Project Unnati's Impact and Initiatives for women empowerment in India Project Unnati's Impact and Initiatives for women empowerment in India


Empowering Women in India with Unnati

Women make up approximately 48.4% of the Indian population, yet the female labour force participation is approximately 20%, of which approximately 80% are engaged in informal or unpaid work. This usually means low salaries, lack of health insurance and social security, and limited mobility. Women also have limited access to education and healthcare, and experience higher rates of violence – all factors that prevent them from joining the country’s workforce.

Unnati was created by listening to women and what they expressed as needs to get back to and sustain in the workforce. Aligned with evidence, women shared that long, unsafe commutes; childcare and domestic work; and a lack of confidence after a long career break and/or extended periods of time searching for jobs that fit their lifestyle with no success were all discouraging factors keeping them out of the workforce.

Unnati was designed as a social impact initiative of Lodha for women by women with the mission to enable the social and economic development of India by providing methods to empower women to join and sustain in an inclusive workforce, ultimately giving them the reins of their own lives. We do this by enabling women to gain confidence and connect with job opportunities for women to join our country’s workforce, experience personal and professional growth, and accomplish goals to enhance their and their families’ lives.

Here are some methods that Project Unnati uses to empower women and give them a chance to make their dreams come true –

1. Rapid upskilling: Women in India have lesser access to education than men, which can be detrimental to their career prospects. Literacy rates for women have been lower than that of men for a long time, and women also jump through more hoops to access skilling programs and job opportunities. Often, even the women who want to work and support their families, lack the educational background, technical skills or family and social support to do so and that affects the careers for women. This is why Unnati and the Lodha Foundation work with partners to create skill development programs and women empowerment projects focussed on women at the Unnati Skill Development Centre in Palava City, Dombivli, Maharashtra. These programs encompass soft skills such as English and communication, and technical skills such as in textiles and office operations, soft skills such as English and communication. The courses are designed as rapid skilling courses to respond to the expectations of the current job market. Some of the courses are in-person, and some are transitioning into hybrid or online-only models in order to be replicated and scaled to reach more women.

2. Creating job opportunities: The next step is identifying employer partners actively creating jobs for women and making space for them to dream big. The company partners Unnati collaborates with are interested in designing work opportunities that fit the lifestyle needs and choices of women – such as creating first-of-its kind work from home opportunities in fields like HR and robotics, or recruiting women within a one hour commute of their offices or manufacturing sites with reasonable shifts and flexibility. Research has shown that there is a strong lack of quality formal jobs for women, often reinforced by occupational gendered segregation and a glaring wage gap. However, it is important to create opportunities for women to work, which in turn gives them confidence, financial independence, and a chance to support India’s economy. A report by the IMF found that India’s GDP could increase by almost 27% if women participated in the economy at the same rate as men. With this in mind, Unnati works with strategic corporate bodies and other partners to create work opportunities for women that are mutually beneficial to women and companies, alike.

3. Creating a sustainable and supportive ecosystem: Perhaps the most important way Unnati empowers women is by building communities that lets them learn and grow professionally and find a like-minded group of women on the same journey. By feeling supported and not alone, women who have completed courses and have been placed in jobs express it’s the intangible emotional support they received from Unnati while they took steps to enter the workforce that has been most significant in their process from upskilling to job placement to retention. Women express it feels daunting to navigate the workforce without adequate guidance and support, and so Unnati offers a multitude of resources to help them make their own choices. Designing long-term supports, such as a 12 month mentorship programme while they seek and transition into jobs, and continued soft and technical skills development opportunities even after job placement, help women not just find a job but stay and grow in the workforce over time.

4. Research: The first step in empowering women across India is understanding equitable, inclusive opportunities they are interested in that will make them shine. This means identifying and learning about sectors that can generate formal jobs for women. Through our research, we at Unnati have identified some sectors creating sustainable jobs for women and/or sectors where women are underrepresented in jobs across levels – from freshers to senior management:
Food processing (hospitality, food supply, etc.)
Data entry (banking, financial services, etc.)
Manufacturing (apparel, garments, etc.)
Tele-calling (BPO, telecom, etc.)

Not only do these sectors have the potential to establish many opportunities for Indian women seeking work, but they are also among the industries that generate formal jobs for women with a minimum annual salary of 2.5 lakhs.

Apart from learning from existing research, Unnati aims to understand areas of female labor participation that have been less understood in India and globally. For instance, does providing hyper-local job opportunities that are less than a 1-hour commute enable women to sustain in the workforce and ultimately advance in their careers? Does providing development and leadership opportunities for women to emerge as managers in construction and sales create sustainable career pathways for women underrepresented in the construction and real estate industries? Does providing a combination of short-skilling programmes, job placement matching and longer-term supports enable women to sustain in the workforce? These are some of the research questions we hope to answer in collaboration with internal and external research partners. By getting some answers to these emergent questions, we may conduct policy advocacy to lead to solutions that can bring more work to women.

We aspire to build a thriving community of women professionals who are excited to join the workforce and strengthen the nation through women empowerment initiatives. Unnati wants to reduce female attrition from the workforce and support women in their professional pursuits. It is these active methods and effects of women's empowerment that will help create lasting change in the country.

In 2023, Unnati has helped 200 women on their career journeys, with 14% of women landing employment in half the time normally taken to find employment. In the coming years, Unnati will scale this to support women in the thousands to find their purpose and transform their lives. There is a long way to go in the realm of women’s empowerment programs. The nation cannot perform at its peak capacity if almost half of its citizens are not working. Unnati looks forward to continuing to be shaped by women to support their career aspirations while also helping the nation to thrive to its full potential with the impact of women empowerment.

If you are a woman that wants to explore taking steps to land a job, or if you want to help women take their futures into their own hands, reach out to us via the Unnati website to enroll and/or learn how you can get involved.