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Making education more gender inclusive in Meghalaya, India
By Shamit Chakravarti
The $100 million “Supporting Human Capital
Development in Meghalaya” project is ADB’s first
intervention in India in the area of education and skill
development. The project, approved in 2013, is helping
to enhance the employability of Meghalaya’s youth by
improving the quality, access, and delivery of its
secondary education (grades 9 to 12), and technical and
vocational education training (TVET) programs.
Given the majority (86%) tribal population of Meghalaya, its unique ethnic and socio-
economic characteristics, and the structural constraints faced by the state (see box), gender
and social inclusion concerns have been weaved into all aspects of project design and
implementation. The project design recognizes that even though indicators such as female
literacy, enrolment, and sex ratio are sound, and Meghalaya’s tribes are matrilineal, in reality,
females face several significant barriers. For example, there is very low representation of
women in the village/tribal councils, and in other bodies such as school management
committees (SMCs), contributing to women’s lack of voice and influence over decision making
in matters affecting them. Problems such as a lack of proper toilets in most schools, poor
transport connectivity, a narrow economic base, outdated TVET programs not aligned to the
market, a lack of awareness about possible career options, and the reluctance and inability of
“tribals” to migrate out of the state for jobs, pose additional constraints for Meghalaya’s
To respond to these persistent gender inequities, a series of meaningful consultations
were undertaken during project design with all stakeholders including representatives of
different tribal groups, women's groups, SMCs, students, skills providers, and government
officials to incorporate their feedback. An NGO comprising local Meghalaya youth (a mix of
Garos, Khasis, and Jaintias groups) was engaged to undertake focus group discussions and
surveys across all the districts of Meghalaya. The overall work was supervised by an
experienced anthropologist. The feedback received informed the design of the project, in
particular, the Gender Action Plan, the Indigenous People’s Plan, the Communication Strategy,
and the Consultation & Participation Plan. Gender and social inclusion concerns will be
addressed as follows:
Social Sector Economist, ADB.
Secondary Education: The infrastructure of
more than 100 government aided schools,
where the majority of the poor study, will be
upgraded to national standards to improve the
learning environment, improve access for the
physically challenged, and ensure seismic and
other safety standards. Additional rooms and
facilities (including separate toilets for girls and
boys, laboratories, clean drinking water, better
furniture, and display boards) will be provided.
Water harvesting structures will ensure that the
toilets are clean. Rooms will be built to
accommodate grades 11 and 12 where required to increase enrollment at the higher
secondary level. Electronic tablets with built-in solar panels and pre-loaded good quality
gender sensitive teaching and career counseling modules will be provided for the benefit of
poor girls and boys who reside in remote parts of Meghalaya, where power supply is erratic.
Six basic training centers will be upgraded to national standards to increase Meghalaya’s
capacity to train primary and secondary school teachers. Around 3,500 secondary school
teachers will be trained. The education component will benefit around 20,000 students in
total (40% females).
Skill Development: The project will help the Meghalaya State Skill Development Society
(MSSDS) in catalyzing Public Private Partnerships in skills training to meet the needs of
different segments including rural and urban youth, girls and boys, drop-outs (at various
levels) and school graduates, and those seeking employment within and beyond Meghalaya.
Particular attention will be given to trades such as retail, healthcare, hospitality
management, and business process outsourcing that will be relevant for girls and their entry
into the labor market. The project will also revitalize public training institutions such as the
industrial training institutes by training their trainers, improving course material, and
upgrading training equipment. Nearly 60,000 youth (40% women) will be provided market-
relevant skills training over the project period. Skills-gap analyses and tracer studies that are
sensitive to gender equality and social inclusion issues will be conducted to ensure that
vocational training leads to desirable results, ideally, placement in the case of wage
employment and enhanced remuneration in the case of self-employment.
Awareness building and mobilization: An NGO has been engaged to develop campaign
material to enhance awareness about the opportunities provided by vocational training,
focusing on the needs and aspirations of both females and males, while mobilizing them for
skills training, and supporting livelihood development programs. It will also prepare
brochures and pamphlets in the local Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia languages in addition to
English and Hindi.
Project Management: Social development (gender) and social safeguards (indigenous
people) consultants form part of the capacity building and the project management
consulting firms that are helping the Government of Meghalaya and ADB in implementing
this project. The overall project director (an officer of the Indian Administrative Service) is
the focal point for all issues related to project-related grievances if any.
Capacity building: A $2 million technical assistance financed from the Japan Fund for
Poverty Reduction is building the capacity of the relevant government departments (e.g.,
Education, Labor, Planning, Finance, and Rural Development), and providing the required
training to implement the gender action plan, indigenous people’s plan, and ensure
sustainability of the reforms being pursued under this project.
The project has been designed to ensure convergence with and reinforce the
Government of Meghalaya’s efforts to enhance livelihoods through its flagship Integrated Basin
Development and Livelihood Program. Given its strong pro-poor and gender focus, the project
will help the Government of Meghalaya in creating a virtuous cycle of inclusive growth in the
Box: Meghalaya—Socio-Economic Context
Nestled within the Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia hill ranges in the north-eastern region of India, Meghalaya, meaning
the “abode of clouds”, is a small state with a population of around 2.9 million. Meghalaya is a predominantly
tribal state with the various tribal groups listed in India’s Constitution Scheduled Tribe Order, 1950, accounting
for 86% of the population.
Meghalaya has one of the oldest surviving matrilineal cultures in the world. The Garos and Khasis follow a
matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The youngest daughter inherits all
the property and she is the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings. The male line, particularly the
mother's brother, may indirectly control ancestral property, since he may be involved in important decisions
relating to property, including its sale and disposal.
Though Meghalaya has rich mineral reserves such as coal, limestone, and uranium, forest cover of more than
70%, and abundant rainfall, its economy has lagged behind owing to its remote location, hilly terrain, and poor
infrastructure. In 2012, 56.5% of Meghalaya’s workforce was in agriculture, 31.6% in services, and only 11.8% in
the secondary sector. About 65.4% of the workforce was self-employed, 16.6% were casual laborers, and only
17.9% was employed in the formal sector (regular salaried jobs).
Even though overall literacy is around 74% with a narrow gender gap, (females: 72.9%, males: 75.9%),
Meghalaya’s youth – both females and males, find it difficult to compete for formal jobs, especially outside the
state, because of the poor quality of the state’s secondary and higher secondary (SHS) education, and the
ineffective technical and vocational education training programs. The low employability of the youth compounds
the structural constraints posed by Meghalaya’s remote location, hilly terrain, and poor connectivity, and traps
the state in a vicious cycle of poverty and backwardness.
The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian
Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy
of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this
paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's