STL Jeevan Jyoti: Unlocking Rural Women’s True Potential

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Jyoti Agarwal

Women in ancient India had higher status compared to some other societies of that time. In early Vedic texts, women could participate in religious rituals and education. The Rigveda mentions notable female sages and scholars. However, as time went on, there was a decline in women’s rights due to various factors, including invasions, rigid caste systems, and patriarchal norms. Then, the early 20th century marked the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in India, demanding the right to vote for women. Women like Sarojini Naidu and Annie Besant played crucial roles in this movement. 

Cut to the 21st century, and we have seen significant progress in women’s empowerment in India. Women have excelled in various fields, including politics, education, science, and business. Several States have implemented reservations for women in local government bodies (Panchayats), leading to an increase in women’s participation in politics at the grassroots level.

Despite these advancements, challenges persist, including gender-based violence, unequal access to education and healthcare, and cultural norms perpetuating discrimination. 

As India commemorates 75 years of progress since gaining independence through the ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the spotlight remains steadfast on women’s empowerment as a catalyst for the advancement of the entire nation. Twenty-seven years after the initial introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament, a historic moment unfolded on September 20, 2023, as the Lok Sabha overwhelmingly passed a Bill to amend the Constitution. This amendment aims to provide one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. The Prime Minister hailed this development as a significant step toward fostering greater female participation in the political process. The significance of this moment becomes even more apparent when considering the Government’s various initiatives that have addressed and empowered women, including the Jan Dhan Yojana, the Mudra Yojana, and the PM Awaaz Yojana. This move is seen as a crucial milestone in the nation’s developmental journey, often referred to as desh ki vikas yatra, underscoring the Government’s commitment to promoting gender equality and inclusivity in governance.

Imagine a place where women in rural India can learn, dream, and thrive, unburdened by constraints. That is exactly what we envisioned when we laid the foundation for the Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute in Velhe in 2014. The decision was inspired by the realisation that women in Bhor, Velhe, and Haveli villages lacked adequate opportunities to unleash their potential. You see, women in rural areas face countless hurdles on their path to empowerment – limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities that hinder their true potential. I have always been passionate about making a real difference in their lives, and that is how the idea of Jeevan Jyoti was born.

Distinguished by a participation rate of 41.8 per cent, notably higher than their urban counterparts’ rate of 35.31 per cent (as reported by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in 2017), rural women are actively shaping a more promising tomorrow. This is where transformative initiatives like Jeevan Jyoti come into play, extending practical skills, education, and valuable resources to rural women. In doing so, these endeavours break the shackles of traditional roles and open doors to unexplored horizons. 

As a fervent champion of women’s rights and advancement, my conviction is firmly rooted in the belief that empowering women in rural areas yields far-reaching results, elevating individual lives and entire communities.

The Birth of Jeevan Jyoti: Igniting a Vision for Transformative Change

Imagine a place where women in rural India can learn, dream, and thrive, unburdened by constraints. That is exactly what we envisioned when we laid the foundation for the Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute in Velhe in 2014. The decision was inspired by the realisation that women in Bhor, Velhe, and Haveli villages lacked adequate opportunities to unleash their potential. You see, women in rural areas face countless hurdles on their path to empowerment – limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities that hinder their true potential. I have always been passionate about making a real difference in their lives, and that is how the idea of Jeevan Jyoti was born.

One of the challenges we noticed early on was the lack of public transportation in the area. We wanted to ensure that no woman was left behind due to distance. So, we took the initiative to provide transportation services to our students, making it possible for women, even in far-off areas, to benefit from the programme’s advantages.

Today, as we look back on our journey, we are immensely proud of the 4000+ women the Institute has empowered. They are not just serving our nation but are also making a mark on the global stage. Our commitment to empowering women does not end with Jyoti; it is a part of every single one of our CSR programmes. We believe in creating a holistic impact by providing digital and STEM education to thousands of girl students and training women-led self-help groups on water literacy, waste management, and livelihood opportunities.

Our healthcare programme focuses on women’s health and hygiene, ensuring that we leave no aspect of empowerment untouched.

I am grateful for the trust and support we have received from the communities we serve. Each success story, no matter how small, encourages us to do better and reach out to more women who deserve to fulfil their dreams.

The Institute has successfully addressed the challenge of transportation in remote villages, providing regular transportation for the students. Additionally, an in-house crèche allows women to bring their children to class, ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment. Jeevan Jyoti’s impact extends beyond vocational skills and economic opportunities. The programme has helped increase awareness of health, sanitation, and hygiene among rural women. Informal sessions on pre-marriage counselling and prenatal care have been instrumental in promoting the well-being within the community.

Empowered Women, Transformed Lives

The Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute has had a profound impact on the lives of rural women, leading to transformative changes within their communities. Starting with just 95 students from 20 villages, the Institute has grown into a powerful platform that empowers women to achieve their aspirations and become self-reliant assets for their families and society. The Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute has left a lasting impact on over 4500 individuals, indirectly benefiting the community through its empowered students. With more than 1,000 women reaping the benefits of its courses and 813 students completing them, the Institute has helped over 100 women earn their livelihood using the skills they acquired. This success is further reinforced by the company’s encouragement of excellence through internships and scholarships.

The programme offers a diverse range of certified courses, including Nursing Care, MS Office, Computer Data Entry, Beauty Parlour, Tailoring and Cutting, and Fashion Designing. Through these courses, women acquire valuable skills that improve their family’s income and enhance their social standing. The increased credibility of their skills has led to improved employability and economic prospects for these women.

Beyond vocational training, Jeevan Jyoti also offers psychological and social support to its students, recognising the importance of holistic empowerment. Courage-building exercises, conversational skill development, and confidence-building games empower women to assert themselves confidently. Training in micro-financing and Self-Help Groups empowers older and middle-aged women to become financially independent and entrepreneurial.

The Institute has successfully addressed the challenge of transportation in remote villages, providing regular transportation for the students. Additionally, an in-house crèche allows women to bring their children to class, ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment.

Jeevan Jyoti’s impact extends beyond vocational skills and economic opportunities. The programme has helped increase awareness of health, sanitation, and hygiene among rural women. Informal sessions on pre-marriage counselling and prenatal care have been instrumental in promoting the well-being within the community.

As a result of the Institute’s efforts, the mindset within these rural communities has undergone a positive shift. Girls are now encouraged to pursue education, leading to a reduction in early marriages and an increase in the marriageable age of women in the region.

We are focused on creating a sustainable impact by nurturing a supportive network for our alumni. We envision forming mentorship programmes linking successful graduates with new participants to guide and inspire them on their path to success. By building a strong community of empowered women, we can collectively drive change and address broader societal challenges.

These women have become confident decision-makers, successful entrepreneurs, and providers for their households. The Institute’s focus on career guidance and counselling has opened new opportunities for women, including roles in local administrative bodies and private companies.

The Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute has become a beacon of hope, uplifting rural women and empowering them to create a better future for themselves and their communities. Through its comprehensive approach and genuine efforts, the programme has led to a big change, one that is evident in the lives of these women and the advancement of rural societies.

Roadmap for the Future

Our journey has just begun, and we are committed to empowering even more women across various regions in India. We aim to expand the programme’s reach to include more States and districts, ensuring that no woman is left behind in the journey toward empowerment. Our vision is to introduce new courses that align with emerging market demands and equip women with the skills to thrive in the changing world.

Moreover, we are focused on creating a sustainable impact by nurturing a supportive network for our alumni. We envision forming mentorship programmes linking successful graduates with new participants to guide and inspire them on their path to success. By building a strong community of empowered women, we can collectively drive change and address broader societal challenges.

Empowering women in rural India through the Jeevan Jyoti programme has been an immensely rewarding experience. Witnessing the transformation of shy, hesitant women into confident, skilled professionals is nothing short of a miracle. Their success stories reaffirm our belief that every woman has boundless potential waiting to be unlocked.

Our mission is far from over; it is an ongoing endeavour to expand the reach of Jeevan Jyoti and empower more women across different regions of India. By collaborating with like-minded organisations and creating a robust support network, we can shape a more inclusive and equitable society.

Through our genuine efforts, I am confident that the journey towards women’s empowerment will lead us to a brighter future, where every rural woman can unlock her true potential and contribute significantly to the nation’s progress. Let us continue this unwavering commitment to create a world where dreams know no boundaries, and where every woman’s voice is heard and celebrated. 

Jyoti Aggarwal is a visionary leader committed to empowering marginalised women and transforming their lives. As the Founder of Jeevan Jyoti Women Empowerment Institute, she strives to create a more equitable and inclusive society. She is also the Managing Trustee at Sterlite Tech Foundation.