Since Nari Ekta’s original establishment, it has changed immensely. It has won National Training Award in 2002 and achieved matrix standard in 2009 (which was renewed in 2012 and 3rd time now in 2016) for providing Information Advice and Guidance (IAG). Initially Nari Ekta was running Business start-up courses for Asian women over the age of 25. The courses were conducted for 10 hours per week for six months in a year from April to October.
A survey was carried out to ascertain the effectiveness of the scheme by liaison and visiting Asian community groups to find out the type of courses needed. It was found that there were also Asian women under the age of 25 who under achieved in their academic schooling due to cultural and language barriers, and needed vocational courses with intensive language support and qualifications, to be able to move into jobs or be able to proceed to higher qualifications or to run their own businesses. It was then felt that the scheme should cater for not only the over 25s but under 25s as well.
To implement the above envisaged changes, in 1989 an attempt was made to deliver London Chamber of Commerce and Industry; NVQ level I course in Business Administration in conjunction with Park Lane College, providing additional motivation and guidance, and language support by the Co-ordinator. For the first time trainees were aiming for a qualification. The course was so successful that the Management Committee decided to repeat the course full time for one year and coincide with the College academic year.
Since 1990 Nari Ekta’s course has been held at Leeds City College (previously in Technology Campus) Additional staff were recruited in 1990, namely, a Language Support Worker, two Childcare Workers for the Crèche and an Administrative Assistant to implement the scheme objectives for 1990 onwards. Trainees also started to receive attendance and travel allowance of £50 a week and were able to achieve up to 8-15 qualifications in one year depending upon individual potential of achievement.
Since December 2007 Nari Ekta has lost ESF funding support as it is managed by Learning Skills Council and we do not fit in with their system as we are a small organisation. LCC and college recognised our contribution for the community and with their joint support we are still running our services, but we had to withdraw some of the support such as attendance allowance, childcare due to limited funds to provide after school care.
In 2012 Nari Ekta went through services review by Leeds City Council to make sure that it is value for money. An output based funding model was suggested. We were given a pilot programme to try different approaches to promote, publicise and deliver our services to a wider range of clients and also change the pattern and duration of courses from a full year to 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, etc. Funding for the financial year 2012/13 and 2013/14 was based on this model after the successful work of pilot programme. Leeds City Council values the services provided by Nari Ekta to multi disadvantaged Ethnic Minority women, however the funding was reduced from April 2012 due to the required funding cuts within the council. LCC stopped funding the employment and skills programme in March 2015 due to further funding cuts within the council.
As a result of our training many Asian women have entered into professions where they have been under-represented, i.e. Administrator, Computer Operator, Co-ordinator, Language Support Worker, Teacher, Development Worker, Research Development Officer, Patient’s Advocate, Welfare Officer, Finance Officer etc. Some women have continued with further education specialising in their chosen field, i.e. Business Studies, Computer Programming, Finance and Teaching etc. Nari Ekta is therefore promoting and improving the employment of Asian women in Leeds.
Nari Ekta is a first gateway for Ethnic Minority women offering them opportunities which leads women away from the path of ignorance and degeneration, and up the road of self-development and total satisfaction. Nari Ekta’s success is based on achieving our goals by working together as a team, therefore producing excellent results and employment success for Ethnic Minority women.
Nari Ekta being some 26 years old has changed with the requirements of women and the labour market needs. But the prime object has not changes ‘to empower women to become independent economic players in the labour market and bring dignity to themselves. Hence the name ‘Nari Ekta’ may be of Indian origin (and may suggest a bias) however the project does not discriminate among other culture women who may approach us for training, advice, guidance, IAG or other services which we provide including signposting to other agencies for help.