Prosus, the global consumer internet group of Naspers, on Monday announced the launch of a new higher education and employment initiative for marginalised women and girls in India in partnership with UN Women.

The Prosus FLIGHT initiative aims to support 750 women and girls earn a formal degree or certification, as well as help them attain employable skills that would allow them to participate in India’s digital economy.

“Fundamental to the initiative is the identification and enrolment of women and girls who have completed middle, high school or senior secondary education, and would otherwise not have the opportunity and/ or family support to continue their studies,” Prosus said in an official release.

The initiative will include gender awareness and sensitisation workshops for approximately 5,000 households in the designated communities. It will also include conducting research on attitudes to female education and employment.

“Education is key to achieving equality for women across the world. I am pleased to be able to announce this initiative in collaboration with UN Women on International Women’s Day 2021, and to help talented Indian women pursue their educational dreams and career paths that will contribute to India’s future,” said Aileen O’Toole, Chief People Officer, Prosus.

Susan Jane Ferguson, Representative, UN Women India, said, "Societies and communities cannot make strides unless young women have access to quality education. It is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. Investing in young women’s economic empowerment and skills development is one of the most urgent and effective means to drive progress on gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth.”

The programme will focus on young women between the ages of 17 and 25 in Maharashtra.

It has identified five districts for the intuitive, namely, Greater Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad.

“By concentrating efforts and interventions, the initiative aims to create a network of young women graduates who will be role models, as well as create supportive local communities, thereby, increasing support and reducing drop-out rates,” it said.

As part of the initiative, it will provide annual scholarships to women to pursue higher education in various institutions, including government colleges /ITIs/ polytechnics.

Financial support for three years will be provided in line with UN Women’s guidance, with the student contributing partially.

Career guidance and counselling along with access to community support and champions to help build career paths will also be provided.

The initiative will also enable access to job fairs, internship opportunities and exposure visits to private companies for young women, along with dedicated sessions by experts and corporate mentors.

It will also provide professional, soft and life skills training, beneficial for all career streams. It will also enable access to placement opportunities, support for entrepreneurship or self-employment for women.

The research phase of the three-year partnership has commenced. Updates will be published on the UN Women and Prosus websites in due course.