Dr. Gayatri Phadke (Senior Practice Consultant), TMTC
and Ms. S Sharda Ratna (Research Associate), TMTC
“Patchwork philanthropy… is not the right approach for a robust future”.
The advancement and success of a community is possible only when all citizens- men and women- participate in the process, irrespective of gender bias. Women are often constrained by “the norms, beliefs, customs and values through which societies differentiate between women and men”.The great Egyptian poet Hafez Ibrahim said in the beginning of the 20th century, “When you educate a woman, you create a nation”. Educating and empowering the women improves nearly every other aspect of the society. The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristofechoes the thought that gender inequality is "the dominant moral challenge we face in the 21st century." Goldman Sachs, published two research papers, "Womenomics" and "Women Hold up Half the Sky", reinforcing the importance of investing in education and labour force participation of women that can lead to real economic growth in developed and developing countries. The research quoted in here gives an idea of the work done and strong emphasis given to the subject of women empowerment.
TRANSFORMING WOMEN’S LIVES
Focusing on women empowerment remains a subject of great interest for organisations around the world, but is this issue new within the Tata group? In this management brief we focus on the initiatives taken up by the Tata Group related to women empowerment.
Social responsibility was never regarded as an additional or miscellaneous activity by the Tata Group. For long, the Group influenced the community and lives of people associated with it in numerous ways. As pioneers of some of the best practices in the area of people development and labour relations, the group and the companies in their own capacity also played an important role and took several initiatives to transform the lives of women in the communities they operated in and helped making a difference to the society at large. The Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust established in 1932 along with the allied trusts- JRD and Thelma J Tata- for promoting the cause of welfare, education, health, rehabilitation and overall upliftment of women in India.
Research has propounded several frameworks delineating the various dimensions along which women could be empowered. While some of the frameworks discuss broad dimensions of empowerment such as CIDA (1996), others like Kishor’s (2000a) includes valuation of women, equality in marriage, as well as specific elements (e.g. lifetime exposure to employment). These frameworks primarily encompass economic, socio-cultural, familial/interpersonal, legal, political, and psychological dimensions. Each of these dimensions cover a range of empowerment sub-domains, such as physical mobility, to non-familial social support systems and networks available to women that need to be addressed. While some group initiatives were a part of the Group’s corporate social responsibility activities, others were started to support the business needs of the organization in turn creating economic and social empowerment of the community.
These initiatives seemed to have a twofold benefit –
• For women, the initiatives ensured holistic empowerment along the following components:
• For the Company, empowerment project was along the following lines-
INITIATIVES BY TATA GROUP COMPANIES
The Group companies typically worked with women in marginalized communities such as in Kalinganagar- Odisha, Krishnagiri- Hosur, and Mithapur- Okhamandal Gujrat.,
Following the tradition, in 1992, post-acquisition of land for a new steel plant at Kalinganagar, Odisha, Tata Steel made conscious efforts in empowering womenfolk of the community around it.As a founder member of UN Global Compact, Tata Steel was dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals of UN, which emphasised upon promoting gender equality and empowering women. For instance Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) launched the much talked about ‘Tejaswini Programme’. wherein dedicated training programmes Self Help Groups (SHGs) were organised in areas like Kalinganagar, Gopalpur, Joda, Sukinda and Belpahar. The SHGs engaged in income generating activities like poultry farming, goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, tailoring, gardening, stone carving, nursery, phenyl making, pickle making and saura painting. The women in Joda were place in secured jobs and trained to drive and operate heavy equipment.
Apart from empowering rural women, the Urban Services Department of Tata Steel initiated programs for vocational development of women dwelling in the basti (urban settlements). To protect women from Intra-household and social discrimination, Tata Steel’s Urban Services focused on their skill-building vocational trainings such as sewing and design, embroidery, mehendi rachna, zari work, fabric painting, personal grooming etc. and make them economically independent.
Titan’s manufacturing unit in Hosur in the Krishnagiri district of Karnataka is a drought- prone area, suffering from social issues including gender inequality, low literacy rates, female child labour and high female infanticide rates. In collaboration with MYRADA (formerly the Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency) – a non-government organisation that facilitated women’s self-help groups,- Titan set up Project Meadow (Management of Enterprise and Development of Women) in 1996 with an aim to provide employment opportunities to young women. The project initiated with just 24 girls with a qualification of high school education evolved into a registered company (Meadow, set up in 1998) with 343 women members as owner-managers and workers i n their own enterprise. The women were provided with jobs like laundering uniforms of TITAN factory workers, and washing industrial trays used in holding watches and straps. The women were also given extensive training in material accounting and documentation procedures. The jewellery division of Titan outsourced some crucial activities in the production of studded jewellery; primarily in the area of waxing, stone-setting and alloying to Meadow. An initial batch of 40 women was trained to advance their skills in jewellery-making. They began with bracelet link assembly, and gradually undertook 16 different tasks such as case buffing, hand press and gold plating, strapping, movement assembly, jewellery and strap masking.
By redefining social attitudes, Titan Industries not only empowered the women of Krishnagiri, Karnataka. But provided for a sustainable livelihood, through Project Meadow.
These initiatives serve the business needs of the organization and also helped the women to be economically and socially empowered by making them skilled enough to run a micro enterprise.
Tata Chemical Society for Rural Development (TCSRD), the CSR division of Tata Chemicals (TCL) played a pioneering role in the regional development of Mithapur and its neighboring villages which were, inhabited by tribes such as Vaghers, Ahirs, Rabaris, Charans and communities like Harijans and Lohanas. The region being a drought prone area, the local natives depended on meager rain fall for their agricultural output (their source of livelihood), which was often unpredictable.
TCSRD organized the women into self-help groups led by the Pramukha (the woman- in- charge) to create items like home furnishings (bed sheets, wall hangings, file folders, cushion covers), apparels and accessories like bags among many other products under the brand name ‘OKHAI’ (meaning from Okhamandal). The brand name was chosen to reflect the strong statement made by the women of Okhamandal. With the help of TCSRD and Tata Trust Boards, the SHGs were organised and structured as a professional business unit. The members of SHGs were also trained in group dynamics, fund management, division of work, and entrepreneurship to build the capacity of the group to work as a business unit.
In 2011, OKHAI was recognised as a Craftmark certified product by the All India Artisans & Craft Workers Welfare Association (AIACA), bringing it in the league of other players like Fab India and other well-known regional brands in similar categories.
Tata Power at Bada Mundali village in Odisha, organized workshops on health, hygiene and sanitation related issues benefitting more than 45 rural women and adolescent girls living near the company’s Naraj Marthapur project. As the rural women tended to neglect their personal health, hygiene and sanitation, the programme provided them with a platform to not only share their concerns but also promoted awareness about the various health issues related to hygiene and sanitation. Apart from educating them on water-borne diseases, preventive safety measures to be followed during monsoon were also shared with them so that they could protect themselves from illnesses and infectious diseases such as plague, cholera, malaria and typhoid.
By 2013, the number of such groups reached 45, and 445 women became a part of these SHGs. 20 of these SHG were credit-linked with the bank and availed Rs11 lakh as credit support. By July 2013, the cumulative savings of the groups amounted to Rs9.87 lakh.
In association with the Committee of Resource Organizations (CORO), Tata power launched a unique initiative to enhance the leadership qualities and intervention capabilities of women. The endeavour focused on formation self-help groups (SHG) and voicing concerns related to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).
The initiatives discussed are only among the few endeavours taken up by the Group to empower the women at the grass root levels.
These empowerment initiatives further needs to focus on –
1) Enhancing the strength within (enhance their self-esteem and self-confidence to express and not withhold opinions and eventually come to believe that they also can have a say);
2) Providing strength to create new possibilities and actions without domination,
3) Facilitating strength with (by promoting collective action to spend time with other women to discuss and reflect upon their situation, recognise the strengths possessed and develop strategies to achieve positive change).