Girl Power: Sterlite Tech Paving Way for Young Women to Realise Their Dreams Through Jeewan Jyoti Initiative

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In a small village near Pune, when Sonal wanted to open her own parlour, the resistance came first from her own family. Societal obligations and household duties stood in her way. Bowing down to a deeply enriched patriarchal mindset, Sarita left all hopes of an independent life. Sarita is just one of the thousands of women in her area who had given up on their dreams, unwillingly. It is situations like these that Sterlite Tech believes no individual; especially women in rural India should have to face.

“Aspirations are what drive exponential achievements and each girl in every family should be empowered to reach that potential”, believes Mrs. Jyoti Agarwal, Founder, Jeewan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute and Managing Trustee of Sterlite Tech’s CSR implementing arm – Sterlite Tech Foundation.

It is said that if a woman is empowered, her entire family is empowered. Women are the nucleus of a family. To facilitate this, Sterlite Tech set up the Jeewan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute in Velhe four years ago. Providing women in rural areas with a comprehensive ecosystem that addresses the multidimensional problems they face.

Beginning with 95 students from 20 villages the Jeewan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute has become an impelling platform for women to achieve what they aspire. Motivated by the Prime Minister’s Skill India mission, the institute aims at all-inclusive development in addition to vocational training to help these women become great assets for their communities as well as the nation.

The women are trained with skills they can use to improve the income of the families, become self-reliant and improve their social standing. The program offers courses in Nursing Care , MS Office and Computer Data Entry , Beauty Parlour, Tailoring and Cutting, Fashion Designing and has till date covered students from 118 villages across three talukas of Bhor, Velhe and Haveli. Each of these courses are certified by the Maharashtra State Board for Vocational Education (MSBVE).

Increased credibility has impacted the employability of these women exponentially. While the initiative nurtures women with better learning opportunities, psychological and social support, along with regular health check-ups aids them with holistic empowerment. Alumni like Swati Ghore, Owner, Aditi Beauty Parlour and Ladies Tailor, have become successful entrepreneurs in their village. “Earlier I would have to ask my husband for every little thing. Now I can make decisions and fulfil demands for myself, my household and even my children. Whatever money I am left with, I deposit it in the bank. I have never been more confident. Jeewan Jyoti has helped me become a stronger woman.”

Women are involved in courage building exercises and games which helps them with conversational skills and confidence building. Training in micro-financing, Self Help Groups are given to older and middle-aged women. Women from these villages are also taken on educational visits. The institute helps them participate in fairs and exhibitions where they can sell or exhibit products they have made. Realising some women live far from the Jeewan Jyoti centre, regular transportation for the students is provided. There are no other means to travel in these villages, and some villages are not well connected.

To make their lives easier, women can bring their children in, who stay at the in-house crèche during the classes. The premises are gated and an all women staff gives comfort and safety to the students allowing them to focus on building a better future. Understanding the dynamics of a community in rural setting, health, sanitation and hygiene for women were taken very lightly. Students also enjoy yoga classes and a nutritious meal regularly. Off-campus programs conducted for women of all age-groups helped increase awareness.

Informal sessions are conducted to provide pre-marriage counseling as well as prenatal care for pregnant women. Jeewan Jyoti has seen a steady rise in trust and support from the communities around them. Each year the institute sees an increase in admissions and a reduction in dropouts. Young girls like Rekha (17) and Amruta (20) have enrolled themselves so that they can learn a skill which will help them earn and pay their school and college fees.

Each student has access to career guidance and in-house counselors. Computer literacy has led to students seizing opportunities in local administrative bodies or private companies. Beauty and Tailoring courses have encouraged women to become entrepreneurs in a true sense. A general change in mindset has emerged where girls are being encouraged to study. This has indirectly led to the marriageable age of women in the region increasing from 15-17 to 20 years and over. Small steps have led to a big change.

Today, over 4500 people have been impacted indirectly through the students from the institute. More than 1000 women have reaped the benefits of Jeewan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute’s courses, 813 students have successfully completed courses and over 100 earn their livelihood using the skills they learned at the institute. Excellence is encouraged through internships and scholarships offered by the company. The top five students of the MS Office and Data Entry courses are given an opportunity to intern with Sterlite Tech at their Pune head office. Similarly, scholarships are given to the toppers in beauty culture and tailoring to help them begin their own businesses.

Through all the comprehensive initiatives, villages in Bhor, Velhe and Haveli are a transformed community today. These women have now become active participants in decision making. They have become an inspiration for other women in their communities through their new-found self-confidence and perseverance. Families in the region are now supporting and encouraging women to study and skill themselves as they have begun to understand the importance of educating their daughters and wives. These rural women are now gradually beginning to make significant contributions to their community and lead a self-reliant life.

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