interventions with regard to mobilization, engagement of youth facilitators, club formation, counselling and guidance to AGYW, and setting up of community-level full-time safe spaces (cluster centers), among others.
8. Benefit payment to AGYW for Completion of Vocational Skills Training and Non-formal Education: The project will provide contingent cash transfers to the beneficiaries participating in these courses for incentivizing regular participation in, and completion of Non-Formal Education and vocational skills training courses.
9. Capacity building of DWCDSS & JWDS and implementation support through a state level resource centre for empowerment of adolescent girls and young women that will provide ongoing support to DWCDSS in evidence based policy and program development, process and impact evaluations, knowledge management and need based program augmentation. Besides, an in-depth ‘Training Needs Assessment’ of the project stakeholders at all levels will also be undertaken along with development of training modules.
10. Public Education and Communication: The project would support development and implementation of a comprehensive communication strategy and campaign to raise awareness and citizen accessibility to social care services. These would include design, printing and dissemination of posters, handbills and other audio-visual materials. Community mobilization and communications with an emphasis on engaging families and community leaders (especially men) in support of girls’ program participation and broader access to educational and economic opportunities.
11. System strengthening through standard tools and procedures: Project will facilitate development of standard tools/ reporting formats for project; support development of relevant guidelines and guidelines for project implementation, partnerships and human resource management led by JWDS; and formulation of a state strategy and plan of action for convergent action on the empowerment of AGYW
The day-to-day implementation of the project is carried out by the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) within the JWDS. For implementation and supervision of the project at the district and block levels, the JWDS has set up implementation support units in 17 project districts. In the districts of Dumka and Ramgarh, where the project will undertake intensive service delivery, every block has a Block Resource and Implementation Unit (BRIU) that is part of the JWDS. In the remaining 15 districts, the project works through Community Service Providers(CSPs) that are managed by JWDS staff. These implementation arrangements will contribute key lessons on government-led implementation of projects for AGYW, and in particular on the sustainability of publicly-financed community-level infrastructure dedicated to AGYW.
1. AGYW in developing contexts face multiple constraints, therefore multicomponent interventions are often needed—particularly when the goal is not only to achieve economic outcomes but also to empower women.
2. Lack of mobility is a perennial constraint for AGYW, due to a combination of domestic responsibilities tied to the home, safety concerns, and cultural norms.
3. Lack of guidance and information also constrain AGYW’s access to opportunities.
4. Economic and liquidity constraints could limit AGYW’s ability to take up key interventions and self-employment.
5. Childcare can be a constraint for participation in activities, training, and employment among married young women in the project’s target group.
Despite the project being in its early implementation cycle and the plethora of challenges that need to be overcome, the enrollment of girls and establishment of Youth Clubs and Kendras is likely to impact gender relations at the household and the community. The enthusiasm of the young women and the willingness of families to support the participation of girls in the program makes for a promising start.