Twenty-year-old Rukhaiya, travels for close to two hours to get to her place of work. She is among the few woman painters who works at a construction site in Chhatarpur in Delhi. A school drop-out, Rukhiaya, loved to paint. When she got to know about paint company AkzoNobel's initiative to train women as commercial painters, it instantly appealed to her. However, it wasn't too easy for her to convince her family as painting is a male-dominated profession and there are hardly any women who would take up this profession.
"My family was initially against it, but when the AkzoNobel contractor reached out to my father, he was convinced. Moreover, my father is the only earning member and we needed an additional source of income," she said. On completion of her 24-day training at AkzoNobel's paint academy six months ago, Rukhaiya joined a construction site in Chhatarpur as an assistant painter and has now been elevated to a supervisor. She earns anywhere between Rs 11,000-Rs 13,000 per month and is able to contribute to her family income.
AkzoNobel in the last two years has trained 200 women painters and the plan in the next one year is to train another 1,000 women. Rajiv Rajgopal, MD, AkzoNobel, says that though the company's agenda is to increase diversity and inclusion in the blue-collared workforce, it has been a challenge to convince not just the families of the women but also the paint contractors to rope in women into their workforce. "We had to counsel the male painters to be more sensitive. Also, a painter's job is equated with men. We had to convince our contractors to take care of the safety and hygiene needs of the women employees," said Rajgopal.
The contractors who got women into their workforce say that the entry of women has brought in discipline. Paint contractor, Chandrapal, says that six out of his 15-member workforce are women and the women painters are far more sincere and punctual. "Earlier the male painters always reported to work late, but ever since we have women, even the men are coming on time," said the contractor.
AkzoNobel is currently training women painters in Delhi and Kolkata, but it plans to roll out this initiative in the north-eastern states as well as in coastal Karnataka and Maharashtra. "These are markets where we have a considerable number of women dealers, therefore, we are also hoping to onboard a considerable number of women painters," explains Rajgopal.