The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) located in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, is helping many women in villages located near the campus become economically independent with a unique Women Technology Park. Dr. Neelu J. Ahuja, Dr. Bhawna Yadav Lamba, and Dr. Kanchan D. Bahukhandi – professors of the college, conceptualised this project with the vision of taking technology into the lives of women in Uttarakhand villages and helping them utilize it for earning a livelihood. They received a grant for the project from the Science for Equity Empowerment and Development (SEED) division, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and launched the park in May 2015.
“Inclusive growth is very close to us as a concept at UPES. We strive to bring empowerment within the communities in the area that we are located in and to foster individual and group entrepreneurship amongst women of Uttarakhand,” says Utpal Ghosh, CEO and President of UPES.
The beneficiaries for this project are identified from villages in Dehradun district that are located within 20 km area of the university campus. These include Bidholi, Bishenpur, Upper Kandoli, Poundha, Dunga, and Bakarna, where the team conducts surveys to understand the needs of different families and people.
The project has three components:
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) assisted arts and craft design:
There are many rural women near Dehradun who are involved in arts and craft activities in an unstructured way. The UPES team has set up a computer laboratory for these women inside the campus, where they are leaning about the basics of computers and how to use design software. With the help of this training, they are designing products that are different from the mundane designs already available in the market. After designing, they work under the guidance of skilled bamboo artisans in that area, who help in improving their designs and make them suitable for today’s markets. The park also has an arts and craft studio for the artisans and women to work together. Dr. Neelu says that they are now trying to connect these women to the markets for better sales.
Recycling of waste paper:
“Being a university, we have plenty of waste paper that can be converted into useful products, thereby increasing employment opportunities for rural women,” says Dr. Bhawna. The team has installed seven paper recycling machines inside the campus to make pencils out of the waste paper. The UPES team has also formed and is training a women self-help group for using these machines to make products like cardboards, pen holders, marriage cards etc.
Identification and cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants:
The team has selected 10 villages that have several marginal farmers who own small land areas. The UPES team has introduced the concept of cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants like Lemon Grass, Aloe Vera, Tulsi, etc. They provide training to the farmers with the help of experts from different organizations for the cultivation of these crops. Farmers also receive organic fertilisers, seeds, scientific guidance, market linkages, farming equipment, etc. These crops are profitable and are helping them earn more. They have already cultivated camomile plants on 20 bhiga land since September last year and are planning to cultivate Tulsi and Stevia this season.
While the tech park is located inside the campus, the activities that require training in the fields are conducted in the villages. UPES is working with over 100 beneficiaries in all. The team has seven people including Dr. Neelu who is the Principal Investigator of the project.
“In just one year we have added to and positively impacted the lives of several individuals and are committed to increase this reach many fold,” says Utpal.