EU to handhold Indias maiden finishing school for BPL girls

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jan 1 2010, 03:06am hrs
Countrys maiden finishing school initiative for girls from below poverty line (BPL) families is likely to get its first handholding from European Unions (EU) gender empowerment kitty. Resource Enhancement Academy for Career Heights (REACH), a Kerala government initiative, targets grooming girls from low-income families to nurses, teachers, graduate office-assistants and customer care executives with better communication skills.

Top EU officials are in parleys with the Kerala government over fund support for REACH, said PT Muhammed Sunish, managing director, KSWDC, the state-outfit that floated the finishing school. Although they are keen on committing, it would be fair to draw support only after some concrete results are in place. The EU backing is likely to be ready in six months, he told FE.

About 35% of EU funding kitty is earmarked for gender-specific thematic projects. For instance, the programmeInvesting in Programmealone sets aside 57 million across next six years for women empowerment in development co-operation. Another potential funding agency which has evinced interest is ILO (International Labour Organisation).

Lady Tata Trust, too, is keen to throw its mite to fine-tune the employability quotient of girl professionals from low-income families. Confidence of funding agencies seems positive as Kerala nurses have already created a strong global brand, says Sunish.

REACH rolls out training for 650 candidates in first year. As much as 70% seats, free of cost, are reserved for BPL candidates. Girls can enroll themselves in four coursesIT-enabled training and English course for B Ed holders (30 days), IELTS training for nurses (45 days), office assistants training for graduates (60 days) and customer care executive training for plus two degree holder.

Most of the girls selected this year are from rural areas. KWDC has put together state-of-the-art language lab and computer facilities for the finishing school, set up in Kaimanam in Thiruvananthapuram. Hostel facilities are also in place.

REACH guarantees 100% placement for all candidates who successfully finish the course. The main idea is to iron out language hassles that hamper professionalism, said Kerala minister for women and social welfare PK Sreemathy.

Mobility issues often stand in the way of women job-seekers. Sharpening home skills, life skills and vocational skills is critical for addressing gender gap, said women and children minister Krishan Tirath. The Centre is readying Womens Empowerment & Livelihood Programme in Priyadarshini during the year. This aims to enable women from vulnerable sections to address their social, political, legal, health and economic problems. This eight-year project is assisted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). However, initially, this would be implemented only in select districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Meanwhile, Keralas REACH finishing school for girls from BPL families would be a useful precursor for National Mission for Women Empowerment, said Tirath. This is in the pipeline for early 2010.

Once funding is in place, REACH plans to scale up its training infrastructure for BPL girls. However, in employability quotient, quality is the queen and not quantity, caution experts.