Posted by: Ron Victor, President of Vibha
I visited India in Dec 2012 and met a couple of our project partners as well as some other NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) that I know. This was all in the midst of the horrific rape incident that gripped Delhi and the rest of India.
I visited Jan Madhyam in Delhi where we held a meeting with a bunch for new volunteers from Delhi towards getting the Delhi Action Center going. I then visited DSS (Door Step School) in Pune which we are now in the midst of scaling. As quite a few of you may already know, DSS focuses on the children of migrant laborers at construction sites. DSS is doing well with quite a few of the builders in Pune now calling on DSS to setup a school at the construction site before they start construction; and more importantly, the same builders are taking complete ownership of the funding to run these schools – something we have focused on and driven for a while so as to make DSS self-sustainable. It’s all coming to fruition, albeit slowly.
I then visited YuvaParivartan (Yuvaparivartan.org) – an NGO that I have known and been involved with in an advisory capacity for a while; that works with youth towards providing vocational training so as to enable youth to earn a living. What I learnt there was most disturbing. This was just after the rape incident in Delhi. I learnt the following:
- Most vocational training classes conducted for trades typically handled by men (example – Electrician, Refrigerator repair, auto mechanic, etc.) were all going empty with less than 50% occupancy.
- Most vocational training classes conducted for trades typically handled by women (examples – Beautician, Embroidery and Tailoring, Retail desk saleswoman.) were all going full with more than 80% occupancy.
This made me ask some questions as to why this is the case. I learnt the following through those questions:
- A day laborer in metro India makes Rs.300/- per day on average.
- A carpenter in metro India who is employed, i.e. does not operate his own business, but works for another carpenter – makes Rs.700 per day on average. However, the sky is the limit for the same carpenter once he is independent and runs his own shop – the gains are a factor of 10 or more.
- An auto-rickshaw driver in Mumbai make about Rs.1000/- per day.
While all the above work to earn a living, the carpenter and the rickshaw driver seem to be quite satisfied with where they are at and not at all incentivized to learn a skill that will pay them any more than the Rs.700 or Rs.1000 mentioned above respectively. That leaves the day laborer. This day laborer is typically a migrant from rural India. He is the one that is attending the male vocational training classes to learn a skill to get him above the Rs.300/- per day barrier. He is part of that 50% that is attending the male vocational training class.
So, what’s the problem? Why are the vocational training classes for males with such low attendance? The classes are pretty much given away for nothing, so money we know is not the issue. I learnt that there are significant youth in India of capable earning age that just do not wish to work and contribute to their families and society at large. Yes – it’s not that they can’t or they don’t have an opportunity to do so. They choose not to. They take it for granted that the women in the family will work and bring in the cash required to run the household. Whether this is from an early childhood upbringing where they saw this growing up in their households or whether they just decided not to contribute – the issue is that the trend is growing more and more.
I then started talking with various people both in the NGO world as well as others to validate what I had just learnt. Alarmingly, the results of these discussions (universally – and I mean 100%) all led to the same point – that a substantial number of the high-school drop-out or the high-school-only graduated males in the lower income group in India just do not choose to work. They have gotten accustomed to the women in the house doing everything from running the household to managing the kids as well as now being responsible for the family’s livelihood.
The males in these households then resort to violence (wife beating) to show that they still have a voice in the house. Given the fact that they do not contribute in any manner towards the household, their only option is violence in a bid to assert a false authority. A lot of this violence is towards extracting money from the women towards drink and alcoholism – all in all a negative cycle – Don’t be productive – beat the wife – get drunk – then repeat the cycle again the next day. The view among this class of males that, it is the woman’s job to do all the work and then be used as a commodity, is what is driving the violence against women in India.
Thus, while we at Vibha are working towards ensuring the underprivileged child’s right to health, education and opportunity in India, we actively need to ensure that as these children grow up (the males) , they understand their role and responsibility towards family and society. While we may ensure they get educated, if we do not ensure that they have been provided with the requisite life skills to understand their role in contributing to their family and society, we are not achieving what we set out to do.
As a result, Pragati 2013 (our annual conference in India where all our projects come together for 3 days to connect with each other, share success stories and leverage each other’s strengths) will have a significant impetus this year on ensuring our project partners in India have been sensitized to the above so as to ensure that they in-turn impart the required life skills to their male clientele.
I hope that through the same, we will start playing an important role in ensuring mutual respect for women and causing a dent in this cycle of violence and disrespect that came to an unfortunate tipping point with the Delhi incident.