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India’s Adolescent Girls Need Employability Empowerment: Report


A report titled ‘Best Foot Forward: Enhancing the Employability of India’s Adolescent Girls’ was unveiled at the Dasra Philanthropy Week in association with Bank of America. The report dwells upon the need to create awareness around the issues faced by adolescent girls in terms of being employable. It highlights the fact that although secondary education is critical, evidence shows that gaps in India’s secondary education system have made it difficult for girls to transition from education to employment.

“The report shows that being employed and being employable are two different things. The traditional approach has placed a disproportionate faith in simply placing adolescent girls into the job market as a way to help them achieve economic independence. Today, this approach is increasingly being seen as an incomplete solution. Once employed, these young girls need the skills to thrive. They need to be empowered with certain soft skills, helping them communicate and collaborate effectively in the workplace and so build their confidence,” said Kaku Nakhate, President and Country Head, Bank of America, India.

Highlights of the report:

One in every ten Indians is an adolescent girl. Consequently, India hosts nearly 20% of the world’s population of adolescent girls, and each and every one of them has the potential to contribute to India’s future economy. It has been seen that adolescent girls are more likely to be uneducated than boys in the same age group. As a result, adolescent boys are more economically active than girls in their group.

Improving employability for girls in India has meant training them to have a specific skill and providing them with gender stereotypical jobs such as tailoring, catering or secretarial practice. The employability approach enables adolescent girls to realize their economic potential and acquire skills needed to build a financially secure future. It incorporates exposure to available opportunities, development of aspirations, a work orientation, and soft skills training. Employability programs train adolescent girls to generate an income through activities such as entrepreneurship, self-employment, wage employment or home-based work.

Employability approach focuses on three skill sets considered essential for employment and entrepreneurship: cognitive, non-cognitive and technical skills. Cognitive skills involve building numeracy and literacy. Some examples of technical skills are computer or technological competencies. Non-cognitive skills include traits like leadership, conflict resolution, communication and capacity for teamwork. Initially, cognitive and technical skills are extremely valuable in helping girls secure jobs, however, over time, the skills that employers’ value most are non-cognitive skills such as teamwork and the ability to problem solve.

There are several challenges that organizations or stakeholders in the employability sector face while bringing adolescent girls into the workforce. These include: redundant curricula, restrictive gatekeepers, stereotypical gender roles in employment opportunities, restricted mobility and limited social networks, ineffective government programs and multiple levels of vulnerability. Dasra has identified the following three priority areas for action that—when implemented together—counter these challenges and empower girls economically:

  • Build Community Support for Girls’ Work Outside the Home
  • Teach Market-Relevant Skills that Employers Want
  • Focus on Comprehensive Personality and Skill Development (life-skills and technical skills)

These cornerstones are implemented through a host of interventions or activities, by non-profits in the field. The report profiles ten organizations that are doing some of the most promising and scalable work across the country, shortlisted from a universe of over 300 non-profits working in India’s employability and livelihoods sector.

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The CSR Journal Team