Taking Charge: Women say YES to 21st Century Skills Training

A skilling programme in Gujarat, supported by UNDP, is preparing young job seekers, especially women, be future ready.

September 5, 2022

Nazma took charge of her career and enrolled in UNDP’s 21st Century Skill Development Programme to improve her employability and learn essential soft skills.

UNDP India

Youngest of six siblings in a joint family of 15, Nazma Yunusbhai had a dream – to complete her education and teach. But growing up in a relatively conservative and rural part of Gujarat’s Devbhumi Dwarka, Nazma’s education was always the centre of attention of a few members of her family and the community. They rebuked her parents for allowing her to study and would often chide, “Girls are only meant to light ‘chulas’, and if you educate your daughter this much, one day she will burn down the family she gets married into.”

But Nazma wanted to spark a different fire. She was committed to completing her education. Every time her father pulled her out of school, she found a way to enrol. “But after I finished school, my father said no more. Those were the darkest days of my life.” That may have dampened her spirit but did not diminish her determination to continue her fight. In 2011, she graduated with a master’s degree in Hindi and in 2017, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Education.

A few years later, a similar story played out for Shraddha Goswami in Jamnagar, Gujarat. She, too, dreamed of teaching, but life had other plans. Her family could not afford school tuition and asked her to drop out after class 8. Not one to abandon her dream, she enrolled in the National Institute of Open Schooling, an autonomous institution of the Government of India which provides flexible access to quality school education and skill development, and finished secondary school earlier this year.

Shraddha completed her month-long 21st Century Skills Training from a YES centre in Mithoi, Jamnagar – as part of project PROGRESS.

UNDP India

Yet something felt amiss. They knew they needed more than a degree to grow as professionals and individuals. In the post-pandemic world, both - job seekers and employers – are increasingly gearing towards a learning-for-life mindset. Along with hard skills, soft skills such as critical thinking, decision making, collaboration, communication, are in great demand. Nazma and Shraddha took the reins of their careers and lives in their hands and enrolled on UNDP’s 21st Century Skill Development Programme to improve their employability and learn essential soft skills.

Nazma joined the 21st century programme at a YES Centre, a one-stop solution for career guidance, employability skills and industry linkages for young people, in Vadinar, Gujarat. There, Nazma learned essential skills such as public speaking, positive body language, conflict management, negotiation, stress and time management, critical thinking and digital and financial literacy.

Today, not only is Nazma a more skilled professional, she is also a more confident woman. “Thanks to UNDP’s skill development programme, I have become assertive and can voice my opinion freely at work and in life,” she says. “I feel happy when I see young girls at the centre – curious to learn about upskilling and making informed career choices rather than limiting themselves to household chores,” Nazma adds.

Similarly, earlier this year, Shraddha completed her month-long 21st Century Skills Training from a YES centre in Mithoi, Jamnagar – as part of project PROGRESS. This project - led by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and UNDP – aims to support 10,000 marginalized households to improve their lives and livelihoods. As part of this project, 6,000 young people will be trained through the 21st century curriculum and at least 3,500 will be linked to jobs.  

Shraddha may not be in college yet, but she is taking all the necessary steps to ensure she can secure a B.Ed degree and become a teacher. She is working with a grassroots development organization, where she teaches mathematics to primary students and earns up to INR2000 per month. She is saving that money to go to college.

UNDP's 21st Century Skill Development Programme also includes career guidance, counselling and post-placement support.

UNDP India

As a school teacher, Nazma, is also using her voice to raise awareness about social issues affecting the lives and opportunities of young girls and women. “I urge young mothers to educate their children, especially their daughters. I feel proud when I can influence a family positively. But sometimes, I see underage girls dropping out of school or with babies in their arms – which reminds me that I need to continue advocating for the rights of women and girls.”

Both Shraddha and Nazma strongly believe that early intervention in a child’s life can be pivotal and hope to see UNDP’s 21st Century curriculum included in the school syllabus. But until that day, they are committed to advocating for the right to education of the girl child and teaching young minds to be confident, responsible and skilled individuals.

UNDP's 21st Century Skill Development Programme also includes career guidance, counselling and post-placement support. This skill training will be available for enrolled students in colleges and Industrial Training Institutes and young people from District Employment Centres and Vocational Training Providers. 

So far, UNDP has reached 900 young people through this programme and aims to reach 6,000 in the next two years across India.

         - By Mithun Christy and Divya Jain, part of the Inclusive Growth team at UNDP India.