Bringing technology to women

As part of women's welfare programmes, various NGOs are promoting the use of renewable and alternative energy.

Published: Saturday 15 January 1994

Bringing technology to women

-- TECHNOLOGY is essential for improved living and working conditions. However, women -- especially those in rural areas -- are often denied access to technology because of discrimination and lack of adequate information. For instance, rural women spend many hours away from home collecting firewood. If the women were provided energy sources such as solar power and biogas and taught how to use them, they could use the time saved for other purposes.
br> To bridge the gap between technology and users, many NGOs have started developing and propagating renewable and alternative energy sources in both urban and rural areas.
br> The All India Women's Conference (AIWC), established in 1927, manages several projects on women and children in rural and urban areas. One of its activities, launched in November, is an entrepreneurship development programme for women in the field of new and renewable energy -- the first of its kind in Asia. The programme is run by AIWC in association with the Asian Society for Entrepreneurship Education and Development and is sponsored by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd.
br> The programme seeks to motivate educated women to acquire skill and expertise to take up renewable energy projects and eventually start small units of their own. The programme has selected 15 women from all over India, most of them qualified engineers or science graduates. The women will be exposed to technologies such as photovoltaic applications, wind and solar energy utilisation. The programme includes films shows and field trips.
br> UNICEF is a partner in the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas programme, launched by the government in 1982 to further women's development. The programme covers 219 districts in the country and officials hope to reach all districts by the end of the century.
br> Though the main thrust of this programme is to give a platform to women for credit facilities, it also promotes low-cost technology for reducing the drudgery of rural women. These include harnessing solar and wind energy, smokeless chulhas, ventilators, use of biomass and the use and maintenance of biogas plants.
br> The programme is implemented by district rural development agencies at the state-level. The scheme is funded by UNICEF, the Union government and the states. UNICEF's role is limited to imparting training, capacity building, communication, staff support and some financial support.
br> The Consortium for Rural Technology networks agencies that carry out its programmes on solar and biogas energy at the grassroot level. It recently concluded a programme for women from parts of Haryana and villages near Delhi on the manufacture of solar wax melters.
br> Unnyan Sansthan in Varanasi holds literacy camps for women and aids in the transfer of appropriate rural technology such as improved chulhas, the use and maintenance of biogas plants and demonstration programmes in the use of solar cookers and heaters.
br> The Advance Rural Technology Hyderabad Inputs Centre promotes biogas plant installation, use and maintenance and solar lanterns and other non-conventional energy sources for rural women.

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