To empower women, the Maharashtra government is planning multi-pronged skill development programmes across 36 districts of the state. The Centre, which has set aside Rs 32,000 crore budget for skill development across the country, has assured the state a sizeable component to take the projects in the state forward. Through the state budget, coupled with linkages with private industries spelling out their requirements for women workforce, a long-term programme is being prepared.
The projects, under ‘Skill Sakhi’ model, will help urban, semi-urban, rural women vying for new avenues of work in their villages, towns and cities.
In a clear departure from the past where women welfare projects were confined to a single ministry, the state government has extended it for development and empowerment of women by integrating it with the ministry of education and ministry of skill development as well.
From manufacturing sectors, service sectors, agriculture to promoting cottage industries, the government is working out its plan at many levels. In the rural sector, more than 60 per cent of the women are engaged in agriculture related work. However, the government has realised that higher education coupled with new age aspirations has made it a necessary to impart skill training to link the women workforce with evolving agro and food processing units.
There is emphasis on providing a platform to encourage entrepreneurship, for which institutional loans at zero or extremely low interest will be provided. In each sector, there are new challenges, with changing lifestyle in rural areas bringing about increasing aspirations within families for jobs that bring higher earnings.
Revealing that the government has decided to reach the maximum women through ‘Skill Sakhi’, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “We are planning to introduce innovative projects based on local requirements and available resources.”
Maharashtra, with 40,000 villages, is gearing for major reforms where rural women are looking for alternative income outside agriculture. The state, which has provided free school education for women including higher professional courses, is now planning to provide them avenues of sustained livelihood. Fadnavis said, “The Niti Ayog has taken note of Maharashtra’s Skill Sakhi model, especially the multiple training courses we are providing to different sections and sectors of women in urban and rural areas.” As a pilot project, Skill Sakhi was launched last year in Maharashtra.