In a major initiative to accelerate women entrepreneurship and secure gender parity, Kerala will set up India's first International Women’s Trade Centre (iWTC), in consonance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Kozhikode.
A key project of the state’s Gender Park under the Department of Social Justice, it is envisaged as a safe space away from home for women to harness their entrepreneurial capabilities, set up or expand their businesses and get their products marketed globally.
The first phase of iWTC, being executed under the Gender Park’s “Vision 2020”, is scheduled to be completed by 2021.
"It is significant that the Gender Park has unveiled iWTC project at a time when more and more women are foraying into entrepreneurship and exploring other self-employment options in Kerala," said Minister for Health and Social Justice Smt. K K Shailaja.
"This forward-looking venture will fulfill the need for providing a platform to help women break the glass ceiling by overcoming social barriers in their way and forge ahead as successful entrepreneurs," she added.
Gender Park CEO Dr P T Mohammed Sunish noted that the overall scheme of iWTC would be that of a world class shopping destination, encompassing within its ambit a string of outlets catering to the needs of women entrepreneurs.
"The facility will have women's start-up and incubation centre, retail fashion and technology outlets, health & wellness centers, business centres and offices, conference/convention/exhibition spaces, performing arts centre, residential suites and day care for seniors and children," he said, adding: "We are seeking financial support for the project from relevant institutions."
Besides serving as a facilitator to launch their own ventures, iWTC will enable women entrepreneurs to come forward and participate in international trade, enjoy greater economic benefits and enhance their competitiveness to tap market opportunities.
Its special emphasis will be on hand-holding and bringing economically backward women, marginalized groups, women with disabilities and transgenders to the forefront by helping to harness and nurture their entrepreneurial capabilities.
While creating a safe and sustainable environment for the growth of industry, business, trade and lifestyle, iWTC will also have a dedicated space for cultural expressions of women to promote and showcase performing arts and cultural forms like dance, music and theater.
"This is a fine concept that looks upfront," said eminent choreographer and activist Mallika Sarabhai, who is an advisor to the Gender Park, an autonomous body under the Social Justice Department.
"This will not only help women to develop and expand their ventures and build relationships, but also be a platform for their creative expression," said the danseuse, who was on a visit to Kerala recently, in connection with the launch of some of the Gender Park's schemes.
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda, which includes 17 SDGs to transform the world, building on the principle of "leaving no one behind." It is a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.
The iWTC is conceived in line with the aims of SDGs like efforts to end poverty in all its forms, provide good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality and women's empowerment, innovation and infrastructure and reduced inequality.
The first-of-its-kind facility in India where women's ventures and startups can be incubated in a high-tech space, it will offer fully automated private and shared office spaces, virtual work spaces, common secretarial services, state-of-the-art communication facilities, and business guidance centers for setting up trade or business.
A business hub that will bring together entrepreneurs, small business owners, industry leaders, mentors, experts and investors on a single platform, iWTC will involve local women entrepreneurs and tradeswomen and connect them to world markets using the latest technology to build or expand their businesses.
A salient feature of iWTC will be crèches/day care centers for kids and adult/senior community centers for the elderly so that women can focus on their jobs without worrying about their children and aged parents. Transportation will be available for women who work late and long and short stay accommodation for those who wish to stay back and finish their work.
Adhering to green protocol, iWTC will be housed in an environment-friendly and resource- efficient building. In its piloting year, it will help flood-affected women and provide them with opportunities for livelihood and entrepreneurship.