Uplifting Women Through Economic Empowerment in India
India is located in South Asia and has a population of about 1.3 billion people. The country is mostly known for its agricultural work, multiple languages and cultural communities. Also, India has been a part of the U.N. since its creation in 1945. Currently, the country is attempting to grow its economy and reach the technological level of first world countries. Yet, among many issues that India needs to recognize is gender and class inequalities within its workforce. One solution is uplifting women through economic empowerment.

The Legacy of India’s Caste System

In India, caste and ethnic background still play a major role in the workplace — which can lead to people remaining stuck in underprivileged communities. Many believe that women may be educated but should nevertheless, remain housewives after marriage. Recently, many women have married, subsequently left their jobs and then attempted to return to work after many years of absence. Saundarya Rajesh, who holds a doctorate in Women’s Workforce Participation and hails from Chennai, recognized that there were not many women in white-collar jobs and that class differences were preventing women’s acceptance, when restarting their careers. Rajesh herself was a second-career woman in a white-collar job, who felt the pressure to choose between work and family. Her experiences led to her beginning Avtar I-Win in 2005, with the aim of helping women in similar situations to her own.

Avtar I-Win Empowers Women

The first step for Avtar I-Win was connecting women with job opportunities — helping showcase their resumes or launch their careers. Rajesh wanted the corporate workforce to create or allocate jobs for women — many of these jobs only men held. The Avtar I-Win group has completed 15,000 successful placements and the group continues to place women in new careers. The group’s main goal is to uplift women through economic empowerment in India. As the program grew, the organization cultivated a counseling service with a focus on life decisions and career development, called WINSIGHT. The service, run by qualified experts, provides a way for women to gain mentorship themselves and grow into mentors for other Avtar women.

With the growth of the organization, Rajesh and her board have added new aspects to their organization — always seeking to instill career intentionality and independence in girls, from a young age. With this mindset, girls can make their way out of poverty, forced marriages and sexual and domestic abuse — eventually increasing the corporate talent pool of India. Seeing the success and positive impact of Avtar I-Win, Rajesh began Avtar Human Capital Trust (AHCT) in 2008, which is a charitable not-for-profit organization.

Reaching Women in Poverty

Rajesh and her team noticed that even though they helped women restart their careers; education and financial barriers prevented them from reaching all women. Headquartered in Chennai, AHCT addresses gender inequality across the states of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry — providing financial help for women and students in underprivileged communities. By doing so, AHCT allows women to focus on preparing and aspiring for professional careers.

With the support of companies willing to hire more women, AHCT and Avtar I-Win have launched programs such as Project Puthri and FLEXI Careers in India. Project Puthri focuses on helping girls from a young age, so they can graduate with the purpose of attaining corporate jobs. The organization’s current goal is to help 10,000 girls per year across Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. The board believes that with more women contributing to India’s GDP, the country will become more prosperous and communities will rise out of poverty. FLEXI Careers supports this mission through diversity and inclusion consulting. The organization focuses on an array of services to make the corporate world an inclusive workplace for women from underprivileged communities.

Female Empowerment and the Future

Saundaraya Rajesh founded her organization on helping and believing in women from communities of poverty. Yet, she understood that women needed assistance in obtaining careers for which many (especially family-oriented women in poverty) experienced great barriers to entry. Along with other pioneers in workplace inclusivity, Rajesh is uplifting women through economic empowerment in India — introducing programs on technology, economic empowerment, health and hygiene education for women who need extra support to succeed in the corporate world.

Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Pxhere

4 Clues to Understanding Poverty in Bahrain
A great deal of poverty in Bahrain stems from a systematic discrimination of Shias by the Sunni leaders. Bahrainis were one of the first to begin protesting in the Arab Spring of 2011 but were also one of the first to be shut down. The discrimination of the Shias still exists today in Bahrain. To better understand Bahrain, here are four facts that you need to know:

    1. Bahrain is run by a monarchy that has been in power since their occupation of the island during the 1700s. The monarchy works within itself, through a private council that resolves familial disputes and financial issues. Today, Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature.
    2. The monarchy consists of Sunnis, but the majority of the population of Bahrain is Shia. This encourages systematic discrimination throughout Bahrain, which sparked multiple protests by Shia Bahrainis in 2011. Shias claimed that privileges and opportunities were given out more freely to the Sunnis within Bahrain. Mainly these protestors argued for a new constitution and an equal society in terms of job opportunities for Shia Bahrainis, but the protests were shut down quickly. The monarchy called the protesters traitors and used troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the protests.
    3. There is a large wealth disparity between Shias and Sunnis throughout Bahrain. The capital city of Manama is full of beautiful buildings and skyscrapers, but the villages surrounding the city show the disparity. However, figures do not suggest that Bahrain has any citizens living in extreme poverty (under one U.S. dollar a day) according to the United Nations Development Programme. But, 12.2% of the population lives under five U.S. dollars a day, therefore poverty in Bahrain still exists.
    4. Most of the unemployed Bahrainis are between the ages of 15 and 24. Unemployed females within that age group have an unemployment rate of 16.8 % in 2014, and unemployed males are at 8.5%, according to the International Labour Organization. There is a clear disparity between females and males who are able to acquire jobs, as well as the disparity between the Shias and Sunnis that is still prevalent today.

Poor Shias living in Bahrain without any connections to wealthier Shias or Sunnis will most likely stay in that caste. Bahrain is very committed to its traditions including its monarchy. While extreme poverty in Bahrain is not the country’s biggest issue, the disparity that is rampant leads more into poverty every day.

Meagan Foy

Photo: Flickr