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Rural women’s self-reliance dream takes wings through technology parks

Technology Parks brings about self-reliance for rural women through technology

Technology shouldn’t be confined to laboratories, seminars and corporates. It should be availed for betterment and empowerment of the marginalised, especially women. Thus making them a part and parcel of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Doing precisely that is Women Technology Parks, a programme under the aegis of Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

Training around 350 women in Andhra Pradesh to make products ranging from herbal products to food and cosmetics, WTP changed their life forever. Sharing details, Dr A Jyothi, a retired Professor from Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalam, Tirupati, who was part of the WTP team, said, the team conducted door-to-door survey to find out enterprising rural women. They also looked for school and college going girls in the State, who could be trained, thereby improving their knowledge, skills and earn more.

She goes on to add, they have developed 30 products including food items and cosmetics and trained women through exhibition-cum-training programme. “Most of them are doing well and earning by making and selling various products.”

Another instance of WTP story of empowering rural women pertains to Uttarakhand. Dr.Neelu Ahuja, Professor in Computer Science Department, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun, wanted science and technology to play a vital role in income generation of rural women of Uttarakhand. This State was special to her, having developed a deep attachment for the region through her 20 years of professional life there.

Chancing upon WTP programme, she has been able to change the lives of 280 rural women of Dehradun by training them in skills to earn their livelihood. Through the technological training, the women were able to utilize locally available natural resources like bamboo, jute, date palm leaves turning them into jewellery items and decorative pieces. They also turned waste to wealth by making pencils out of newspaper and acquired the skill to cultivate medicinal plants.

“Regular earning has made them confident and now they want to explore more ways to increase their earning,” said Dr. Ahuja.

WTPs are established in rural and peri-urban areas as technology modulation, adaptation and training centres for women groups mainly from farming community. They promote development and adaptation of appropriate technologies, transfer proven technologies and demonstration of live technology models to improve the weakest link of the predominant livelihood system of women in an area and promote social entrepreneurship and women employment based on the strongest link of the livelihood system. They create an environment, where scientists and technologists from mentoring organizations could provide knowledge and appropriate technology for adoption and practice by women groups at their own farm or workplace.

Some of the innovative technologies that women have been trained are operating shredder machine and usage of selective e-waste parts for remanufacturing, CNC hotwire cutter, vacuum-drying flowers and 3D chocolate printing machine. Also knowledge and training are being provided in processing perishable raw materials like crop, fruit and vegetable, milk, meat, egg, and fish into marketable value added products like virgin coconut oil, natural coconut vinegar, coir mat, herbal cosmetics, fruit and vegetable preserves clean milk, mozzarella cheese, milk beverages, meat and fish snacks, etc. at small scale. Such technology-based value addition not only increases the income from the sale but also enhances the shelf-life and functionality of the products.

The WTP trained women can form self help groups and set up their own micro enterprises to become self-reliant. It also facilitates rural women in ensuring the marketability of their produces by providing backward linkage to financing institutions like NABARD, District lead banks etc. and forward linkage to District authorities, village panchayat and other government schemes viz. State Rural Livelihood Mission.

Around 10,000 rural women have benefitted from this scheme in the last five years. So far 28 WTPs have been completed successfully and some of them are sustaining themselves and 12 Parks are still ongoing in various parts of the country. With more such Parks being planned in future, the WTPs can play a yeomen role in creating AtmaNirbhar Bharat at community level.