Editor of IndianBureaucracy in conversation with Ms Jahnabi Phookan, National President, FICCI FLO

Jahnabi Phookan_National President_FICCI FLO
Jahnabi Phookan_National President_FICCI FLO

Which all initiatives have been taken up by FLO for the eradication of Gender-based Violence in India?

A: Gender based violence is one of the grave issues that India still faces. Somehow, even with education and increasing literacy, this social evil hasn’t been eradicated. Violence against women is as prevalent in the educated and elite as amongst the poor and deprived. In the past year India has witnessed a 7 % increase in crime against women over a figure of 4.05 lakh cases in 2019.

In our attempt to fight and eliminate this social evil FICCI FLO organized the ‘One Million Rising’ campaign in lines with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence against Women, an international campaign launched by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at its first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991.

The campaign was aimed at influencing policy changes to support abuse survivors through legal protection, ensuring their wellbeing through mental health intervention and their rehabilitation through social security measures, while simultaneously generating public awareness and support.

Through activities such as open mike events, door-to-door campaigns, street plays, auto mike, gender audits, and community advocacy meetings, we were able to reach out to around 1 million people in various parts of the country and sensitize them about gender-based violence.

We also organized a social media campaign under the aegis of #POWERFLO. #POWERFLO is a voice in unison against gender-based violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex or gender identity.

What has been FLO’s take on generating awareness regarding Cybercrimes committed against women?

A: It’s unsettling to see that over 80% of women in India with internet accessibility have been victims of cybercrimes and most of these crimes are not even reported. It has been observed that victims of such incidents develop severe depression and anxiety leading to suicides in extreme cases.

FLO has started a number of initiatives to create awareness against cybercrimes. Recently under the aegis of FLO’s One Million against Gender-Based Violence, we organised Teach Them Young; a 2-Day Interactive Online Workshop on Cyber bullying and Internet Safety exclusively for teachers across FLO’s 17 chapters pan India. We reached out to more than 400 teachers through this program helping create a ripple effect by educating thousands of students across India on cyber security.

Ms. Sunitha Krishnan, social activist and recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri Award as part of our Eminent Women Series, also shared her insights over increased incidents of cyber trafficking and other crimes committed against women online.

Skilling & re-skilling of women can be a key to India’s economic revival, what has been FLO’s contribution towards skilling & re-skilling of women in India?

A: FLO Skilling & Livelihood Generation Initiative and FLO Incubation Cell & FLO Mentorship Cell are working for rural India and migrant women.

Under our Skilling & Livelihood Generation Initiative, FLO has collaborated with Hey Deedee and Hamara Bachpan Trust (HBT) to provide skill training to women and facilitate their employability, thereby making them self-reliant and financially empowered.

For women entrepreneurs, FLO’s Incubation Cell & Mentorship Cell helps foster an entrepreneurial culture by providing an array of targeted resources and services to transform their business ideas into reality.

In the tourism sector, FLO together with TAAI (Travel Agents Association of India) signed a MoU with the Ministry of Tourism to skill and up-skill women and help them in connecting with relevant stakeholders to enhance their livelihood opportunities. Annual Interstate Meet “VagyoRe Dhol” was another initiative that FLO undertook in support of the Tourism Ministry’s initiative, “Dekho Apna Desh”.

Another such initiative includes the signing of MoU between FLO and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) for empowering women through skill-based training. We are also working in collaboration with the Ministry of Petroleum to skill and up-skill migrant women workers suffering due to the pandemic and economic fallout in urban areas.

Being an Economic Forum dedicated to women empowerment, how has FLO worked towards providing Indian Women Entrepreneurs with global exposure?

A: Through our W7 (Women of 7 Global Regions) initiative we aim to fabricate a worldwide forum to foster the exchange of information, experience, visibility and connectivity between women business owners. This would help in setting up a stage for new opportunities, joint ventures with business leaders and women entrepreneurs.

As of now, we have been able to organize sessions with women entrepreneurs and ambassadors from Myanmar, Netherlands, Vietnam, Chile and Ireland.

Can you shed some light on FLO’s initiatives meant to cater to the needs of India’s youth?

A:  To address the education and employability aspect of our country’s youth FLO started Adopt Industrial Training Institute (AITI) Initiative. The objective is to focus on facilitating and improving the quality of vocational education by these institutions and making it more demand-driven to ensure better employability and job opportunities.

FLO and IIM Shillong joined forces and conducted various workshops, aiming to provide students with quality exposure and help them in developing goods and services which will be profitable for both, the people and the planet.

How does FLO help the various social enterprises working towards women empowerment? 

 A: FLO has partnered with Women on Wings to identify and support those social enterprises which are primarily working with women in sectors such as agriculture and food processing, eco-tourism, textiles and handicrafts, waste management and related upstream activities, and NTFP. Through this, we aim to increase livelihood opportunities and growth of women artisans engaged with the selected organizations by providing business knowledge and mentoring, thereby unlocking the growth potential of social enterprises that create employability for women in rural India.

We also collaborated with Creative Dignity through which we were able to support distressed artisans across the country by helping them reach out to customers digitally & hence giving them access to new markets and livelihood opportunities. We were able to help them connect with premier e-commerce sites – GoCoop, Freedom Tree, Jaypore, Okhai, Itokri, Zwende, and Tata CLiQ enabling craft enthusiasts to purchase from these artisans directly.

What steps have been taken on behalf of FLO for the development of Women in Rural India?

A: Keeping in mind the significant impact women at the grassroots level can have on our economy, FLO runs a program “Adopt a Village” through which we aim to facilitate growth and transformation in the lives of underprivileged women living in the rural parts of the country. The objective of this program is to empower women in rural India, thereby eradicating poverty and unemployment.

FLO Ahmedabad Chapter under the leadership of their chairperson, Ms. Taruna Patel has adopted seven villages in Kheda District with an intention to create a sustainable impact on the women and children of those villages.

“FLO FLAIR”- an exhibition for the local artisans and craftsmen to showcase their art and culture was organized during this year’s Annual Interstate Meet “Vagyo re Dhol” in Gujarat. I believe these initiatives though may seem small, have an enormous impact on the lives of women in rural India.

Can you tell us a little bit about how your journey as the president of FICCI FLO has been & about some of your future plans?

A: It was an honour to be appointed as the 37th, National President of the FICCI Ladies Organisation. This has been even more momentous for me as I am the first President of FLO from the Northeast region. I already had big shoes to fill into because of the path-breaking work done by the previous presidents and the pandemic only made it more challenging. However, with the support of the Governing Body and enthusiastic FLO members, we were able to create opportunities through the challenges which helped us to change the lives of women and empower them in a meaningful ways.

We as ‘OneFLO’ worked diligently to uphold the legacy brought forth by our past Presidents throughout this illustrious journey of FLO which begun in 1983. We decided to continue working towards women empowerment by organizing a number of conclaves and connect working women across all sectors to strengthen them economically.

FLO plans to collaborate with different ministries and NGOs for skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling women in rural areas to rise up to the demands of changing times and society as a whole.

I will continue working towards economic development of women artisans and migrant workers in the Northeast and keep contributing to the best of my capacity.

Jahnabi Phookan is the National President of FICCI LadiesOrganization (FLO), women’s wing of the apex Jahnabi Phookanindustry body, Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). Representing over 8000 women entrepreneurs and professionals, FLO works aggressively towards promoting economic empowerment and equal opportunities for women.  As President of FLO, Jahnabi leads the organisation, in its focus towards establishing new growth avenues of empowering women with entrepreneurship capabilities and professional excellence that will enable them to take up new challenges and avail new opportunities in the digital age.
Jahnabi is an entrepreneur, a co-founder of two National Tourism Award-winning companies: Jungle Travels India and Assam Bengal Navigation Company under JTI Group. Her companies are encompassed in travel & hospitality – boutique river cruising, small group specialised tours, tea and textiles – all of which empower young people’s livelihoods, especially women and their communities.

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