Women account for nearly 30% of India’s workforce, according to World Bank Statistics. However, women in paint & putty sector represent less than 1% of the total workforce. In order to empower Women, it is first necessary to break the Traditional gender norms that restrict Women’s employability & career options.
At a time when there is just a handful of sectors that employ women in rural India, Birla White Cement is on a mission to encourage women to at least consider paint & putty work as their career. Currently, the company supports & encourages more than 160 women paint contractors in various pockets of India to increase their ability to influence decision-making within the household, and empower them more broadly in society as a whole. The company has witnessed major progress in hiring more female workers by the sector.
One of the women in the field is 48-year-old Papa Laxmi from Tuni (Visakhapatnam), who is proud of her work as a paint applicator and has proved that women can do this kind of job that generally needs societal approval in India. Associated with Birla White for more than 5 years, Laxmi has broken the traditional gender norms, which seek to restrict women’s mobility outside their homes. Laxmi said, “Majorly, housewives depend on their husband’s income to run the livelihood, but in my case my husband has died 30 years ago. So I am taking care of my children by choosing painting as my career.”
Over 35-40% of the rural population in India is living in poverty, deprived of basic amenities and food security. Empowering women is the solution to many problems on a global level, including poverty. Societies that take the effort to empower women show better development indices. Hence, Birla White, a part of Aditya Birla Group’s UltraTech Cement aims to support the Government of India’s initiative to scale up a women employment in some of the poorest regions of the country to bring about a transformational change to the lives of rural women, their families, the economy and society.
“We have been taking various initiatives to encourage Women to take up a career in Painting Homes profession which till now has been an unconventional career option. Through our specialized Vikas training programs we impart knowledge to these women painters & contractors on painting products and applications. The newly acquired skills have enabled them to earn 1.5+ times their previous profession thereby enhancing livelihood and giving them power of being their own Boss. As on date 160 + women have got their live hood through this new initiative. We are targeting to reach almost 300 women in this year” said Mr. Anurag Angrish, Joint Executive President, Head of Marketing Birla White.
Birla White imparts relevant training programs on surface finishing products such as paints, Wallcare Putty, Textura and its applications to the rural women. With the advent of new technology and to keep pace with the highly demanding market in the building materials segment, it is imperative to build a workforce with relevant knowledge on surface finishing products. The training programme organized by Birla White is an opportunity to interact with rural women and educate them about employment options.
Most participants in the training programme, from Laxmi’s village, were unskilled laborers making barely INR 300 – 350 a day. Their newly acquired skills have enabled them to earn about INR 650 – 750 a day, thereby enhancing their livelihood and source of income.
Women in India tend to be associated with certain occupations, such as basic agriculture, handicraft and elementary services. However, these sectors have not seen employment growth over the years, hindering women’s participation. There is a decline in female labour force participation due to the scarcity of suitable jobs at the local level. On the other hand, there is a huge opportunity and requirement of skilled force in paint and putty industry. Women should have access to more such jobs and the working conditions should be improved for them in order to increase their participation.
In India, 45 per cent of employers can’t find the talent they need and they are still struggling to tap women workforce. India’s economy could gain a whopping USD 1 trillion and increase its GDP by 16 per cent if it achieves gender parity in labour force by 2025, says a report.