July 13, 2009 4:04:06 am
Former women slumdwellers resettled as part of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project now run the MMRDAs official canteen
When the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) resettled Chetna Chavan (29),a slumdweller,in a colony for Project Affected People (PAP) at Vashi Naka,it was indeed a difficult move for the mother of two. Her house,along the railway tracks at Bhandup,had been demolished for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) and it meant not just an uphill adjustment for her family with the new place of residence,but also the challenge of finding a new income generating avenue to support her family.
Today,Chavan is a part of Sankalp,which means a resolution in Marathi,a society that now manages the MMRDAs official canteen in their Bandra Kurla Complex headoffice. She is not only the secretary of the society,but is now a proud earning member of her family,with a monthly salary of Rs 3500 that helps supplements her husbands income. Her husband works as a security guard.
Giving them the opportunity to run our canteen was MMRDAs push for these people,an effort to help empower the women here, says an MMRDA official.
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Whats more,ever since the women from Sankalp have taken over the canteen,there has been a marked difference in the quality of the food and the approach to serving and maintaining the kitchen,say MMRDA officials.
Apart from snacks,the canteen now also provides lunch to more than 800 people on weekdays,including non-vegetarian fare on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Since we have just taken over,we are yet to finalise the new menus, says Gokarn Tayade (40),the president of the society. Tayade has never been to school,but shes now learning the nitty-gritties of running a successful business enterprise.
It all started with forming a self-help group with the help of MMRDAs livelihood cell. The Vashi Naka colony was selected to start the self-help group for women as a pilot project. It was a difficult task to actually galvanise the support of the women. The confidence was at an all time low and the women were not sure about whether the experiment would actually work. Initially,the women got little help from the family, says Jayshree Borade,a community development officer with the MMRDA.
With the initial training arranged by the MMRDA,the women then learnt to manufacture files and other stationery items. To give them a boost,the MMRDA gave them a contract for providing office stationery.
More importantly,it also urged other municipal corporations and councils in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region to buy the stationery they made.
As the work started growing,55 women,all project affected people,from the Vashi Naka colony started a society with the help of the MMRDA about a year and half ago.
Providing monetary help was beyond our purview,but providing infrastructure for them was certainly possible, adds Borade. The agency provided them with two stalls in the G and E blocks of plush Bandra Kurla Complex. One of the stalls was a food stall and this was their foray into the catering business. The other stall sells stationery items they produce. These gave the women some confidence. In the initial stages,we decided on Rs 1,000 per month,but since the work has increased and so has the income,we now take Rs 3,500 every month, says Chavan
In Diwali this year,they sold faral (traditional festival eatables),sarees and booked a profit of Rs 2.5 lakh. But bagging the contact of running the MMRDA canteen was something new and a huge responsibility, says Chavan.
It was the track record of these women that helped them bag the three-year contract of running the canteen. To help them with capital,the MMRDA also purchased utensils worth Rs 13 lakh,which would be owned by the agency.
It is altogether a new world and we have learnt immensely since the project took off. We came to know about marketing and accounting on a larger scale. There is new confidence of proving yourself and improving ones self esteem, says Tayade.
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