Connecting with the ‘unreached’ population in India

Revathy Rugmini

We want to ensure disabled people can live as independent lives as they choose. Revathy Rugmini, our Regional Representative in South Asia, talks about some of our recent initiatives.

An Indian woman in a wheelchair sits at a computer desk

Improving access to resources

Job hunting can be a daunting process. And with an increased focus in digital technology – mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic – knowing where to search for jobs online can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve worked with the Digital Empowerment Foundation in India. Together we’ve launched a Virtual Livelihoods Resource Centre (VLRC). 

The new platform aims to offer people with disabilities a central hub to access information and potential prospects. This will eventually help lead to improved job opportunities. With the Digital Empowerment Foundation, we want to connect with the unreached population. Together, we are aiming to help reach 50,000 people in one year.

What a VLRC is?

The VLRC is accessible in many different ways. People can access it online or by phoning a toll-free number for support. They can also have conversations with the support team over WhatsApp. There are over 600 providers available for help and support on the VLRC. And it also has links with some recruitment sites.

This gives people with disabilities an opportunity to ask crucial questions. As well as access a range of information. The goal is to help them on a pathway towards waged employment or self-employment. Within a short span of three months, we have already reached out to 5,000 people with disabilities. This reflects two key things: there is a demand for these services, and these services need to be real-time. 

But the VLRC doesn’t just host information about job opportunities or skills workshops. It also holds lots of other valuable information to help disabled people live, learn and earn:

  • Relevant government information.
  • Employment and education schemes.
  • Information on social entitlements for disabled people.
  • Services for helping to find assistive technology devices, as well as technical maintenance and support.

We’re looking forward to seeing how people will make the most of the VLRC over the next year. 

Virtual stepping stones into employment

The VLRC wasn’t the only thing to go online last year. Covid-19 pandemic has created many challenges across the globe. And sadly, people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected. Many have lost their jobs and livelihoods. And access to employment remains a considerable challenge.

So, we had to think of a way to make sure we could still connect to them. And work together to overcome some of these obstacles. That’s why we took our Virtual Apprenticeship Fair in Gujarat, India, online. After all, virtual is the new normal! And technology has allowed us to stay connected while lockdowns have kept us firmly at home. 

Our virtual fair

The virtual fair took place in December on the one-year anniversary of the launch of Inclusion 100. Inclusion 100 was inspired by our flagship Change 100 programme in the UK. It aims to support over 1,000 people with disabilities in India to access apprenticeship opportunities. Internships and apprenticeships are a great way to connect people to the world of work. They can help people access jobs and also make way for progression in the company.

So, our three-day virtual event aimed to connect people with disabilities with potential employers. We collaborated with partners and government organisations in India. Organisations who specialise in skills development, employment and training. Together we created awareness, mobilised candidates and linked them with employers. 

During the event candidates shared their CVs, searched, applied and interviewed for apprenticeships. And this was all done directly on their phones, tablets or computers from the comfort of their homes! This was great not only for the 760 candidates but also for 56 potential employers! They were able to access a whole new pool of talent.

The virtual nature of the event was a new experience for candidates. Many gave feedback that they would attend more events like this. Mainly because online events mean location isn’t an obstacle! 

We are looking forward to continuing our work with our partners in India to create a world of work that is disability-inclusive.