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Attaining Gender Equality Through Partnerships

“Women belong in all positions where decisions are being made.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsberg

A statement by the UN revealed that women’s economic empowerment has the potential to increase economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. While moving forward with any developmental intervention, it is essential that we address this huge gender divide that is present in our society. Women’s participation in the workforce is currently at 28% as per a report by Forbes magazine. The question remains, what is the cause for India’s gender gap in the workspace and how can organizations address this issue?

As per the 2011 census, women constitute nearly 48% of the total population of India. It is essential to realize that if we are denying women opportunities to enter into employement then we are denying opportunities to nearly half the potential workforce. This will have plausible implications on the economy and GDP of the country. The United Nations estimates the global gender divide costs the economy of a country nearly 15% of its GDP. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests that India’s GDP could potentially increase by 27% if women participated in the economy at the same rate as men. Unfortunately due to COVID, this overall gender gap has further increased. A study by Oxfam India suggests that the economic loss for women employees during the pandemic has been about 216 billion dollars, which constitutes 8% of the country’s GDP.

Experience of women in the workspace

A study titled “Rewriting the rules: Women and Work” attempts to understand the causes of India’s low female participation in the workforce. The study attributes the low participation to (1) the patriarchal nature of society which restricts women’s agency, mobility, and freedom to work (2) the increase in household income which makes people question the value of women’s entry into the workforce (3) the unequal distribution of work and care in the home, which is generally unpaid and unappreciated, and finally (4) the lack of quality jobs for women in the workspace because of the gender divide.

In  a historically patriarchal country like India, the responsibility of household work falls upon the woman. A global trend reveals that 66% of the work done by women is unpaid in comparison to their male counterparts which stands at 12%. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that in India, a woman spends nearly 6 hours a day on unpaid labour in comparison to 52 minutes spent by men. This unpaid labour includes taking care of children, doing housework, and caring for the sick. A recent trending cartoon by cartoonist Calin perfectly illustrates the difference in the workspace experience of men and women.

This unequal distribution of work halts female participation in the workspace. Data from the survey reveals that one out of three women in India would prefer a to work in a paid job instead of being engaged into housework. The unpaid labour also contributes vastly to the gender gap, especially in secondary education. This perpetuates the cycle of inequality in the country.

How do we address the gender divide?

It is essential that we recognize that work experience differs greatly between women and men in a workspace. In the present landscape, there is not a lot of scope for female employees to nurture their talents and skills. This is causing a reduction in employment in several sectors, including the technology sector. There is ample evidence that suggests that addressing this gender gap is not only beneficial for the women but the organisation and the overall country as well. Keeping this in mind, it is essential that organisations introduce provisions and policies that are gender-sensitive and friendly to promote and develop female participation in the workspace.

Provisions that are introduced should ensure that the workspace is safe for female employees. For a woman who is starting a family, support and provisions need to be provided in the form of maternity leave, office creches, work from home options, etc. Providing paternity leave for fathers is also a measure to be gender inclusive and reduce the gender divide at home. A study by Cornell University states that providing paternity leaves to fathers “can promote parent-child bonding, improve outcomes for children, and even increase gender equity at home and at the workplace. Paid parental leave for fathers, as well as for mothers, provides a real advantage to working families.”

Partnerships for Empowerment

A general trend that is observed in the workspace is that women often negotiate less and are less confident in comparison to their male counterparts. Many women entering the workforce in India are first-generation women workers, and thus it may be a very different experience for them.

For first-generation employees, there is a need for mentorship and guidance, especially from other women. This is often lacking in many establishments, more so in those where there is only one female employee.  This is another factor that can contribute to drop-out of women employees or the lack of female leadership in the workspace. To address this component, IndiVillage Foundation is launching the Women Mentorship Program which will have senior women employees from prominent establishments provide mentorship to female employees of IndiVillage. During the sessions, they provide guidance on how to develop their skills and succeed in a corporate environment. This is an initiative of, for, and by women to promote personal and professional development.

To help women cope with the stress of daily lives and provide them with a safe space, we have also introduced the concept of Lean in Circles. This space provides a platform for female employees to share their burdens with their colleagues and arrive at solutions within the circle before escalating it to a higher authority. They can also seek support from their peers as well as have the freedom to share thoughts, opinions, and concerns without any kind of judgments. We believe that all female employees at IndiVillage are leaders in some capacity or the other, and wish to enhance their skills and have a meaningful conversation within the space. Therefore, we hope that this gives them the motivation to give back to their communities and become changemakers within their own circles.

It is essential that organizations look at developing practices in collaboration with women that are gender-inclusive which will result in the empowerment of the woman, the organisation, and the country as a whole.

Rural Reset Reality: Partnership as a driver for change

For the past three months, we proposed ideas in the sectors of education, gender, and livelihood to bring about the rural reset. In this, and the last piece of the Rural Reset Series, we want to stress the importance of partnerships and collaboration to shape a new reality in rural India. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday as we delve further into the below-mentioned topics.

“Now is the time for unity” is what the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres told the world when the pandemic took over. It is not just a health crisis, but a human crisis and it is having severe repercussions on all walks of life. The lack of preparedness and the inability to recover has hit the economy. UNDP estimates the COVID-19 virus has upset the global human development – a combination of education, health, and living standards- so much that the numbers could fall for the first time this year after the measurements began in 1990.

The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 set by the United Nations provides a pathway for the creation of humanity that is equal for all. While there are many positive advancements globally aiming to achieve these goals, the pandemic has set the world back by a far measure. But instead of viewing this cynically, it could be said that this pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink and reset the reality, as the old reality is what put us in this state of crisis in the first place.

In India, the most affected are undoubtedly rural communities. The lack of structure of the informal economy and sudden drop in employment created a wave of migration of workers going back to where they came from. This influx of people into villages has caused an emergence of an array of socio-economic issues. But for the first time in history, the entire population is fighting against one common goal: the virus.

Though the route to betterment seems slightly bumpy, the importance of working together is now apparent. As governments and other organizations plan schemes to introduce a new normal into rural areas, we emphasize the importance of partnerships to achieve these goals. SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals draws attention to the need to collaborate to achieve the 16 goals overhead.  The main pillars of any society – the government, the private institutions, and the community – need to come together to bind the other goals together. For the past three months, we proposed ideas in the sectors of education, gender, and livelihood to bring about the rural reset. But now, we talk about reality and what we can do as an organization to overcome the COVID crisis.

Partnerships in Education for all

Dr. Abdul Kalam once said that “Education is the acquisition of enlightened feelings and the enlightened power to understand the daily events and understand the permanent truths by linking citizens to his environment, human and planet, we live.”

We believe that education and learning is something that is not restricted to the classroom. Engaging in practical experiences and the application of classroom learnings can provide opportunities for constructive learning and individual growth. Our Social Internship Program allows for young professionals, university students, and fellows to engage in a 6-week micro-project, to train in project management for the social sector.

In the middle of the pandemic, IndiVillage adapted its internship program to an online model which provided an opportunity for engagement despite challenges. Interns contributed to various verticals of the foundation’s operations which included education, gender, livelihoods, and COVID response. The IndiVillage internship model is an urban-rural partnership which proved to be a beneficial experience for both the interns and the local community alike.

Social Internship Program Batch 2020

During the pandemic, we also relaunched our open platform Samvāda: Dialogue for Impact on an online platform for organizations to share their work, learn, ideate, and network with other impact organizations across India. Following the pandemic, Samvāda specially focused on rural-based nonprofits to share knowledge and resources and collectively respond to the diverse challenges posed by Covid-19. ct management for the social sector.

In the middle of the pandemic, IndiVillage adapted its internship program to an online model which provided an opportunity for engagement despite challenges. Interns contributed to various verticals of the foundation’s operations which included education, gender, livelihoods, and COVID response. The IndiVillage internship model is an urban-rural partnership which proved to be a beneficial experience for both the interns and the local community alike.

Social Internship Program Batch 2020

We also have initiated Samvāda: Dialogue for Impact which is an open platform for organizations to share their work, learn, ideate, and network with other impact organizations across India. Following the pandemic, Samvāda moved online, with a special focus on rural-based nonprofits to share knowledge and resources and collectively respond to the diverse challenges posed by Covid-19.

The sixth edition of Samvada explored the manner in which organizations did community outreach and engagement while meeting social distancing protocols. This platform helps institutions learn from one another and collaborate on schemes to get closer to achieve the UN sustainable development goals.

Across the globe, female participation in areas such as technology and science is hugely limited. Long-standing gender norms and roles in society curtails women’s participation in this sector. To address this gap in the sector, we have partnered with local government schools in Yemmiganur and Raichur to introduce the “Girls in Tech” program. The curriculum for this project has been developed by the global NGO Girls Who Code. Women from the community act as facilitators to the project that attempts to cultivate a love for coding amongst young girls in rural communities.

Partnerships for Gender Equality

There is a strong gender divide that is prevalent in the corporate sector. Women’s participation in the workforce is currently at 28% as per a report by Forbes magazine. The question remains, what is the cause for India’s gender gap in the workspace and how can organizations address this issue?

Volunteer Mentor, Ananta Raghuvanshi, Sr Exec Director-Experion Developers

It is essential that we recognize that for a woman working in the field, the experience is something that differs greatly from her male counterparts. In the present landscape, there is not a lot of scope for women employees to nurture their talents and their skills. This is causing a reduction in female employment in several sectors, including the technology sector. To address this gendered divide, and to help motivate and guide female employees, we have introduced the Women Mentorship Program. Senior women employees from prominent establishments provide mentorship to female employees of IndiVillage. During the sessions, they provide guidance on how to develop their skills and succeed in a corporate environment.  This is an initiative of, for and by women to promote personal and professional development.

To also help women cope with the stress of daily lives and provide them with a safe space, we have also introduced the concept of Lean in Circles. This space aims to provide a platform for female employees to share their burdens with their colleagues and arrive at solutions within the circle before escalating it to a higher authority. It is also a space where they can seek support from their peers as well as have the freedom to share thoughts, opinions, and concerns without any kind of judgments. We also believe that all female employees at IndiVillage are leaders in some capacity or the other, and we wish to enhance their skills and have a meaningful conversation within the space. We hope this gives them the motivation to take it back to their communities and become changemakers within their community.

Right now, Circle meetings are being conducted virtually to support each other through the Covid-19 crisis – where the female employees connect over shared experiences, giving and receiving advice, and problem-solving together.

Partnership with Community

As a follow up from our last newsletter where we proposed the idea of one entrepreneur one village, we have a small message from our founder, Ravi Machani, the advocate of the concept:

“As I look back on the past 10 years I’m reminded of the conversation I had with Dr. Abdul Kalam that sparked the journey of IndiVillage. Dr. Kalam suggested that every entrepreneur should adopt a village and change it forever. He helped me realize that a personal approach makes a huge difference to those that need help. A cheque for a government handout cannot give someone a job or advice on how to turn their life around. An entrepreneur who has walked down the same path may have a better idea about how to help. Today IndiVillage operates out of 2 towns and we know this model can be replicated. Our job is not done in India until 600,000 villages are touched. This task becomes easier if we get 600,000 entrepreneurs onboard. Every center needs an entrepreneur, not a manager.”

There are 58.5 million entrepreneurs in India and 600,000 villages. The impact that they could create if these entrepreneurs partnered with communities is beyond imagination. The final emphasis of this article is on the need to create a social impact and do business for good.

A Look into Samvāda: Dialogue for Impact 7

Redesigning Programs for COVID: Models of Success

It is a difficult reality that we are living presently. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown has had severe impacts on institutions across the country. A majority of offices and educational institutions have been forced to shift to an online medium of operation. This sudden shift has cost over 122 million people their jobs (as per estimations by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy). Furthermore, a report by UNESCO reveals that 32 crore students across the country have been impacted by the pandemic.

The consequences of this shift to an online mode are very different for both rural and urban communities. A study by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2017-2018 reveals that (1) only 4.4% of the population in rural India had access to computers, (2) one-tenth of the households had people with the ability to use a computing device, (3) less than a quarter of the respondents had access to the internet via smartphone (4) 15 out of the 100 households had internet access and, (5) 16% of women in rural areas have access to internet facilities.

Another important thing to remember is that there is a gender gap in terms of access to digital technology and internet connectivity. A study by UNICEF shows that only 19% of internet users in the country are women. In the current situation, impact organisations across the country have the challenge of redesigning their existing interventions to support the immediate needs of the communities where they work. In many cases, ration distribution and other forms of support to those immediately impacted supersedes previous programmatic objectives. The reverse migration of the informal sector further adds to the needs of rural communities.

So, for impact organisations the question arises, how do programs function and adapt to this newfound reality? What should be the primary focus of impact groups? How do we proceed with work in a post-COVID reality?

To answer these questions, the seventh session of Samvāda: Dialogue for Impact engages in a dialogue with the founder of Think Sharp Foundation, Santosh Phad (TS), Summaiya Afreen the co-founder of Lakshya Jeevan Jagriti (LJJ), and Shreya Sinha, Head of Impact, IndiVillage (IV) on how they redesigned their programs to successfully address developmental issues in their respective rural communities.

Immediate Response to COVID 

For impact organizations, the immediate concern has been to provide some form of food or ration to people in the middle of the lockdown, who suddenly lost everything. LJJ was able to mobilise the support of local women in their communities to provide 400-500 meals a day, with the number of people only increasing by the day. Apart from the supply of food, LJJ identified other issues that affected its people as a result of the pandemic, such as lack of access to medical supply and sanitary pads. To reach out to the larger sections of the population, LJJ worked with local ASHA workers to provide support to people during the lockdown.

Similarly, during the initial phase of the pandemic, IndiVillage paused all its programs as a way to curb social interaction in the community and moved its youth workers from the livelihood centers to a work from home mode. It also distributed masks and educational handouts to beneficiaries, and educational resources to children of all beneficiaries.

Rethinking Education During Lockdown 

With the lockdown and closing of schools, an important mechanism to reach out to children from rural communities has been lost. For marginalized groups, schools have become important because schools provide nutritional support to children through the mid-day meal system. There have already been bad consequences because of the closing of schools. Activists have observed that child marriage and child labour are increasing across the country.

Given this situation, it is essential to rethink educational programs to ensure that children continue education. TS has been working to improve the quality of educational infrastructure in rural areas and reduce the digital divide. An internal survey conducted by TS revealed that 85% of their students had access to digital resources in urban areas, whereas only 15% of their rural counterparts had access to digital devices. To ensure that students’ education programs continued uninterrupted, TS provided its students with tablets so that they had access to online courses. Apart from the regular curriculum, an interesting feature of their program was that students were also introduced to other courses like film making sessions. They also included a mobile monitoring application in the tablet to monitor the progress of students and ensure that the tablets were being used for the child’s education and nothing else.

Meanwhile, LJJ has also been addressing education-related issues in local communities. What the LJJ team observed was that there was a gendered divide in the access of technological resources between boys and girls. If there was a mobile device available at home it was mainly directed towards the boy’s education. LLJ specifically directed their attention towards the continuation of female education practice. They supplied 31 girls with mobile devices so that they could attend classes online.

Engaging Children 

During this stage, it is also important to engage children through fun and meaningful activities. IndiVillage reworked their reading program Storytelling Saturday for this purpose. Prior to the pandemic, community volunteers would visit a school in Yemmiganur and read elementary level stories to children. To introduce the program at home, the parents of the children had to take on the role of the reader. Black and white storybooks were distributed along with crayons so that the children could colour into the pictures and engage with the story in a meaningful and fun manner.

Gender Inequality and COVID 

Apart from the educational impact, the pandemic has also had serious implications on women across the country. The lockdown saw an increase in the gender division of labour in the household activities. A study by Azim Premji University revealed that in the informal sector (which is the highest employer of women), more women lost their jobs as compared to men. To add to the fright, there has also been an increase in gender-based violence across the country.

To address this gender-based violence in the middle of the pandemic, LJJ introduced a series of financial planning workshops, to develop financial literacy amongst women so that they can rigorously track their monthly expenses. LJJ also introduced a series of sessions to address the mental health needs of women who have been experiencing added environmental stressors with the current pandemic.

Community Collaborations 

For the successful implementation of community projects, a collaboration between several stakeholders proved to be the key. Apart from corporate entities both TS and LJJ received a lot of support from individuals through donations or through kind. TS and LJJ both raised funds for their projects through the contributions of individual donors in crowdfunding platforms like Ketto and Milaap. Education programs also received support from individual volunteers who took up responsibilities which included teaching or fundraising. Similarly, IndiVillage engaged interns who contributed to COVID response, and community development related initiatives.

One great source of support for organizations was community members themselves. LJJ raised the example of auto drivers, who followed social distancing protocols and actively participated in volunteer distribution. Women also came together on a voluntary basis to cook for the needy during this time of crisis. Collaborations of different kinds with different stakeholders included corporate entities, government personnel, individual donors, and community members who themselves paved the way for the successful implementation of programs. This has been the most important parting lesson moving forward.

Tell us the lessons that you have learned while redesigning programs during the pandemic. Write to us at samvada@indivillage.com or connect with us on any one of our social media channels.

Rural Reset

This article is the part of our Rural Reset Series, where we have considered forward-looking, long-term solutions to the issues and challenges facing the people of rural India. For the last three months, we have found proposals for innovative solutions in the areas of education, gender, and livelihoods, which are IndiVillage’s focus in the 17 sustainable development goals.

There is no hard and fast rule that says only non-profits should work towards the betterment of rural India. The COVID-19 pandemic has given an opportunity to reset the way business is done and hence cast light upon the importance of having a social impact. There has been an increase in corporates realising their social responsibility through organisations like B Corporation and GISC. In fact, India is the first country in the world to make Corporate Social Responsibility a mandate because the law makers believed in the power of corporates to make a difference. Below are the takeaways from the multiple solutions proposed over the past few months that could help organisations to reset and revolutionise rural India post the pandemic.

Education That Creates An Environment For Growth

A major stumbling block in the development of rural India is the shortage of educated members in society. The fundamental reason for this is an infrastructural deficiency. In recent times, we have observed some public-private partnerships proposed and implemented that helps provide for basic necessities. Though this takes care of the fundamental problem, support is still needed to transform the existing education system that seems to be stuck in the stone age. The pandemic has shown us that education systems with the best of technology crumbled with pressure and this might be the eye-opener needed to start introducing more EdTech into our rural system. Each corporate partnering with one school in a village to provide basic infrastructure, the required tech support, and daily nourishment to keep the kids at school would drastically change the face of rural education in India.

Need for Accurate Awareness

The Constitution of India is taught in schools because it is imperative that as citizens of the country, we are aware of the rights that we are entitled to and the rules that bind us. But even the concept of entitlement is prejudiced in most parts of rural India. Social issues such as gender inequality or casteism are stitched into the cultural values. To uproot these and bring about positive changes, awareness is essential. Ranging from camps that talk about market rights to farmers, a call for female leaders in communities, or even one that communicates sensitivity towards censored topics like menstrual health. If entrepreneurs and their respective corporates conducted these awareness camps, it would not just plant a seed of understanding in communities but also give the entrepreneurs a sense of achievement to have impacted and created a pathway for improvement.

Creation of Livelihood Opportunities in Rural India

Like a tsunami hitting the shore, millions of migrant workers have returned to their hometowns owing to the pandemic. This means unemployment and a big list of social problems that arise with the same. While government institutions have schemes like MNREGA, individual initiatives can play a big role in employing these residents. Making urban jobs rurally located, formalizing informal labour to provide a stronger structure of employment, or even training the youth for urbanized jobs are some of the strategies that could be put to practice. Training and creating jobs in rural communities would not just cause a ripple of economic growth, but it would also be a cost-cutting mechanism for businesses.

Abridge the Gaping Gender Gap

India ranked 112 out of 153 countries, falling four places from the 2018 report in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 2019-2020. It’s not just gender gap that is problematic in India. A patriarchal society by virtue of India’s history, the current mindset of a majority of rural communities is on the same lines. Bringing about change requires efforts in all forms – education, awareness, empowerment, and opportunities for women to partake in societal decisions on an equal stand as their male counterparts. Providing access to technology for women or addressing their need for healthcare, both physical and mental are some proposals that can be dealt with by corporates.

Empower The Rural Communities Towards Entrepreneurship

“Monkey see, monkey do” might be a mockery of the trait to mimic others’ actions, but there is some truth in the statement. It’s human nature to lead by example and more so for the less educated. If a leader is constantly motivating and encouraging and along with the team , striving towards the goal in mind, then the team will naturally follow his/her footsteps. Corporates can impact villages socially and culturally with their company ideals and values. They could also indulge in purchasing locally sourced produce for their corporate requirements encouraging and supporting the communities to build their businesses by providing a steady market.


India is the fastest growing economy in the world, but the grass-root level problems are not small. If these loopholes are rectified on a basic level, then there would be no match for the growth of the country. Just as we have focused on proposing solutions to issues, in the next month we shed light onto organisations that are trying to reset the rural stage in reality. Check our LinkedIn page every Wednesday to read and learn from pioneering organisations.

Formalisation of Informal Labour

This article is part of our Rural Reset series, where we evaluate forward-looking, long-term solutions to the issues and challenges facing the people of rural India. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday to find proposals for innovative solutions in the areas of education, gender and livelihoods.

The informal sector of employment has been the most impacted by the unprecedented lockdown of 2020. Azim Premji University and partner civil society organizations conducted surveys amongst nearly 5000 self-employed, casual and regular wage workers in 12 states of the country between 13th April and 23rd May and this study revealed that the lockdown had caused a massive spike in unemployment with two-thirds of the respondents losing their

employment during in this phase. Those who continued to have a job saw a drastic fall in wages with an earnings drop of over half of their wages. The loss of employment was faced more by marginalized groups which included Muslims, Dalits, and women.

While there are no official government estimates, a study by Save the Life Foundation indicates that the lockdown saw the death of nearly 750 migrant workers in India. Following this, an RTI by the Wire indicated that there were over 80 deaths of workers reported across several railway stations in the country. This pandemic has now more than ever highlighted the need for governing agencies and impact entities to rethink informal sector policies to ensure that the informal worker is provided with some form of security similar to those received by employees in the formal sector. 

What is the informal economy?

The informal economy is a universal phenomenon. But in India, a majority of the workforce belongs to the informal sector. While there is scarce documentation, a study by the International Labour Organisation reveals that 90% of the Indian workforce belongs to the informal sector and the lion’s share of this number is from the agrarian economy. The informal sector is also the highest employer of women, with 94% of the female population being employed in the informal sector as per a study conducted by Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology Allahabad in 2011.

Some chief characteristics of the informal sector are as follows:

  • Casual jobs rather than regular jobs

  • The absence of a formalized labour contact

  • Appalling work conditions

  • No social security

  • Irregular payments.

  • Sporadic work timings. This includes long work hours (without any extra pay) and unprepared periods of unemployment

  • Lack of collective agency or representation

Despite these challenges mentioned above, one of the most advantageous features of the informal sector is that it provides access to cheap unskilled labour which is a boon capitalist entities. The prevalence of this condition of employment has led to a disproportionate distribution of wealth in the market which allows for the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer.

Legal Amenities 

The informal sector is an umbrella term to represent the livelihoods of people in various categories in both rural and urban areas. The term informal labourer is used to represent manual labourers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, sanitation workers amongst others. The requirement of each community in certain ways does differ from one another, but as a welfare state, there are certain benefits be given to them as given to their formal counterparts.

In India, there are laws which include The Industrial Disputes Act (ID) which require employers to follow a certain protocol before terminating an employee’s job. Under this law, they would be required to pay some kind of compensation to their employees. Other acts

include the Equal Remuneration, 1976 which prohibits discrimination in the remuneration of an individual based on their gender, The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 prohibits discrimination based on maternity status of women and grants paid maternity leave for women. These are just part of a larger legal framework which is designed to protect the Indian labour force.

Many of these laws are not extended towards the informal sector wherein there is a constant violation of basic labour entitlements. Acts need to be directed towards providing some form of security to the formal worker. One act, in particular, that was set up for this purpose was the “Inter-State Migrants Act, 1979.” As per the act, employers have to ensure that migrants receive their payments on time, their housing is ensured and they receive a journey allowance not less than their travel from their place of employment to their homes including return journeys. Several ground reports indicate that this law has been violated and migrant workers had to pay their expenses from their own pockets.

Role of CSR in addressing the issues in the informal sector

While there are legal provisions that are set in place, it is the duty of an employer to understand the importance of informal labour. The employer should be morally responsible to ensure that their employees whether formal or informal are entitles to their rights. At the end of the day, this is the most important measure to bridge the gap between informal and formal labourers.

Secondly, impact organizations can work towards raising awareness about the legal rights of the labour force. As per the law, labourers are entitled to a certain set of rights. However, there is a lack of awareness regarding the nature of these rights. Owing to this, there is a lot of exploitation of labourers in the informal sector daily. In an attempt to address these issues, Aajeevika Bureau, an organization based in Ahmedabad Gujarat developed an interesting model to tackle this issue. Aajeevika Bureau offered legal education and counselling to the workers in the informal labour force to make them aware of their rights. Under this project,  a total of 552 legal cases on wage-related disputes have been registered, and 345 have been successfully won in favour of the workers. Workers have earned an approximate of Rs. 64,29,236 in settlements.

Rethinking the Informal Sector 

While there are larger frameworks which need to be addressed, one of the most important changes that need to be taken as our personal outlook to the informal sector. The informal sector which comprises labourers who are largely viewed as inferior is the people who built our cities. However, the amount of money that they receive is largely disproportionate to the kind of work that they engage in.

The pandemic forced the general public to acknowledge the contributions of the informal sector to the overall development of cities. The sudden absence of the informal worker crippled the economy on a larger scale. It is our responsibility as people to ensure that they receive the rights that they are entitled to receive. Simple measures such as providing a domestic worker with a weekly off can put informal labourers in the same plain as workers in the formal sector.

Reinvent the Agricultural sector

This article is part of our Rural Reset series, where we evaluate forward-looking, long-term solutions to the issues and challenges facing the people of rural India. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday to find proposals for innovative solutions in the areas of education, gender and livelihoods.

In 2020, the government released information that the agrarian sector is expected to grow 3-4% in the upcoming year. This is 60% more growth than the non-agrarian sectors in the country. The government attributes this growth to a good monsoon which increases the availability of water resources in the rural areas. However, there is an alternate discourse to consider.

The managing director of Bajaj Auto said that even if Bajaj could produce motorcycles, no one would buy them with the ongoing pandemic. The farmer will never be forced to face this conundrum, because food and food products will always be in demand. Given the inelastic nature of the agrarian sector, can this pandemic be looked at as an opportunity to reconsider and reinvent the manner in which we look at agriculture?

The agrarian sector is the backbone of the Indian economy. This became especially apparent during the unprecedented lockdown of 2020 when the supply of vegetables and milk continued in the face of a pandemic. Here are some known but ignored facts in our country: 70% of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture as their primary form of livelihood. 82% of the farmers are small scale or marginal farmers. The agrarian sector overall contributes to 15% of the GDP, which is one of the highest numbers, globally.

Farming in India is considered to be a gamble by many . Droughts in 2002 and 2003 saw a massive decline in crop production with a reduction by 38 million metric tonnes (MMT). In the years following this, there were instances of droughts through the period between 2009-2010, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, when there was no substantial drop in food production, hence proving the resilience of the Indian agricultural system. This was possible with the introduction of investment in irrigation and the buffer stocking of basic staples, enabling the system to sustain during hard times.

In 2020, the agrarian sector continued to face natural disaster and calamities which included cyclones, floods, and locust infestation. The natural calamities were combined with the impact of the ongoing pandemic which saw a sharp decline in availability of labour and interruptions in the crop cycle due to the lockdown regulations.

Why Agriculture?

Apart from being the primary source of livelihood for a majority of the population, agriculture may be the answer to providing food security to a majority of the population thereby positively impacting the health and work productivity of the country as a whole. It is important to note that as per the All Inclusion Financial Survey by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the average monthly income of a farming family was 8931 rupees, which varied amongst farmers from different state backgrounds. The study further revealed that the overall compound average growth rate of the real incomes in agriculture was 3.7%. Given that the agrarian industry provides jobs for 45% of the population, the current contribution to the GDP is something that needs to be further addressed. The numbers from the survey indicate that the increase in the monthly income of a farmer will result in an overall increase in the national GDP, thus boosting the country’s economy.

16 Point Plan to Boost Agriculture 

As a part of the Budget 2020, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman released the 16 point plan for the development of the agricultural sector as a part of the “aspirational segment” of the Government’s strategy directed towards boosting the agrarian economy. The plan includes (1) building rural technology to assist farmers in the cultivation process, (2) use of environmentally friendly and sustainable tools in the farming process (such as proper manure, solar pumps),  (3) creating alternative forms of livelihood for farmers through the use of solar grids, (4)  increasing credit available to farmers, (5) increasing market linkages of farmers through online mediums and (6) Initiation of kisan rail and airways with refrigerated coaches to transport perishable goods. If these are followed and implemented in the right manner, it will help strengthen the network of farmers in the national and international context.

Alternate Approaches to Support Farmers 

The agrarian sector is extremely susceptible to the external environment and climate change. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that there will be a greater frequency of droughts and floods. Investments should be made to increase productivity of farmers and de-risk agricultural production. For this purpose, it is important to build a strong and scientific base in monsoon and climate modelling.

Research should be directed towards building flood resilient strategies to prevent the loss of crops during flooding. Secondly, irrigation facilities should be developed to support the farmer during the period of droughts. The use of water in farms should be regulated in order to ensure that the supply of groundwater (80% of the country’s dependency) is not depleted. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), can be used to build irrigation infrastructure. This in turn will also provide more income for people in rural areas.

Finance should be directed to the hands of the farmers through various means such as agricultural cooperatives, commercial banks or Kisan Credit Cards. With the demigration that was caused with the lockdown, there will be an increase in the number of workers in the rural areas. With additional funds and support, the money can be directed towards increasing the production yield in the upcoming agricultural season.

While the above factors take care of providing employment and increasing yield, it is crucial to create and maintain market linkages between the farmers and the consumer to ensure that the returns to the farmer increases considerably. Finally, it is important to mobilise research and technology to further revolutionize the agrarian economy.


In the past, moments of disasters have been used to change the way we study and understand and work in any sector. In the present circumstances, the agrarian sector is the only one that continues to grow even in the face of a pandemic, and making changes for its betterment will have a ripple effect on society at large. Therefore, further look into the agricultural sector may be the answer to rebuilding the rural economy.

Right to Return: Supporting returned migrant workers in their native villages

This article is part of our Rural Reset series, where we evaluate forward-looking, long-term solutions to the issues and challenges facing the people of rural India. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday to find proposals for innovative solutions in the areas of education, gender and livelihoods.

At the start of the nationwide lockdown back in March, India saw the reversal of a multi-year trend of jobs and workers moving to cities in search of opportunity. Seemingly overnight, jobs and wages in urban areas dried up completely. And what followed was millions of migrant workers who onced crossed state lines and moved many miles from their native villages making that long trek back to their homes and families. The relaxation of nationwide restrictions has led some employers to hire back their low-wage employees. However, many workers remain stranded in their native villages in search of ways to make a living.

This mass exodus from India’s urban areas need not be a death sentence. India’s rapid urbanization over the last decade has certainly led to the growth of industries and opportunities. But the benefits of urbanization have come at the expense of the millions of rural villages and towns that remain home to the large majority of Indian families. This year’s migrant worker crisis provides us with an opportunity to invest in these workers by investing in their native villages. By creating opportunities in the communities where people already live, we can economically empower millions and transform rural India into an economic powerhouse for the entire country. We must start by leveraging the existing talents of rural populations and supporting local ventures with skills and capital.

Expanding public works programs in rural communities 

Back in June the Indian government announced the creation of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan (GKRA) program to carry out 50,000 crore of public works using returned migrant labor. These workers will be paid to work on projects from ministries ranging from Road Transport & Highways to New & Renewable Energy. Public works programs have the dual benefit of providing employment while improving wellbeing through new and expanded infrastructure, an area in which rural communities are severely lacking. While the GKRA program is a great start, non-governmental actors also have the ability to harness the power of a public works model to provide employment to returned migrant workers.

Much has been written on the ways that a lack of digital infrastructure in rural communities is exacerbating societal inequalities. Internet service providers (ISPs) and other digital enablers have the ability, through a public works based model, to hire migrant workers to expand broadband internet connectivity and other digital infrastructure to more remote rural areas. While migrant workers benefit in the short term from the employment opportunity, the ISPs are able to expand their reach and customer base in the long-term. This is just one example of the power that private sector actors have to address the migrant worker crisis. Other private sector actors should follow in the government’s lead and look for ways to enhance their business prospects while giving livelihood opportunities to returned workers.

Making entrepreneurship accessible to everyone

For years, leaders in rural communities have been starting and operating their own entrepreneurial ventures. However, the barriers to the creation of a successful rural enterprise are numerous and lead many budding entrepreneurs to abandon their ventures or never start in the first place. To encourage sustainable entrepreneurship in returned migrant worker communities, they require the proper resources and business knowledge. Providing capital, skilling and advertising platforms to these fledgling entrepreneurs would help them get their ventures off the ground and provide one mechanism for migrant workers to support themselves financially.

Making traditionally urban jobs rurally located

The pandemic has shown that with the proper infrastructure, many jobs that are traditionally held by those in rural areas can be performed all over the country. With this in mind, many employers now find themselves with flexibility as to where they choose to recruit from and locate their offices. As it stands, 65-75% of new corporate job entrants each year are not job-ready or employable. While this statistic signals a larger issue with the Indian higher education and vocational training system, it also presents an opportunity to businesses. As employers must expand their job training programs to build the necessary skills in new hires they also have a chance to tap into, and train, non-traditional pools of talent. This opens the door to building a new workforce of rural employees.

For the last ten years at IndiVillage, we have been harnessing the power of impact sourcing to provide well-paying technology jobs to workers in rural communities. Although many of our employees have completed a diploma or degree from a local university, our robust training and onboarding operation enables us to hire a diverse workforce and develop their skills and capabilities over time. Businesses, particularly those within the tech industry, could follow  this model by hiring and training returned migrant workers to start new, non-urban offices. This would provide the dual-benefit of businesses gaining access to new, lower-cost talent and workers gaining new skills and the ability to make a living. Embracing the new, remote-base working model gives businesses and workers the power to transform themselves completely.


We are currently faced with a once-in-a-generation chance to shift the paradigm of work in India by re-orienting it around where people actually live. By choosing to support returned migrant workers in their native villages, we indicate as a country that our priorities lie not only with urban dwellers but people all over this vast nation. We now have the power to build thriving rural communities and open the doors of opportunity to all, regardless of where they live. Investing in the returned migrant workers is just the first step.

Data Annotator: A Doctor’s Best Friend

Imagine an algorithm that detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus through a lung scan? If this technology was readily available all over the world, then the way we dealt with this pandemic would have looked dramatically different. The good news is, this is a possibility in the near future as technology and artificial intelligence penetrate the healthcare world.

Medical images account for at least 90% of all medical data today. They are by far the largest and fastest-growing data source in the healthcare industry and this voluminous amount of data poses equally large challenges for diagnosis. Having to deal with these data adds a tremendous amount of stress to medical workers, patients, and healthcare systems. Well-designed technology can significantly reduce the time taken to arrive at diagnosis, improving health outcomes and in some cases, saving lives.

Diagnosis is a critical element in the care of many patients. Achieving quick and accurate diagnosis of disease is crucial to patient outcomes, and ensures that patients get timely access to the treatments they need. For physicians, a faster diagnosis means more time spent treating and caring for their patients. However, in hospitals around the world, medical diagnosis times can drag on as physicians struggle to acquire necessary testing and information. In these cases, AI technology can serve as a helpful tool. Research increasingly shows the many ways that artificial intelligence can aid doctors and healthcare systems throughout the patient cycle, from helping detect and classify diseases using medical scans, to aiding in the selection of a treatment course.

Enable Algorithms to Read Scans through Data Annotation 

The Medical Futurist claims that data annotators are the unsung heroes of artificial intelligence development. Though drawing lines and deciphering pictures might not sound complex, the scale of data to be annotated and the lack of experts available to do so poses a tough challenge. But successful adoption of training algorithms allow physicians and other healthcare workers to focus on the servicing and caring rather than documenting.

IndiVillage has worked with multiple healthcare organizations looking to improve their AI technology to aid in accurate, timely diagnosis of diseases, such as annotating lungs in chest X-rays. In this case, we annotated medical scans of lung nodules to identify anomalies and feed the annotated data back into their system’s algorithm. Using pixel segmentation to annotate lung scans, we effectively train their AI system. Our team of annotation experts quickly acquainted themselves with the client’s specific requirements and received training on the anatomy of the human lung and varying types of anomalies that arise in lung scans. Our team generally begins work by identifying abnormalities, looking at approximately 400 images over a three month period. Each image is studied and accurately labelled to create high-quality training data to feed the client’s algorithms.

IndiVillage’s efforts have aided in training data that the client utilized in their AI technology for faster detection of pulmonary abnormalities, thus reducing overall diagnosis time. This has allowed doctors to focus more on treating the patients than being absorbed in reading a multitude of reports.

Our Approach to Community Wellbeing

After weeks of working from home with internet support from our end, we finally opened our offices again with maximum caution and protection.

Impact beyond Employment

As an impact-driven social enterprise, the health and wellbeing of the community we work in is very close to our heart. In the past year, we have impacted close to 3500 people with free healthcare services. With COVID-19, we have doubled down on our efforts to ensure the the safety and health of all community members with several initiatives.

Our employees volunteered to distribute masks for members in the community to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

To support frontline workers in the community, we also distributed face shields to police and healthcare professionals as an immediate intervention for the community’s well being.

Our Healthcare facility provides free treatments and medicines to the economically weakest members in the community. Currently we had to close the center but are looking to re-open it as soon as the situation allows

Since schools remain closed in most parts of the country, we supported families in the community by providing workbooks and pencils to keep the kids entertained in a meaningful way.