16 million euros for empowering women

A new collaboration between the Swedish furniture giant IKEA’s philanthropic foundation, UNDP, Xynteo and the Indian Development Foundation aims to connect underprivileged women in India with employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Swedish furniture giant IKEA’s philantropic arm, the IKEA Foundation, on Monday announced that it will contribute 16 million euros to a three-year programme to provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to 1 million underprivileged women across India.

The initiative, which will be implemented by the IKEA Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), global business advisory firm Xynteo, and research non-profit India Development Foundation, will work with businesses to identify economic empowerment opportunities for women.

It will focus on the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and the National Capital Region. It is also supported by the Indian Ministry of Finance.

The initiative will also encourage women to participate in skills development and training courses, and the organisations involved will share their expertise on how to meet the business needs and aspirations of  underprivileged women with various organisations that develop training courses for women.

According to the International Labour Organisation, women’s participation in the Indian work force fell from over 37 per cent in 2004 to 29 per cent in 2009.

This is a huge missed economic opportunity: Data from the International Monetary Fund shows that the South Asian nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) could rise by 27 per cent if there are as many women as men in the labour force.

There is also a skills gap in the country that urgently needs to be addressed, a study by UNDP found. Between 10 to 23 per cent of women in the country hold professional certificates; but almost half of all women in Hyderabad and 70 per cent in the National Capital Region feel that they lack the skills to manage a business.

Yuri Afanasiev, United Nations resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative, India, said that by offering these women skills development opportunities and focusing on the aspirations of young women, “the partnership aims to demonstrate the power of collaboration in helping women become economically self-sufficient”.

Per Heggenes, chief executive of the IKEA Foundation, added that “we believe that women can be the most important catalysts for change in their children’s lives as well as in society more generally.”

“By empowering women, we can improve children’s health, education and future – and that’s good for everyone in India,” he said.

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