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NGOs take IT route to empower women

April 20, 2006 04:00 IST

NGOs and industrial houses in Punjab are working with projects aimed at empowering women by giving them skills and related jobs in the IT sector. Their presence is currently negligible, but with the feasibility of providing jobs in villages, it should increase considerably.

Patiala-based NGO Punjab Today Foundation and Chandigarh-based Sunder Amarsheel Charitable Trust have taken an initiative to provide free computer education to deserving female students from economically backward families in the state.

"Major thrust will be on providing computer education to enable them to compete in the IT world," said the 40-year old publisher, Kanwar Manjit Singh, CEO of Punjab Today Foundation.

The NGO will initially sponsor 100 students with an investment of Rs 25 lakh.

According to Singh the programme will cover 800 villages across the Patiala district and important towns like Samana, Rajpura and Nabha.

Based on the initiative taken by non-resident Indian billionaire Nanak Kohli, at least 10 villages with 21 computer centres in Punjab, under the Sunder Amarsheel Charitable Trust, are trying to make girls IT-savvy and fluent in English to help them land business process outsourcing jobs.

Satinder Kaur, is currently overseeing the operation. She has 18 years of experience and was the executive secretary of the Fellowship of Physically Handicapped, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

"We are making a difference in the society and have a target to open 100 centres. But now we feel the need to consolidate and hope to land the girls with jobs in their village itself," Satinder said. Investment per centre varies from Rs 2 to 3 lakh depending on the computers and the training aids.

She said jobs were coming slowly but steadily. "Someone has to take an initiative and Punjabis have a big heart and entrepreneurial skills."

Running a medical transcription business in Chandigarh, Ravibir Singh, is assisting in selecting few students to be trainers.

"We have assisted them in training. Their five months of training is yet to be completed, but the girls have picked up very fast. With an aim of providing job placements the course duration will vary from two months to one year, with minimum qualification requirement being a matriculation degree," Ravibir Singh said.

Keen on promoting the NGOs, Partap K Aggarwal, managing director of Mohali-based IDS Infotech Ltd, has promised employment for the girls in content conversion work and document management.

"The second area we are looking at is to recruit bright girls from the institute for in-house medical transcription," Aggarwal said.

The company will again be providing a 6-8 months training to the selected girls.

To ensure local participation and long-term sustainability, the local panchayats have been made stakeholders in the computer centres. "To propagate the course and to convince the parents it is important to directly interact with the panchayats head," says Singh.

Satinder added, "Many village heads from nearby villages have approached us to start similar projects in their villages."

However, according to Aggarwal the biggest challenge remains at the grass root level and that being the lack of communication skills. "We have to work hard on their English language skills," he said.

Madhvi Sally in New Delhi/Chandigarh