Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs in conversation with Mathew Joseph, Country Director, American India Foundation

New Delhi (India), March 17: The American India Foundation, catalyzing social and economic change in India for the past 22 years, organized the annual Livelihoods knowledge event ‘Future of Livelihoods’ at Silver Oak, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi today. Starting with the Keynote address by the Chief Guest
Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs, Government of India, the event addressed emerging gaps in women’s labor force participation, the inclusion of women with disability in the workforce, and the far-reaching impact of climate change on their livelihoods in the next decade. Helmed by AIF’s award-winning flagship Livelihoods Program – Market Aligned Skills Training, ‘Future of Livelihoods’ brought together 130 sectoral experts, policymakers, academicians, and corporates to cogitate on building back a better world for women by unpacking the evolving role of CSR in promoting their livelihoods. Co-organized by Market Aligned Skills Foundation, the event brought together ecosystem partner National Skill Development Corporation (N.S.D.C.) as co-hosts, Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihood Mission as Special Partner, and iForest (International Forum for Environment, Sustainability, and Technology), Skill Council for Green Jobs and Wadhwani Foundation as Knowledge Partners.

In the inaugural session Smt Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs, Government of India, in conversation with Mathew Joseph, Country Director, AIF, brought a keen focus on enabling women as key social change drivers by supporting their livelihood aspirations. Addressing the audience at the event, her powerful and thought-provoking session stated that ‘It is not incumbent upon one department to look at women’s issues but it needs to be a part of every department, and that has been one of the biggest changes to have come in the governance.’ The dialogue highlighted how discourses like these, between ecosystem stakeholders, will lay the roadmap for women’s success and increase their voice, agency, and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions. On the occasion, the Guest of Honor Dr. Shalini Rajneesh, Additional Chief Secretary Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics Department, Government of Karnataka said ‘While the social sector is addressing many challenges and creating livelihood opportunities through skill and entrepreneurship development, improving access to capital and markets, opening additional revenue streams is critical. India is moving towards digital transformation, but only 30% of women have access to the internet and lack of resources is keeping them away from livelihoods.’ 

The eminent panels consisted of foremost thought leaders and ecosystem stakeholders such as Ashish Chaturvedi, Head – Environment, Energy and Resilience, UNDP; Poonam Chandok, Head – HR, L&T Energy; Praveen Saxena, CEO, Skill Council for Green Jobs; Richa Singh, VP HR – D&I and CSR, Max Life Insurance; Vivek Misra, Director – Customer Support and India lead for Disability ERG, Microsoft; Sunil Dahiya, Executive Vice President Skilling, Wadhwani Foundation; Madhu Bala Sharma, Sr. DEI Business Partner – International Markets, Amazon; Rupali Kathuria, Lead, Social Impact for South Asia at Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Mastercard; Rishikesh Patankar, CEO, CSC Academy; Nithyanandam Yuvraj Dinesh Babu, ED – Power and Utilities and Climate Change Assurance & Sustainability Services, E&Y and Kamesh Sanghi, Director, Livelihoods, American India Foundation (AIF) among others distinguished speakers.

With an overarching theme of ‘Unpacking the Evolving Role of CSR in Building Women’s Livelihoods in the Post-COVID Era’, Future of Livelihoods’ first session ‘Building the Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem – Enabling the Next Leap’ kick-started with the discussion on how India’s growth story has left behind a key demographic: women! It threw light on how women entrepreneurs can be enabled as drivers of this growth and their success will not only boost the economy through job creation but also deliver transformational social and personal outcomes for women.

The second panel ‘Leveraging technology – Mainstreaming disability at workplaces’ emphasized the need for a multidimensional approach to catalyze accessibility while keeping women with disabilities at the center of this mediation. The session set the stage to discuss how the ecosystem must enable and empower them by promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Panelists also reflected on the need for innovation in this space and how the government, both at the national and state level, along with NGOs, and CSR partners can come together to institute systemic change. The event’s last and concluding panel ‘Women as Enablers of the transition to a Green Economy’ drew from a rich tapestry of leaders and practitioners in the space, to examine the multitude of challenges to the ones on the front line of climate change impact, especially vulnerable women and communities living at the edge of environmental disasters. It deliberated the need for resilient pillars of development,
to prepare for an imminent and urgent shift towards green and sustainable livelihoods while nurturing women to be the catalysts, who enable and lead this transition to the green economy. ‘It is incumbent on all of us to galvanize women’s economic empowerment which is deeply connected with poverty reduction, climate change, and an increase in the economic growth of the nation. Increasing women’s role and participation means greater voice, choice, and power at home and in the economy. AIF, empowering women since 2001, is honored to partner with key ecosystem stakeholders to further our mission.” said Mathew Joseph, Country Director, AIF.

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