Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi has established an incubator to enable rural women of Kamand Valley in Mandi to become entrepreneurs. Started as an initiative of IIT Mandi Women's Center, the incubator, called 'Enabling Women of Kamand' (EWOK), helps rural women set up their services or small enterprises.
EWOK partners with women from the four panchayats of Kamand, Kataula, Katindhi and Navlaya in Mandi district.
The First batch of seven women, certified in basic computer literacy, Spoken English and Personality Development, graduated in May 2018 and a Convocation program was held on June 28, 2018 at the EWOK Office, IIT Mandi.
EWOK offered two certification courses in collaboration with NIIT Foundation. The basic computer literacy certification covers training in MS Office and introduction to Internet that includes online ticket booking, banking, enrolling to open universities and looking up Aadhar card details and so on.
The certification in Spoken English and Personality Development concentrates on improving their English conversational skills as well as developing one's personality that would help them in interacting with various cultures.
Speaking about the importance of this initiative and the commitment of IIT Mandi to development of local community, Dr. Priscilla Gonsalves, Chief Advisor, EWOK, said, "Arriving at Kamand Valley for the first time in 2010, the director and I found a traditional, Himachal community. We realized that the growth of a new IIT in the valley would have a major impact on the lives of locals."
Further, Dr. Priscilla Gonsalves said, "EWOK strives to ease the transition for local women by providing guidance, training and information. It has also helped bridge the gap between the largely urban, technologically oriented IIT community and the local agricultural community. Both sides have benefitted from the link. In future we hope to have closer ties as we work together to build a new Kamand."
Two of the women who graduated have landed paid internships and a third has applied for license to take up contractual work for landscape development.
Each of these courses are conducted for three months with daily classes of two hours each. The certification is provided after an assessment by external examiners from NIIT Foundation team.
Speaking about their experiences, Ms. Parvati, a 25-year-old resident of Sandoa village, said that she is happy that she got an opportunity to work after her training at EWOK. She received guidance on how to take the next step in her career. Her confidence that women like her can do something and that they have sufficient knowledge has grown. Earlier she used to feel hesitant and never shared it with anyone. But her interaction here has helped her overcome that to some extent and she has found a place where she receives some help to actually do something. She is now interning with a project by one of the Assistant Professors in IIT Mandi.
Ms. Nirmla Devi, a 30 year old resident of Baglidhar village, said, "I learnt how to use Computers to send messages and stay in touch. I also feel more comfortable in understanding English and have started speaking a few words myself which helps me in communicating with visitors here." Ms. Nirmla Devi will soon be a licensed contractor for landscape developmental work.
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