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New Delhi : A scheme to provide skill development and leadership training to Muslim women exhibiting entrepreneurial skills is set to be rolled out soon by the Ministry of Minority Affairs as the Manmohan Singh Government begins work on a 100-day action plan for governance.


The Minority Affairs Ministry is giving final touches to the scheme, aimed at empowering Muslim women who have been left out of the development trajectory. The scheme, which would be Centrally sponsored, is likely to have a flexible one-time financial support component as well.


Though the scheme would be implemented directly by the Minority Affairs Ministry, the services of state governments and NGOs would be sought to identify the beneficiaries. A selection committee would be set up to screen the individual applications and the names forwarded by states and NGOs.


While the Ministry is yet to finalise the lower and upper limits of the financial support aspect, sources said the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation could be linked with the beneficiaries to ensure that they continued to get support till they became self-reliant.


The Sachar Committee had pointed out that although Muslim women were “overwhelmingly self-employed” and engaged in home-based work, they did not have independent access to credit facilities, opportunities for skill up-gradation, or access to markets. There was discrimination in giving Muslim women credit facilities.


The Ministry’s plan is to support such self-employed women to develop the leadership skills in them, sharpen their entrepreneurial talent and help improve their primary skills. The Sachar Committee had found that self-employed Muslim women were primarily engaged in activities like sewing, embroidery, agarbatti rolling and beedi making.


Besides, the female work participation rate among Muslims is only about 25 per cent while the literacy rate is abysmally low. In view of the poor socio-economic status of Muslim women, the scheme is essentially on the lines of the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities.


Although the scheme was conceptualised by the Women and Child Development Ministry, it was later transferred to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, which began working on it after the interim budget, presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, earmarked Rs 45 lakh for its implementation.


Initially, the scheme is likely to be implemented in select states only where there is a large minority population. The scheme could well be the first that new Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed may announce.




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