Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

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India: Goa’s Women Professionals want more, and they want it now

This article is written by Sapna Shahani

Lillian D’Costa, 32, left the idyllic village of Saligao in North Goa where she had spent her childhood years, and moved to Bangalore, in neighbouring Karnataka five years ago. “I had reached a point where I wasn’t growing any more and realised I needed a change,” she recalls. “I’m sure that Goa offers a better quality of life than many other states, but that’s if you’re economically well-placed. If you’re young and need opportunities for growth, Goa does not work.”

Ashwina Souza, 23, left her family in the Southern Goan town of Vasco last year to pursue a Ph.D in Industrial Psychology in Mumbai. “My seniors told me that the faculty here in Goa was not as good as in Mumbai. Besides, in a place like Mumbai, there are so many industries and they need people like us. Among my circle of friends, many have left Goa – perhaps six or eight out of 10.”

Two voices of young women professionals from a state that has recorded the highest per capita income among all Indian states in a 2009-10, according to the central statistical office. However, a study by the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Labour and Employment also reveals that Goa has the highest unemployment rate in the country. What’s worse, according to another study conducted by Goa’s Ministry of Labour in 2009, only one-fourth of those employed in the state are women.

These figures imply that not only is Goa’s wealth not distributed equally across all sections of society, its working women are clearly marginal players in the state’s economy. Unless efforts are made to reverse this trend, Goa stands to lose young talent, with many youngsters like Lillian and Ashwina being forced to leave home for educational and employment opportunities in other states. Indeed, they are left with little choice, given the rising inflation and high cost of living in Goa.

Perhaps in response to the impending crisis, Goa recently became the first state in India to announce a dole for jobless youth. But such political gestures are merely symbolic. There still isn’t much public discussion about creating jobs for the state’s 80,000 people registered with the Employment Exchange. The Goa Chamber of Commerce carries a telling piece of information on its website: “Roughly about 15,000 graduates come out of Goan colleges every year. The government on its own will not be in a position to provide employment to these youth…”

There is widespread consensus in Goa that higher education in the state does not prepare graduates for real jobs. While the state has focused on primary education – ranking 11th among all Indian states in terms of performance – higher education appears to have stagnated. Public perception is that it is best to earn one’s degree or post-graduate qualification outside the state if one can afford to do so.

Says Aldina Gomes, a lecturer at Carmel College for Women in Nuvem, “As a professor, I’m a little against how academics is handled here. Everyone has to study humanities but they don’t really have a connection to the subject. They won’t pursue humanities as a career but will end up doing something completely different… There is a clear lack of vocational guidance for students as well as career opportunities. There should be many more entrance exams, job-specific courses and certificates that can get you jobs.”

Of course, women students are full of expectations. Take Zaheera Vaz, 20, who is about to start her Master’s degree course in Political Science at Goa University. She is keen to have extra-curricular activities that could help her develop her analytical skills. Nashoma De Jesus, 22, who is currently finishing her Master’s degree in International Studies at Goa University, would like more field experience. “The education system is too theoretical. We need more exposure while we’re studying. Internships should be mandatory,” she argues.

But this would require more investment in higher education, as Sabina Martins, a prominent women’s rights activist and school teacher with a Ph.D in chemistry, points out. “I did my research in carbon, which can be prepared from coconut shells. I thought since Goa has so many coconut shells and carbon is in high demand, being used for water purification and in so many other applications, it should be easy to make carbon this way. I went to see the only plant that does this in Goa and it was run by someone from outside the state. Planning here is devoid of research,” she says.

Those who don’t leave the state and are lucky enough to find jobs after they graduate, get measly salaries, sometimes as low as Rs 4,000 (US41=Rs 44) a month. Aglin Barretto, 23, has a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and works in two schools as a counsellor. Her salary? Just Rs 5,000 per month.

Both opportunities and salaries are lower in Goa than elsewhere and that is a source of angst for young women like Skitter Faia, 32, who works in a PR firm in state capital Panaji. “I hear a lot of people talking about job security and I think that means a government job where you can work or not work and still take a salary home,” observes Skitter. Others feel that appreciation and promotions don’t easily come the way of women employees. Clara Rodrigues, 24, a journalist based in Saligao, rues the fact that the glass ceiling obstructs many ambitions women may harbour, “We need opportunities to grow vertically in the organisation.”

But this does not mean that women have stopped dreaming of personal growth and freedom. Interestingly, one of the reasons why many young women here prefer to migrate out of the state is to free themselves from the diktat of conservative families and the norms that mark rural life. D’Costa says, “As a single woman living outside the state, you don’t have to rush home. Or face judgmental people in the village who are always assessing you. Or hear that your phone isn’t accessible. These are constraints I experience every time I return to Goa.”

Despite the stereotypes fostered by the coastal tourist belt, life in Goa’s hinterland is fairly restrictive for young women and the general outlook is narrow. Ashwina shares a personal anecdote, “Once in college, a teacher asked us why we wanted to go to college. Students gave all sorts of answers. Some argued that it was their ticket to leave home; others said it was their certificate for marriage; still others just wanted to ‘pass time’, while a few talked of how it was the best way to make friends. Only three of us – out of a class of 60 – said they were in college to pursue a career.”

She and others like her want the state to be more pro-active about broadening professional vistas. Not only would this bring economic benefits to the state, it would mean more women in the workplace, they argue. For instance, they point out, that Goa – with its educated population – is eminently suited to emerge as an IT hub, yet little is being done to achieve this.

Says D’Costa, “The government wants to invite only ‘clean’ industries to the state. With its good roads, broadband connectively and relatively cheaper land, it could easily attract the IT industry. IT companies are moving out of Bangalore to places like Chennai and Vellore, but why aren’t they coming to Goa? Bangalore was once known as a retiree’s city, but now it has reinvented itself as a world city. Why can’t Goa make the same transition?”

If Goa has to keep pace with the hopes and expectations of women like D’Costa, it would need to do much more to expand employment opportunities for young professionals.

Published in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, 30th April 2011

My Dear Village, Bangalore

Bangalore may be projected as a hi-tech cosmopolitan IT city, but somewhere in the convoluted crevices of its being, it still continues to remain, unplanned, organic and yes, unprofessional as the many villages or halli’s that surround it.

For example, who of us, who live in Bangalore have not found ourselves driving up a street only to find it blocked at the end by a large tent. Some festival, marriage, house warming party, or Lions club blood donation drive and the entire road is summarily barricaded. What? You wonder, did these guys actually apply for permission to do this? Do you actually get permission in this city to block a public road for personal use?

Another common sight is when a building is being constructed by the roadside. Expect the road to be half occupied by rubble, sand, bricks and debris, and I’m not talking about some tiny lane in the no-where of town, but places right in the heart of town, broad roads that see large amount of traffic. The construction material causes traffic jams for months together and no one does a thing. Again, from where does the builder get permission to occupy the road?

Come festival time and god help your ears. Recently in my neighbourhood, huge amplifiers and speakers began to blare music from 4 in the morning till well past 12 at night. The weekend is time when I unwind and relax, but this weekend it was not to be, rather, by mid day I was irritable with the constantly loud noise. Again, can you get permission to do play loud music like this and disturb the entire neighbourhood for such long hours?


Another thing I’ve come to notice and many would agree, if you see a newly asphalted road, a newly constructed drainage, a new footpath… keep watching… it has to be, and I mean it has to be … damaged for some reason within a month. After construction, someone will realize that a water pipe needs to be laid, a drain has clogged, a tree needs to be trimmed, or the quality of the work is so bad it gets washed away in the first rain. And so, you never see things properly maintained for long in the city. The city’s signature is broken, rundown, decrepit,  loud, noisy and I find this strange, because most people in Bangalore, no matter what your position, are under tremendous work pressure and tense, and need to unwind, need a quiet place, need to have at least a small section of their lives stress free, but that never happens. This city of Bangalore, and it would probably be unfair if I said only Bangalore, for it seems to be the hallmark of many other city, sometimes seems to me like a runaway train, or an elephant run amok. Little sign of planning, little or no sign of processes, no professionalism, piecemeal, ad-hocism, impulse action, little or no collective thought, and this brings to the fore, the strange paradox of what we do professionally and how we live.

The thousands of IT companies spread across this city are probably engaged in millions of projects to develop applications, software’s, tools to put in place processes, streamline processes, reduce human intervention and automate processes, so that things are faster, smoother, efficient, planned, structured and yet, when we step out of our offices we see none of the fruits of our work. We, IT professionals do all these projects, offer all these solutions to customers cross the world, but back home, our government is not equipped enough to see the intelligence in implementing any of these solutions for the betterment of our lives, they lack the foresight and the ‘education’ and for me this is a paradox I am still trying to reconcile myself to.

Sometimes I wonder if anything at all can be done about this situation, cause, at some point it stops at a ‘education’ and ‘foresight’ and gets into this highly debatable and arguable domain of ‘culture’. Are we adequately ‘cultured’ and ‘developed’ enough to understand how technology can be leverage to catapult the city to the next level? To engage in planned urbanization that is less stressful. Sometimes I think the gaps, in every sense, are so wide and dark that it may take many many years.

I know this is a highly controversial topic and would love to have feedback from those reading this post.

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