The Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP) is a flagship initiative of the Government of India aimed at empowering women through skill development and employment generation. Launched in 1986, STEP is implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) and focuses on providing vocational training and employment opportunities to women, especially those from marginalized and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Here is an in-depth look at the STEP program:
The STEP program was introduced to address the specific challenges faced by women in gaining access to skill development and employment opportunities. It recognizes that enhancing the employability of women is crucial not only for their economic independence but also for the overall socio-economic development of the nation.
Objectives of STEP:
The primary objectives of the Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women are as follows:
- Skill Enhancement: To provide women with relevant and market-oriented skills that enhance their employability and income-earning potential.
- Promoting Entrepreneurship: To encourage and support women in setting up their own micro-enterprises and becoming entrepreneurs.
- Facilitating Wage Employment: To facilitate access to wage employment opportunities in various sectors.
- Empowering Marginalized Women: To target marginalized and disadvantaged women, including those from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), and women with disabilities, for skill development and employment support.
- Promoting Financial Inclusion: To link STEP beneficiaries with various financial inclusion schemes, credit facilities, and self-help groups (SHGs) to facilitate entrepreneurship and income generation.
Implementation and Coverage:
The STEP program is implemented through a network of training institutions, NGOs, and other organizations engaged in skill development and women’s empowerment. It covers a wide range of sectors and trades, including but not limited to:
- Vocational Training
- Tailoring and Embroidery
- Food Processing
- Beauty and Wellness
- Handicrafts and Handlooms
- Information Technology and Computer Applications
- Agriculture and Horticulture
Training and Skill Development:
STEP focuses on providing high-quality, demand-driven training programs to women. These programs are designed to align with the needs of the job market and equip women with practical skills that are relevant to various industries. The training curriculum is often tailored to the specific sectors and trades in which the beneficiaries are interested.
One of the key components of STEP is the promotion of entrepreneurship among women. The program offers support for setting up micro-enterprises, including guidance on business planning, access to credit, and marketing assistance. This empowers women to become self-reliant and contribute to the local economy.
Financial Inclusion and Linkages:
STEP aims to connect women beneficiaries with financial institutions, self-help groups, and micro-finance institutions. This helps them access credit facilities, savings mechanisms, and other financial instruments that are essential for starting and expanding businesses.
Market Linkages and Placement Assistance:
The program also focuses on establishing linkages between trained women and potential employers or markets. This may involve organizing job fairs, facilitating tie-ups with industries, and providing placement assistance to ensure that women find suitable employment opportunities.
Monitoring and Evaluation:
STEP incorporates a robust monitoring and evaluation framework to track the progress and impact of the program. This helps in assessing the effectiveness of the training and employment initiatives and making necessary adjustments for improvement.
Success Stories and Impact:
Over the years, STEP has empowered thousands of women across India by providing them with the skills and opportunities they need to become self-reliant. Many beneficiaries have gone on to start their own businesses, while others have secured gainful employment in various sectors.
Challenges and Future Prospects:
While STEP has been instrumental in empowering women, there are challenges such as access to quality training, post-training support, and scalability that need to be addressed. The program’s future prospects lie in further expanding its reach, enhancing the quality of training, and strengthening linkages with industries.