Sowing seeds of greenhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/sowing-seeds-of-green/

Sowing seeds of green

Mumbai gets its first pop-up garden exclusive to women,an alternative solution to deal with safety issues in community spaces.

When BMW Guggenhiem Lab was set up in Mumbai,a series of talks and workshops provided the city with different views on urbanism. During one such workshop,the idea of pop-up gardens germinated and has now borne fruit in a leafy corner of Santacruz. Take a few steps into the quiet BMC Colony and one will find a little patch of green being used only by women in the neighbourhood to relax,read and socialise.

Last year,a study conducted by Partners for Urban Knowledge,Action and Research (PUKAR),revealed that about 87 per cent of women in the city do not access public spaces because of safety issues. Taking a cue from this,about 30 women from the neighbourhood,who participated in the workshop,brainstormed on models for a garden that would provide privacy and safety in an outdoor community space.

Six months ago,the idea took root in reality with the city’s first pop-up women’s-only garden. City-based NGO SNEHA (Society for Nutrition,Education and Health Action) that works towards empowering women; Fresh & Local,a non-profit urban farming start-up and Nicola Antaki Designs,a research project on design,conducted the workshop and have seen to its implementation. The 15 x10 ft space is unlike a typical garden. It does not have a grass covering,and all the plants are in pots. To provide privacy,bamboo sticks and trellises have been used as a faux boundary. Other than gardening,women have started using the space for other hobbies — some come and sing in the space,others read. “The idea was to transform an underused space into a productive one,” says Adrienne Thadani of Fresh & Local,who is

in the process of setting up another pop-up garden at a city-based children’s home.

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The organisers helped these women create the pop-up garden and learn common gardening techniques. They grow various plants including flowers and vegetables,such as rose,marigold,mogra,ladyfinger creeper,chilli,fenugreek and spearmint. “Last month,when the ladyfinger creeper bore the vegetable,we distributed it among ourselves. The vegetable tasted so good that some of us ate it raw,” says 37-year-old Divya Chavan,who likes to visit the garden every morning and evening.

“Women from the community are emotionally attached to this garden now. Even when a plant dries up,it hurts them,” says Shibani Bagchi,administrator at SNEHA,lamenting about paucity of water in the neighbourhood. The women have been maintaining the garden for the last six months and take turns to water the plants every evening.

“We plan to recycle water from the kitchen so that it can be utilised to water the plants. Since it’s a community project we are also trying to change the larger mindset and develop a sense of responsibility among the women through this garden,” adds Thadani.

meenakshi.iyer@expressindia.com

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