As a premier institution of learning, UPES strives to cultivate an inclusive, gender-diverse environment that fosters the development and growth of women leaders
According to the 75th National Sample Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) from July 2017 to June 2018, India’s country-wide female literacy rate stood at 70.3%; the male literacy rate was 84.7%, and the average literacy rate was 77.7%. Kerala topped the list with the highest female literacy rate of 95.2%, while Rajasthan was the worst performing state with only 57.6% of its female population being literate.
These statistics emphasise the need for a multidimensional approach to bridge the gender divide from an early age. This can be achieved by focussing on women’s skill development training and by encouraging them to pursue higher education, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). These competencies will enable women to participate in every aspect of life and become active contributors to the economy.
Certain actions can be taken to obliterate the gender gap in schools, universities, and workplaces and bring about tangible benefits at sustainable costs. As a premier institution of learning, UPES strives to cultivate an inclusive, gender-diverse environment that fosters the development and growth of women leaders.
Through its Shakti initiative, the university aims to help women realise their potential, focus on their holistic growth, and help in nation-building. UPES endeavours to encourage more female students for the ‘classroom to boardroom’ journey and prepare women leaders across various sectors.
The scholarship offered under Shakti benefitted 1300 female students in 2020. To encourage more female students to continue their higher education after class 12th, UPES is continuing its scholarship program initiated in the year 2020. For the academic year 2021, UPES has announced a 20% scholarship for girls.
Apart from the scholarship for the female students, UPES has been working towards empowering women of all age groups through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) wing. It has undertaken several initiatives that facilitate women to focus on their development through formal education, skill training, and personality development.
As part of the initiative, 30 women employees enrolled in a nine-month program focusing on adaptive skills, emotional intelligence, business communication, and team management.
Richa Choudhary, Associate Professor and a Shakti member at UPES, says, “The initiative was started in the year 2018 to develop leadership skills in women employees. And since then, Shakti has become a movement that is impacting women beyond UPES as well.”
She adds, “My Shakti journey was of nine months. It was a unique experience, which helped me understand the true meaning of leadership, emotions, and innovation, and guided me to think out of the box. Leadership training taught me the art of emotion management. The initiative boosted my confidence and changed the way I perceive life. I appreciate the efforts and dedication UPES management is putting in this initiative to bring a significant change around us through women empowerment.”
Rajeshwari Deb, Assistant Director at UPES, says, “Women make up 51% of the global population, contributing $28 trillion to the world’s economy. Still, their voices go unnoticed in many areas of life. For any country to progress and prosper, these voices must be heard, and significant steps should be taken to ensure that it amplifies from ‘whisper to resonance’. UPES has always believed in gender equality and encouraged women to reverberate from ‘classroom to boardroom’. In this endeavour, the 20% scholarship introduced would support girls by providing an opportunity to study and make a significant contribution towards the society and the world.”
The following projects are part of the Shakti initiative:
Under project Payal, meritorious girls from underprivileged background in neighbouring villages are given financial support, opportunities, and platform for their overall personality development. Referred to as the ‘Daughters of UPES’, they are mentored by the UPES-CSR faculty and student volunteers through summer school training programs, competitions, and awareness trips to various schools at UPES.
Under this project, children of construction workers on campus are provided with adequate education and day-care support. A ‘day school’ has been set up on the UPES campus with all the necessary facilities including mid-day meals, washrooms, drinking water, clothing, books, and full-time teachers. These children also undergo routine medical check-ups by the team of doctors serving at the UPES infirmary.
Under project Vikalp, women from neighbouring villages are empowered to be financially independent. Supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (till June 2018), the project currently has two components:
- Paper recycling: Focuses primarily on the manufacturing of ‘Green Pencils’ on a large scale, contributing to environmental preservation while ensuring substantial income to the women associated with it.
- Identification and cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plant species: Participation in cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants encouraged women and helped in generating income. UPES-CSR is also helping women entrepreneurs in various ways to market their products and is exploring options to augment their economic empowerment.
Under project Protsaahan, underprivileged meritorious students from the Purkal Youth Development Society are given admissions at UPES. The project takes care of the complete fees of two students, provides stipend during internships, a faculty to mentor and monitor academic and co-curricular progress, and a member from the Career Services team to assist in internships and placements.
Sharing her views on Shakti, Seema Bedi, Assistant Director, Corporate Relations, says, “Shakti was an empowering experience for me; it was an awakening and transformation of the inner self. The initiative aims to bring a systemic change in the way people think about gender parity.”
Geetanjali Raghav, Associate Professor at UPES School of Engineering says, “Shakti started in 2018, and I was privileged to be a part of its pilot batch. It was an enthralling experience. I got inspired to push my boundaries and explore new opportunities. The initiative was an opportunity for self-awareness and leadership and encouraged me to evolve as a person. It was a nine-month module filled with learning, introspecting, unlearning, and relearning. It was executed brilliantly, and the well thought out modules were expertly delivered by the trainers. UPES has extended this program on pillars such as scholarship on tuition fees exclusively for females and more CSR activities for underprivileged women and girls. I believe that we are yet to see the best of it. I feel honoured to be a part of the movement, and I am grateful to the people who were involved in its inception.”
Dr. Sunil Rai, Vice-Chancellor, UPES, shares, “Economic success, the progress of societies, and upliftment of communities cannot be realised without women power. As a university, we aim to empower them through education, training and development and opportunities to explore their potential. It is hearting to see that girls from the metro and non-metro cities are opting to pursue their dreams in non-traditional fields.”