ASAP Kerala Refueling women’s aspiration


ASAP Kerala has been helping a lot of students in the state in getting skilled. Currently, ASAP Kerala is helping the general public as well to get themselves skilled. For translating the social ambition of women into sustainable action, ASAP Kerala has come up with a new initiative called “Dharppanam”.

There’s an uncomplicated pattern to Ms Preeja Ajith’s days. She’s up at the crack of dawn, gets her daughters — a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old — ready for school, attends to her husband, tends to her household activities, and repeats.

Thirty-five-year-old Ms Latikha KV from Kasaragod, who was married off at the age of 15, has always desired to pursue an MSW and contribute to society, but household commitments compelled her to carpet her desires.

Dharppanam was launched by Shri MV Govindan Master, Hon’ble Minister for Local Self Governments and Excise, at ASAP Community Skill Park, Vidya Nagar, Kasaragod, in 2022. The project was inaugurated in the presence of district, Kudumbashree and ASAP Kerala officials.

Ms Salma Salamath, who recently celebrated her 28th birthday, has been married for more than a decade, with three children. She has always yearned for a government job, but marriage at a very young age led her to brush it off as just a fantasy.

Preeja and the other women used to call themselves housewives, but eventually, realised they are capable of more and understood that an additional skill can transform their lives.

“It begins with a lack of identity,” said Preeja in 2021.

Fast forward to September 2022. Preeja says she can respond in English, however, broken it is, but feels more confident in her skin and is driven to give life another chance. Echoing Preeja’s views is Salma, who is now determined to clear Kerala PSC, and so is Lathika, who wants to get placed and be financially independent.

These are the first winds of change brought about by Dharppanam, the initiative that has recognised how fundamentally broken women’s social and financial structure is in the state, and is working to mend it by empowering women themselves.

The unemployment rate of women in Kerala is 52.6%, the second-highest in the country. For a state with a women’s literacy rate of above 92%, there is an ever-growing need to apprise educated women of the evolving employment ecosystems, industry-relevant skills, and entrepreneurship potential for financial stability.

Dharppanam is a first-of-its-kind higher education model instituted in the state for women with an education gap after plus two. Inbuilt with skill programmes, Dharppanam has been initiated by the Kasaragod District Panchayat and implemented by ASAP Kerala. The initiative aims to refuel the unfulfilled dreams of women who are plus-two qualified by enabling them to pursue higher studies through an open university. The programme offers skill training to candidates in three trades that will enable them to secure sustainable livelihood opportunities through placement or entrepreneurship development.

The engagement of the Open University to extend admission to women, who completed their plus-two several years ago to get back to academics and be graduates, is laudable. Before setting forth, the challenge during the formulation of the scheme was the years of the academic gap the women had. This was when ASAP Kerala introduced the concept of a skill course as an introduction to the programme, which played a dual role in helping them get back to academics and enabling financial freedom through employment or entrepreneurship. The skill package includes training in life skills, digital literacy, financial literacy, and vocational skills, in consonance with local demands.

The ASAP Kerala team worked in tandem with the Jilla Panchayat in fine-tuning the scheme, which received an overwhelming response from the women in Kasargod. Instituted for a batch of 250 women candidates, the initiative will, subsequently, be scaled up to accommodate 500 candidates.

While curating courses for Dharppanam, a conscious effort was made to identify the local skill demands and those that provide sustainable livelihoods. The vocational training being offered includes a Certificate in Accounting Technician, Artisanal Bakery and Community Mobiliser. The Kasaragod District Panchayat identified the potential candidates above 18 years of age within the district to undergo the skill training. ASAP Kerala then conducted individual counselling sessions for the listed candidates to identify their interests in consultation with Kudumbasree coordinators. The training is primarily conducted offline through Skill Development Centres and the Community Skill Park in Kasaragod.

The candidates were selected through a transparent selection procedure that included conducting assessment tests and providing orientation sessions and personal counselling. The model is a momentous enterprise in the Local Self Government Department ecosystem. On the successful completion of the course, candidates will undergo extensive placement grooming sessions to focus on their best potential areas and enhance their self-esteem and power of presentation. Meanwhile, those interested in setting up units of their own can opt for the Entrepreneurship Development Programme.

“Getting back to academics and books was certainly a daunting task, but we’re being handheld at every stage despite our age. My batchmates and I are gradually shedding our inhibitions and volunteering for class activities. We’re coming out of our shells, our comfort zones. The seamless flow of the curriculum and the training has provided exposure to the outside world, an avenue I had never explored. It has rekindled hope for me to stand up for myself, be financially independent, and carve an identity,” shares Preeja.

Dharppanam is, simply put, a translation of social ambition into sustainable action. ASAP Kerala is delighted to partner with other district panchayats across the state in promoting and implementing this model that has the potential to transform the local employment ecosystem. The long-standing desire of women to pursue higher education after an academic gap is no longer a far-fetched wish, as it’s now within the reach of every person in the state, as demonstrated by the humbling response to Dharppanam in Kasaragod.