India’s poor ranking on the Gender Parity Index (GPI) goes to show just how much more CSR investment is needed to address gender parity in India. India slipped to the 112th rank in the annual Global Gender Gap Index 2020, announced the World Economic Forum in December 2019. Gender parity is a measure of equality between men and women for certain essential parameters like access to quality education or economic prosperity. Some CSR programmes in India have been addressing gender parity in education, and successfully at that. Here are three case studies.
1. Forbes Marshall – Life-skill education
The CSR programme aims to empower adolescent girls in Pune and provide them with training on life skills and awareness on social issues based on gender discrimination.
It also targets the improvement of sexual and reproductive health among young women and reduces maternal and neonatal morbidity — early marriage and motherhood results in high prevalence of maternal and neonatal mortality, miscarriages and stillbirths.
Baseline data of Pune area showed that 45% of women got married before 18 years of age, 67% reported antenatal morbidity and only 14% of young married women used family-planning methods. Among adolescent girls, only 4% of girls displayed decision-making skills and 16% unmarried girls dropped out of formal schooling. Prevalence of anaemia was high among women of all age groups.
This CSR programme by Forbes Marshall is implemented in three parts with a different target population. The first part of the project is directed towards the empowerment of unmarried adolescent girls through life skill education, improve their cognitive and practical skills and increase their self-esteem and self-efficacy. The programme is conducted through ASHA workers and community peer educators under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, where counselling sessions are also provided.
The second part of the programme is focused on the protection of young married women from adverse consequences of early marriage through increased information and access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH), utilisation of maternity services during pregnancy, and an increase in institutional deliveries and family-planning methods for spacing between children.
ASHA workers facilitate SRH services for married adolescent girls. They provide inter-personal communication (IPC) and counselling for married adolescent girls, their spouses and parents at the household level and implement the behaviour change communication (BCC) component of the project. The third part focuses on attitudinal change among young men to reduce domestic violence and gender inequality. The project is being implemented by the staff of the Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP) by providing boys and young men with education on life skills and engaging in group and individual counselling sessions.
The programme has led to an increase in years of formal schooling of unmarried adolescent girls, with improved adaptive skills and self-esteem. There has also been a decrease in the instances of early marriages. The rate of maternal morbidity has reduced, and a 10% increase in the treatment of maternal complications compared to the baseline was recorded in just one year of programme implementation.
2. L’Oréal India – FYWIS scholarship
L’Oréal’s long-running CSR programme aims to empower and enable more women in India to pursue an education in science-related streams. The gender parity index (GPI) and women participation in science-related streams remain skewed, with science being perceived as a subject associated with men. Limited financial ability and resources hinder avenues for higher education for girls from the lower middle-income group, especially if they decide to pursue further studies in the field of science and technology.
Through the FYWIS (For Young Women in Science) scholarship programme, L’Oréal aims to promote more young girls to pursue graduation in science and provide them and their families with the financial support necessary to pursue their ambitions. With a pan-India outreach, FYWIS targets financially constrained households with annual family income of less than INR 4 lakh per annum and girls with over 85% marks in the science stream in 12th standard. The scholarship is granted to promising but economically disadvantaged young women and covers college fees for study in any scientific field in a recognised college or university in India. Through the FYWIS scholarship programme, the students are supported with up to INR 2.5 lakh, granted in equal annual instalments (INR 62,500) over the period of the degree.
The programme has enabled 335 young girls to pursue a career of their choice in science, and become empowered to support their families. The project leverages the digital technology platform buddy4study.com, which is also the aggregator platform giving information on other existing scholarships and is used for preliminary screening and identifying candidates for telephonic interview. A panel of 20 jury members selects the most deserving candidates. There have been no dropouts registered among the scholarship recipients due to lack of financial resources.
3. Mahindra Rise – Project Nanhi Kali
The project aims to address the issue of gender parity in India and provide girls with educational support to help them complete 10 years of schooling. Project Nanhi Kali is one of India’s largest CSR programmes that enable girls from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds to complete their schooling.
The project is jointly managed by KC Mahindra Education Trust and the Naandi Foundation. Each girl is provided with a 360-degree academic as well as material support through an annual school supply kit consisting of a school bag, uniforms, stationery, female hygiene material, etc. Nanhi Kali’s academic support centres engage girls in concept-based learning through a specially designed pedagogy for two hours on a daily basis.
Digital tablets with pre-loaded audio-visual educational content are provided to girls studying in secondary school (6th-10th grades).
The project also works extensively with the families of the girls and engages with community stakeholders to sensitise them on the importance of girl child education and build safe, conducive female-friendly ecosystems.
Since its inception, project Nanhi Kali has provided access to quality education to over 3,50,000 underprivileged girls. It is currently supporting the education of over 1,50,000 girls across 6,132 academic support centres in 3,844 schools with a team of 4,892 trained tutors. Digital tablets have been provided to over 60,000 girls at the secondary school level with a group of three girls sharing one tablet. A reduction in the dropout rate has been recorded with a high retention rate of around 90%.