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India UDAY-PRIDE GEM 2023 Award promoting gender equality MSMEs

India's MSME sector is evolving into a more equitable and empowering space for women, thanks to the UDAY-PRIDE project.

In the colorful and diverse landscape of India, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) play a vital role, making up almost 30% of the GDP and contributing over 40% to the nation's exports. Despite their significant impact, the representation of women in this sector has historically been low. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), women-owned enterprises account for only around 10% of all MSMEs, with a mere 12% share in manufacturing, lagging behind major global economies.

To address this gender gap, the Government of India has implemented various measures. Public procurement guidelines now mandate a minimum of 25% of goods and services to be sourced from MSMEs, including 3% specifically from women-owned micro and small enterprises. Additionally, policies such as 'Mission Skill India,' subsidized loans for women-led businesses, and extended maternity leave demonstrate the government's commitment to creating a more inclusive economic landscape.

Recognizing the importance of gender equality in achieving sustainable development goals, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been actively involved in promoting women's empowerment. UNIDO, in collaboration with the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), has launched the UDAY-PRIDE (UNIDO-DHI-ACMA Yojana - Professionalism, Responsibility & Innovation in Driving Excellence) program, funded by the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Government of India, as a shining example of these efforts.

Under the leadership of Tomoyoshi Koume, Industrial Development Officer at UNIDO, Vienna HQ, UDAY-PRIDE aims to transform the automotive component industry by promoting gender equality. The program seeks to increase the participation of women as both employees and entrepreneurs in the sector, empowering them through skill enhancement, equal job opportunities, and increased access to resources.

UDAY-PRIDE also extends its impact to promote advanced technologies like Industry 4.0. The program's training initiatives and support have not only developed skills but also nurtured leadership qualities in women, directly contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 9.

An inspiring success story comes from "M/s. EXON Auto" in Chennai, where a female employee with a passion for welding was nurtured by the UDAY-PRIDE team. Through training and skill development, she transitioned from a helper to a skilled welder, showcasing the program's impact on women's professional growth.

Under the leadership of UDAY-PRIDE female counselors for the auto component cluster, companies have shown increased interest in women's empowerment. For example, in the Pantnagar cluster, where female participation is typically low, 30-40% of the workforce now comprises women. Companies report significant benefits, including increased productivity and discipline, resulting from hiring female employees.

Several companies within the UDAY-PRIDE project have taken commendable steps towards creating a women-friendly workplace. These initiatives include promoting healthy workplaces, introducing women-centric environments on shop floors, ensuring decent working conditions, and actively fostering women-centric enterprises. Additional measures, such as pickup and drop services, work from home options, and financial support during emergencies, reflect a holistic approach towards women's well-being.

The commitment to gender equality has not gone unnoticed. The UDAY-PRIDE project was honored with the prestigious Gender Equality Mobilization (GEM) Award 2023 during the twentieth session of the General Conference in Vienna on November 28, 2023. The award recognized UDAY-PRIDE's outstanding contribution to promoting gender equality and empowering women in the MSME sector.

As a testament to its success, UDAY-PRIDE has brought tangible and intangible benefits for organizations, including consistent quality, standard production, improved discipline, reduced absenteeism, better housekeeping, and an overall enhancement of work culture. Through UDAY-PRIDE, India's MSME sector is not just growing; it's evolving into a more equitable and empowering space for women.

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