IKEA Foundation recently announced a new partnership that aims to provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to one million underprivileged women across India. The unique three-year programme will be implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Xyntéo and the India Development Foundation (IDF). The programme is approved by India’s Ministry of Finance. Even as India has witnessed a decline in women’s participation in the workforce by 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2010, recent estimates from the International Monetary Fund suggest that India’s GDP could expand by 27 percent if the number of female workers increases to the same level as that of men.
Recognizing the importance of improving women’s workforce participation, this programme has three objectives:
- create a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of women through training, employment and entrepreneurial skills development
- test and establish an innovative model of a public-private partnership that responds to the aspirations and needs of women, and identified needs of the private sector
- establish a continuum that connects education, to skills, jobs and growth
Per Heggenes, IKEA Foundation CEO said: “We believe that women can be the most important catalysts for change in their children’s lives as well as in society more generally. By empowering women, we can improve children’s health, education and future – and that’s good for everyone in India.”
The three-year programme with a budget of approximately EUR 16 million will focus on Karnataka, Maharashtra; Telengana and the National Capital Region. The programme will address the demand and supply side of women’s employment by securing commitments from businesses in identifying employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women; mobilizing women to participate in skills and training courses; and supporting the development of training curricula relevant to aspirations of women and business needs.
The programme is aligned with the priorities of the Government of India which has launched a range of skill development initiatives in the country. Commending the Government of India on its far-reaching skill development policy, Yuri Afanasiev, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India said, “The partnership aims to demonstrate the power of collaboration in helping women become economically self-sufficient, through addressing the aspirations of young women, the needs of business, and training provided by skilling institutions in the country.’’
A study commissioned by UNDP has pointed to the urgent need to address the skills gap faced by women in India. According to the study, between 10 to 23 percent of women hold professional diplomas/ certificates. In addition, 45 percent of women in Hyderabad, and 70 percent in the National Capital Region believed they lack the business skills required to successfully manage businesses. Respondents to the survey identified other barriers such as lack of information on training and employment opportunities followed by cost of training, quality of training, availability of employment opportunities close by, constraints in commuting to and from the workplace and rigid working norms.
Ashish Bhatt, Managing Director, Xyntéo, said: “This programme strives to ensure that India’s women – the country’s greatest untapped resource – have the opportunity to gain genuine skills and enjoy meaningful employment. Such partnerships are at the core of Xyntéo’s mission to reinvent growth together with our partners. We are proud of the part this partnership will play in helping realise the country’s full economic potential.’’