Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED) Division of the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has been implementing a programme – Science & Technology for Women – to empower women through Science and Technology. The broad objectives of this programme are to promote the development and adaptation of appropriate technologies, transfer of proven technologies and demonstration of live technology models based on locally defined needs for the benefit of women. Besides individual projects related to women’s health, nutrition, safety, livelihood generation, drudgery reduction, etc., the programme also focuses on establishing Women Technology Parks (WTPs) that are envisaged as technology delivery platforms and act as a nodal point where all necessary support is made available to women from a single platform.
WTPs have been pivotal in bringing positive changes in the lives of women by bringing them into the mainstream of the economy from the margins and inculcating in them a sense of worth and confidence. WTPs are based on simple technologies, either newly introduced or modulation of an existing one, that use locally available raw materials as inputs and come up with indigenous products that are consumed locally and are also marketed. It is noteworthy that technology introduction or modulation is need-based and often comes as a solution to an existing problem or as a livelihood generation opportunity.
The abundance of raw materials, their easy procurement and their cost-effectiveness are some of the defining things that mark the operation of any WTP besides the technology that is easy to learn and train at. Further, the use of raw materials and resources in an optimal manner and their tapping in a sustainable way ensures that the entire WTP functioning remains environment-friendly.
It leads to improvement in the living condition of women through livelihood generation and strives for the development of micro-enterprises for women. Besides, it promotes on-field trials for Research and Development activities and modulation of the existing technology to address location-specific needs. Upgradation of technology and value-addition to the products are essential components that help a WTP move towards sustainability.
It reduces drudgery, helps improve health and the environment, and provides opportunities for income generation. These parks aim to strengthen the weakest link of the predominant livelihood system of women in an area and promote social entrepreneurship and women’s employment based on the strongest link of the livelihood system.
The WTPs have emerged as a vehicle of change for the communities. These technology-centric parks have been instrumental in providing the skill set to women and bringing them to the mainstream of the socio-economic realm. These women are no longer dependent on the male members of their families instead they have been the breadwinners for their clan. Being part of WTPs has instilled confidence among the women folks and also helped many of them become entrepreneurs.
WTPs have shown their sustainability even in remote areas of the country and have acted as a cross-bridge between the S&T institutions and the community members. Hence,
a study has been undertaken by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation of DST, to document and capture the current status of WTPs, and their success saga and thus create awareness that the programme WTP model can be replicated on a large-scale and exchange of knowledge can occur. More and more women can benefit from the programme leading to women’s empowerment. The study also suggests interventions for making WTPs sustainable through Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), recommendations and framework. The study period spans from 2019-2021, where out of a total of 46 WTPs, 30 WTPs have been studied. Further, out of these, twenty WTPs had completed the projects, and ten were ongoing. The study includes the WTPs established during 2010-19.
This report sought to summarize and document the essence of the WTPs as a programme and as a “linkage” between rural women and the innovators, researchers, scientists and S&T organizations. The report ponders on the various aspects and components of the WTP programme, including the concepts and the scope of work and tries to identify the opportunities and the gap areas to find a solution to do away with the bottlenecks.
The report has been built up from the data collected through various sources like Annual Reports and Project Completion Reports about the WTPs, Questionnaire for Principal Investigators (PIs), Regional Workshops, and various other studies that have been established. The analysis was thoroughly churned to reach the findings which formed the plinth on which recommendations for the sustainability of WTPs have been made.
Mapping the WTPs and thoroughly studying their functioning not only from a technical and marketing viewpoint but a comprehensive approach that includes holistic and overall development of women, helps identify the existing loopholes and gap areas. In the recommendation section, ways have been suggested to plug these loopholes and do away with the bottlenecks.
The findings and recommendations would help improve the performance of WTPs and pave the way for their sustainability. Mitigating the bottlenecks and plugging the loopholes would help enhance the efficacy of WTPs and create a conducive environment where these units can sustain and operate independently and would come up with indigenously manufactured products. Since WTPs promote indigenous products it is a push to “Vocal for Local” as professed by Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is also a boon for “Make in India”, and “Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
The WTPs objectives are aligned with the national goals and objectives and its potential can be best realized when it works in tandem with other ministries and departments. The WTPs would continue to facilitate the economic and other empowerment of rural women by imparting training to them on proven technologies and demonstrating live technology models in priority areas, supporting rural women in setting up micro-enterprises for sustainable livelihood. On the occassion of 75 glorious years of India’s Independence in form of “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” and thanks to science and technology that has played a major role in reaching the point where we are today. When India would reach 100 years of its independence, WTPs should be a benchmark of how engagement with simple technologies can be the pivot of change in the lives of millions of women by generating livelihood opportunities and empowering them immensely. A nation’s progress is incomplete without the progress of women and the same cannot be realized without S&T being part of their lives.