How innovative, sustainable tech can empower rural women in India

There are roughly 350 million women in rural India and as men from the villages move to the cities in search of jobs, women are left behind to fend for themselves and their families. Now, a team of social scientists have penned a paper on how these women can generate income for their families with the help of innovative and sustainable technologies.

Social scientists Chocko Valliappa and Dr Nirmalesh K Sampath Kumar have written a paper titled ‘Appropriate Technologies for Value Addition in Rural Indian Villages,’ published by Springer Nature Switzerland AG in a 511-page volume on ‘Smart Villages-Bridging the Global Urban-Rural Divide’.

According to the researchers, once the problems in rural communities have been identified, innovative science and technology (S&T) methods can be applied to them, helping rural women to generate income by staying within their own communities.

The authors pointed out that the gainfully employed women workforce has dropped by 10 per cent since the 1990s, with only 20 per cent women gainfully employed today.

“These women have the potential to contribute to the economy, besides generating an income for themselves and their families in a sustainable way,” said Valliappa.

The authors have proposed the adoption of latest technologies, under a smart village model, to improve the economic prospects of villages and meet their aspirations.

A beginning has already been made by the Sona College of Technology at the Women’s Technology Park (WTP), Salem in Tamil Nadu, where it is running five projects, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology, training nearly 800 women and successfully turning them into entrepreneurs through sustainable schemes.

Among a host of innovations is a solar power dryer, which helps dehydrate vegetables like tomatoes, lemon rinds, spinach, bananas and drumsticks etc, all within a couple of hours.

“The idea is to help rural women to set up cottage industries close to farms to help process vegetables and fruits and prevent them from rotting. There is further value addition up the food chain, creating candies from dried products or simply powder for use in soups,” Valliappa said.

There is a tile-making unit, for fashioning concrete slabs for use in pavements. Tiles in different hues and in various geometric designs are fabricated by mixing concrete with steel slag (collected from a local steel plant) and poured into moulds.

“Science and technology interventions have the potential to empower women and create economic growth and it is important that we use it to create impact at all possible levels,” said Dr Kumar, Director, Knowledge Transfer and Valourization at Sona College.