India has the largest adolescent population in the world – 243 million young people with dreams, ambitions and vast potential. Of these young people, approximately 120 million are girls and young women, who face numerous challenges to achieve those dreams and reach their potential.
India is home to a third of the world’s child brides and has the largest number of children born to children. Moreover, despite educational gains, the number of women in the workforce in India is actually dropping – less than 24% of working age women in India were in work in 2018, down from more than 32% in 2005.
Earlier this year, the British Asian Trust and BT launched a new programme in India, with the aim of empowering over 100,000 young women and girls to reach their full potential and help break down barriers for hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, more. The projects our partners are delivering, across Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata, are using digital technology in a variety of ways to break barriers experienced by young women – from providing skills development and careers advice through a mobile app to a virtual reality platform that helps them and their communities see what their world could be like without those barriers in place.
Having worked closely with BT and the British Asian Trust team in India to develop this programme, I was delighted to get the opportunity in August to visit some of the projects and meet young women striving to develop their skills and make change in their communities.
In Delhi, we met with partner ETASHA who, in small centres in disadvantaged areas of Delhi and Haryana, is equipping young people aged 12-21 with the diverse skills they need to get jobs in the Indian job market. The young people attending the centre in Delhi are mostly the second generation of families who migrated to Delhi from poor rural areas of India, in search of a better life. One of the teachers at the centre told us that many of the young people they work with won’t have visited a big restaurant or travelled on the metro before; when they get to an office building, they will ask if it’s ok for them to go inside. It’s life skills and experiences like these that seem small but are so important and help build confidence.
Through the partnership with the British Asian Trust and BT, ETASHA will work with more than 5,000 adolescent girls to improve their employability through a combination of digital and life skills, careers advice and job placements. In the classrooms at the centre in Delhi, it was a privilege to talk to some of the young people ETASHA is working with about their ambitions for the future and see the obvious confidence they have developed as part of the programme. All around the walls of the centre are signs of the achievements of these young people, from their English language marks to the announcements of jobs secured at reputable companies like Hamley’s and Uniqlo.
At each of the projects we visited, we met with young women and girls with ambition, excited by any and all opportunities that might help them achieve their goals. It was great to see the role the work of the British Asian Trust and BT is playing in helping to create those opportunities and enable these young women to reach their full potential.
Ellie Jones, Senior Programmes Manager – the British Asian Trust