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54,000+ people improved their access to livelihoods opportunities, education and public services through VSO’s work in India in 2015/16

Securing decent livelihoods

Blind woman farmer with potatoes supported by VSO in India ©VSO/John Spaull

Lila Devi was blinded by childhood measles. She and her husband were trained by VSO to increase their yield and income from growing potatoes. ©VSO/John Spaull

About two thirds of India’s population – 825 million people – depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Rising food insecurity is caused by environmental degradation, pressure on land, and droughts and floods, which are becoming more common.

Only 30% of women are in the labour force. They receive just 62% of the average salary for a man. Finding a decent job is also a challenge for India’s large and growing youth population.

We offer skills training and innovations that support women, youth and people with disabilities to improve their access to a stable source of food and income, in two main ways: boosting the productivity of agriculture so people can grow more food without needing more land, and helping them adopt new and more sustainable ways of making a living.

Recent results:

  • 3,000 slum-dwelling women gained employment through a skills training project with our corporate partners Bharti Infratel and Randstad
  • 6,000 people with disabilities supported to gain local employment through a project in partnership with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled and IBM
  • Trained 27 climate-smart agri-professionals to reach out to rural farmers in Madhya Pradesh to understand how they can safeguard against the effects of climate change

Inclusion and participation

Certain groups in India suffer from inequal access to rights services, whether through stigma against their disability, gender or caste; or due to geographical remoteness such as tribal hillside communities.

Together with local NGO and corporate partners VSO India is working with marginalised communities in Kalahandi and Koraput districts to increase awareness of, and access to basic services like health and nutrition. We also support innovative technological approaches and tools to improve the access and reach of services.

Recent results:

  • 22,000 people reached in 2015/16 with improved access to information and services through one project
  • Supported affordable and innovative Samadhan online platform for the registering complaints with public officials through a low-cost SMS, which has increased social accountability. Nearly 800 complaints were fully resolved through the platform last year

Literacy for all

Though school enrolment is high, resource scarcity, large classroom sizes and skills gaps lead to poor quality of learning in India’s classrooms. Recent surveys have shown that 4/10 children who have completed four years of school still cannot read or write. Official statistics show a gulf between literacy rates of urban (86%) compared with rural children (71%).

We technological approaches and the innovative thinking of our private sector partners to find solutions to educating everyone. These include literacy training for in-service teachers through community and national volunteers, remedial teaching projects and the development of teaching and learning resources.

Recent results:

  • 22,000+ reached through inclusive education projects
  • 450 government teachers improved their English language teaching in 300 schools in Jharkhand, Delhi and Bundi districts since receiving training through VSO
  • Innovative literacy learning plans delivered through SMS led to increased literacy test scores

VSO's added value: Innovation, incubation, scale

Shaleen Rakesh, ED, India

Shaleen Rakesh, Executive Director of VSO India

VSO is a leading development organisation using volunteers to target lasting positive change in the lives of the most disadvantaged people in society. We have three decades of experience working in India.

Our strategy for India focuses on innovation, incubation and scale. A dynamic mix of volunteering types delivers this: Indian and international experts, young people, community and corporate volunteers. These are highly motivated people who bring the skills, knowledge, energy and heart to create innovation and results with our programme.

Our cadre of distinguished corporate partners, including IBM, Randstad, Vodafone and Bharti Infratel, share their results-driven energy and ideas with our local development partners, and with the poor and marginalised communities we work with.

Shared value partnerships with the private sector

All of VSO’s programmes are supported and funded by corporate partners, including IBM, Randstad, Vodafone, Bharti Infratel and The Body Shop.

Learn more about corporate partnerships with VSO or contact Sachal Aneja, Asia Pacific Corporate Engagement Manager.

Our implementing partners are local NGOs working in education, livelihoods and governance. Last year we supported these local partners to make demonstrable improvements, including in:

  • Income generation
  • Data collection
  • Financial systems and management
  • Advocacy and influence
  • Community engagement
  • Teacher motivation

Contact us

Interested in finding out more about our work in India? We’d love to hear from you.

Email the VSO India team:

To find out more about our work in India, visit

Tel: +91 (11) 2689 0132

Local office:

VSO India
C/o Sri SIIM Foundation Trust
4th Floor, 7, Institutional Area, Phase II
Vasant Kunj, New Delhi 110 070

Interested in volunteering?

Find out more about volunteering in India