Vocational education enrolment among women in India is on the decline, and existing vocational education and training institutions are beyond reach for many who need it most. The fact that women continue to bear a majority of the responsibility as the primary caretaker in the family, yet lack access to the skill development resources to help them support the economic burdens of the family, is precisely what motivated Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham's AMMACHI Labs to develop a scalable solution: computerized vocational education and training (CVET).
On September 18, 2012, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham's AMMACHI Labs welcomed the opening of a new Computerized Vocational Education and Training (CVET) Centre in the town of Meppadi, a remote and rural town in the District of Wayanad, Kerala. The Kerala State Minister of Youth and Tribal Affairs, P.K Jayalakmshi, Meppadi Panchayat President Ancy Baby, and Brahmachari Akashayamrita Chaitanya of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (Parent Organization of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham) were present for the inaugural event.
During Brahmachari Akshayamritaji’s address, he stressed the need for projects which focus on women’s empowerment, “The exploitation of women is a major concern in our society, and so through a course like this we are not just imparting a vocation, but empowering women from within. I believe this will bring a lot of positive changes in the society as a whole.”
The event marks the continuation of AMMACHI Labs’ “Empowering Women” project, funded in part by the United Nations Democracy Fund. This project aims to empower 3000 women living below the poverty line over the next two years, by offering an effective and state-of-the-art computerized training in a vocational skill and a tailor-made Life Enrichment Education.
During the event, P.K. Jayalakshmiji offered her support and praise for the course, saying:
“When invited for the launch of CVET targeting Women, I was so happy because of its relevance to Wyanad District, as it's one of the most remote and uneducated districts of Kerala, both economically and socially....The new generation in Wyanad might have some familiarity with the computers now, but for my generation of women it was a dream to learn about computers. Through this [Empowering Women] project, this is becoming a reality. This is the opportunity to show to the world, we can learn computers, and at the same time learn a recognised vocational trade through them.”
Over 200 women and their families from the Wayanad District attended the inaugural event, and expressed interest in signing up for a vocational course at the new Meppadi CVET Centre. According to the Panchayat president, this is the first course of its kind in Wayanad that is able to address such a wide range of needs for this community:
“There are other Government assisted computer training programs that are available these days, but this Project stands out with special focus on women that are from the lowest income strata. It is a fact that income earned by women tends to be more useful in upbringing of the families and betterment of children's future.”
The event was a great success, and several of the attendees expressed excitement to join the course. V. Gopalan, a visibly older attendee who registered for the CVET Fabric Painting Course remarked:
“I have been the sole support of my family for most of my married life. I could not depend on my husband who was always drunk. I was responsible for getting my 3 daughters married. I laboured in the tea estates for years. Now my health isn’t good. I have always been working for someone else. Now, I want to work for myself. I would like a job where I can work from home as my husband is also now bed ridden.”
The full course, including the vocational training and the Life Enrichment Education, has been designed with women like V. Gopalan in mind. AMMACHI Labs has developed a holistic educational package which delivers content through multi-modal applications and hands-on activities, allowing people from all walks of life and educational levels to successfully complete the course and giving them the tools they need to make a better life for themselves.