Project GATI : Flight to an empowering future

Project GATI : Flight to an empowering future

Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutes or GATI Pilot Programme is conceptualized, supported, and implemented by Women In Science & Engineering (WISE)- KIRAN Programme Division, Department of Science & Technology (DST), for advancing Gender Equity in the scientific institutions of higher education and research. It aims to nudge Scientific institutions towards gender equality through voluntary, reflective, responsive, and participative affirmative action.

Launched by the Hon'ble President of India Ram Nath Kovind on National Science day 28 February 2020, a total of 30 central institutions have been selected for this prestigious program. All the chosen institutions are grouped under 6 Athena Swan Institutions.NIT Rourkela has been grouped under the University of West Scotland.

Recently NIT Rourkela conducted its inaugural ceremony for Project GATI. Chief Guest Ms Sagarika Nath (SP- Sundargarh) and Speaker Mrs Anindita Mahapatra (DGM, Rourkela Stell Plant)  enlightened about Project GATI's aim and shared their inspirational experiences, which boosted positive spirits amongst the attendees.

Team MM interacted with the GATI Self-Assessment Team (GSAT), NIT Rourkela - Prof. Dipta Patra(HOD Electrical), and Prof. Manish Okade.

Monday Morning (MM): Can you brief us about the evaluation process for shortlisting the institutes for the GATI project?

Prof. Manish Okade (MO): In December 2020, the institute received an email from the Department of Science and Technology requesting information on the institute's gender diversity in a tabular format, which included the number of female faculty members on the teaching staff, as well as the distribution of girls among PhD, PG, and UG students. Prof Animesh Biswas was the institute's director at the time, and he relayed the information to me.

At first, we had no idea how many institutes the Indian government had asked to participate in this initiative. The only thing we knew was that the government had asked for specific information, and we had to provide it. As a result, by the beginning of January 2021, all of the data had been collected and given to the Science and Technology Department. Then, four months later, we learned that 180+ institutes throughout India had applied, with just 30 being chosen for the GATI pilot project, including NIT Rourkela.

I believe that the diversity of our institute contributes significantly to NIT Rourkela's standing among other institutes. There are around 7000+ students, 360+ teaching members, and 140+ staff employees on campus. In addition, geography has an important part in this. The project cannot be clustered in a specific location since the Department of Science and Technology cannot do so. So, aside from IIT Kharagpur, NIT Rourkela is the most prestigious institute in eastern India. In terms of faculty, staff, and students, our institute has roughly 25 to 30 percent women. Perhaps they needed an extensive database for the first round of policy implementation studies.

MM: What is the Plan of Action for the advancement of Project GATI in NIT Rourkela? What activities have been done till now for the same?

Prof Dipti Patra (DP): Prof. Manish Okade has been appointed as the Project Investigator, and Prof. Nihar Ranjan Mishra and I are the Co-Project Investigators. We've also formed a 13-member GATI self-assessment team, which I am currently leading. This committee also has undergraduate students as well as a few female PhD scholars as members.

The government has provided us with some funds, and we have to utilize that in the given timestamp. We have to continuously update our data regarding gender advancement and gender diversity to the institute.

The first step is to hire a project assistant who will assist us in collecting and aggregating data from multiple departments.

The whole team involved in this project pursued a lot of short-term courses and attended webinars. We are attending various webinars conducted under the British Council, as a part of our training.

Because this program primarily caters to female attendees, female faculties and professionals have been invited to lead various seminars and webinars. We got many applications from the faculties and will pick a few members to give the webinars. We intend to invite DST (Department of Science and Technology) personnel to these webinars. These initiatives will help us to establish our institute's name at the DST level.

We are also planning many other activities like interacting with other institutes in the same group, as NIT Rourkela.

After that, we plan for some more significant aspects since the students are still not on campus, and student activities have not been started until now, so we are considering it in our next step. We plan to organize some webinars on topics based on students' interests.By the end of January, we have to develop fresh ideas to increase student engagement in this initiative.

MM: What is the estimated expenditure for Project GATI, and how much of that amount has been approved for NIT Rourkela by the government?

MO: The Indian government will provide funds to our institute in the amount of Rs. 8,00,000.By now, two lakhs have been transferred to the institute, and this project will run for 18 months, beginning from August 2021. In terms of costs, we plan to recruit a project assistant for this project, whose monthly salary will be Rs. 22,000, which will roughly cost us 4 lakh rupees in 18 months. The assistant will help us in gathering the necessary data. Apart from that, two lakhs have been allocated for conducting seminars and webinars. Then, 1 lakh rupees was granted to cover the cost of meals, printers, and other things. In addition, the institute would be paid in the range of 30 to 40 thousand rupees for its work on this project.

MM: All the selected institutions for the GATI pilot project are grouped under 6 Athena Swan institutions. NIT Rourkela has been grouped with the University of West Scotland. What are the proceedings of this grouping?

MO: The Athena SWAN (gender advancement program) was successfully implemented in the United Kingdom by the British Council. In 2017, exploratory research of women's and men's perspectives of Athena SWAN was favourable, highlighting the importance of government financing tied to Athena SWAN awards; however, it also underlined the process's limits in changing long-standing, entrenched societal challenges. As a result, the Department of Science and Technology has allocated mentors from the British Council to these 30 institutes around the United Kingdom. They organized the institutes into six groupings, each with five institutes. Every group has one mentor from the United Kingdom, and the University of West Scotland mentors NIT Rourkela. As a result, they're sharing their knowledge with us via webinars on the best practices they've used in the UK to increase gender parity.

MM: Is the institute likely to collaborate with other governmental institutions or with the institutes present with NIT Rourkela in the same group?

DP: We have already been added to a group formed by the University of West Scotland. Along with NIT Rourkela, DRDO's Defence Bioengineering & Electromedical Lab, BITS Pilani, Banaras Hindu University(BHU) are also in the same group. In the future, we might plan to collaborate with these institutes only. As this project is in its nascent stage, we haven't decided upon this yet.

MM: As the project primarily aims to encourage women in the field of Science and Technology, what changes, according to you, are likely to happen in NIT Rourkela in context to this Project GATI.

DP: Prof Suchismita Chinara and I have discussed conducting a webinar on stress management for women at the workplace. When Ms Sagarika Nath ma'am shared her thoughts on women's upliftment in the inaugural ceremony, everybody felt motivated and appreciated that.

 I feel that rather than conducting technical programs we always do, we should work on general topics like work-life balance or the benefits of yoga to keep everyone actuated and encouraged. The salient thing to gain success is always to keep your spirits high.These webinars are not directly related to science and technology; if the women feel invigorated and vitalized, everything will eventually grow and bring out the required change.

MM: What contributions can the students make for the successful implementation of Project GATI?

MO: The students should be proactive and keep in regular touch with us. Once everyone is called back to the campus, we will try to conduct meetings with the students. If offline mode is not possible over a couple of months, we will try to conduct meetings online. We will also try to share the faculty members' webinars; you can join if you find any concerned topic.

For the proper execution of this project, collective efforts of everyone, whether it be government, administration, or students, are required.There are many things which can be improved in terms of facilities provided mainly to the female students; we will try to sort them out. You can always raise your problems to us. We will try our best to make you all a part of Project GATI over the next 18 months.

Team Monday Morning wishes great success to Project GATI, and we will be glad to see the change it aims to bring to NIT Rourkela.

Designs by - Alok Kumar Gouda

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