By Aishani Khurana, 2013 G(irls)20 Summit Delegate, Representing India
I am a sophomore studying Economics at Soka University of America from New Delhi, India. The greatest economic challenge facing women in my community is the lack of training and resources that can foster women entrepreneurs both in the small and large scale industries.
I believe that women entrepreneurship will not only give a boost to the economy by increasing the number of employed people and leading towards a more gender-equal growth, but it will also ensure the financial independence of women. Not being financially independent is one of the main factors that prove as a hindrance in self-empowerment of women, especially in patriarchal societies like India. The need for women entrepreneurship is inevitable because according to International Development Organization (ILO) the percentage of women entrepreneurs in India is 9 per cent, which is half the rate of male entrepreneurs in the country.
While many would argue that the lack of education lies at the core of producing successful women in business, India certainly has a different story to tell. Even though the literacy rate (74.4% in 2011) of women in India is increasing, the same is not reflected in the number of women who actually join the workforce.
What we need is the kind of education that goes beyond the walls of the classroom and implements theoretical knowledge into activities that are economically empowering. Lack of financial training and resource, besides other factors like restrictive cultural norms and limitations imposed by family are the reasons why educated Indian women have to go a long way before they can achieve the same success as their male counterparts. In order to combat this gap, I would like to call upon leaders, change makers, corporations and government to embark on the path of egalitarian development by suggest the following ideas:
Firstly, to hit the problem at the core, we need to focus on the youth first. Connecting high school/college girls with corporations where they can intern and get training will provide them with a real-life experience of working in the corporate sector and equip them with skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship. Like the G-20 summit which aims to invest in the delegates via workshops and mentorship to help them create and launch their own social profit venture or support an already existing program in their community, these training and internship programs with big corporations will serve as a platform to launch new ideas. This will create a stream of youth who are not only passionate but are equipped with skills to become real change-makers.
Secondly, it is important that focus be placed on women who have skills and talent in a particular field but lack the business knowledge to set up their own start-up. By setting up a facility which provides basic knowledge about entrepreneurship like where to get the funding from, how to open a bank account, how to work online etc., we can hope to encourage more housewives and rural women to turn their domestic activity into an income generating source. Along with that, micro-credit organizations which provide cheap loans should be increased to facilitate the process better.
Last, but not the least; we need experts and professionals to provide technical knowledge to women and girls in fields which can be beneficial to communities at large. An example of this can be the inspiring Barefoot College started by Mr. Bunker Roy in India which teaches women how to make solar cells and solar powered lamps. By training women from Afghanistan, Africa and India in the field of photo-voltaic, he has helped rural communities become self-sufficient. There's a great film about this project called Solar Mamas.
With this dual approach of training the young girls and empowering housewives and rural women through entrepreneurship skills and knowledge, we can hope to economically empower women in India.
Aishani Khurana, 2013 G(irls)20 Summit Delegate, representing India at the 2013 G(irls)20 Summit taking place June 15 - 19 in Moscow, Russia. Visit www.girls20summit.com to watch the G(irls)20 Summit live.