SIX KILOMETRES from Thrissur town in central Kerala, the new two-storey building, painted in white, with a covered terrace overlooks a tiny stream and green paddy fields. There’s a signboard in Malayalam over the entrance — She Lodge, it says.
This building represents the first step in an ambitious project being rolled out by the government to provide “secure, affordable” accommodation exclusively for travelling women, and their children, in each of the state’s 14 districts.
With single rooms and dormitories that can accommodate a maximum of 50 women at a time, all-woman staff, CCTV cameras on each floor, car services operated by women linking the main bus stand and railway station, and a separate online booking facility, officials say it’s “a dream project”.
Two of these lodges have already come up — in Thrissur, which was inaugurated last week, and in Kanhangad, a town in Kasaragod to the north, which will be opened soon. Three more are under construction — in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Ernakulam.
According to government officials, the project is being implemented by urban local bodies using money channelised through Plan Funds and MPLAD funds, or by linking the project with the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) of the Centre. This financial year, officials said, an amount of Rs 150 crore has been earmarked for the project — the Thrissur facility cost Rs 1.37 crore.
According to the project’s bye-laws, the management and operation of She Lodges will be undertaken by Kudumbashree, the 40-lakh-strong network of women self-help groups already running a range of projects in Kerala — from paper mills and vegetable farming to railway ticket counters and taxis.
“The She Lodge is a dream project of the government. We have lodges and hostels for women in Kozhikode and Malappuram run by private entities, but this is the first time the government has stepped in. Since Kudumbashree has a lot of goodwill and credibility in the state, we have been asked to operate them,” said Jaison T J, state mission manager of Kudumbashree.
In Thrissur, the She Lodge, with four dormitory halls, is centrally located on the side of an arterial road and can be reached within 15 minutes by car from the town’s main bus or railway station.
The foundation stone here was laid in 2015 for a women’s hostel, but the facility was later adopted under the She Lodge project with construction picking up pace during the current CPM-led administration.
“The She Lodge is aimed at those who cannot spend a lot of money on a fancy hotel to stay for a night. We will charge nominal rates for accommodation as well as food. For security, we are looking at hiring ex-service personnel who will be present 24×7,” Ajitha Jayarajan, Mayor of Thrissur Corporation, said.
“The Thrissur facility will be opened this month after the corporation council decides on the tariff for rooms as well as hiring of staff. Additional furniture and appliances for the kitchen have to be procured as well,” Jayarajan said.
Jaison said there will be a single-point online booking facility after all the lodges come up. “There will also be special taxis or rickshaws with women drivers. We are looking at convergence with other Kudumbashree projects, such as Kudumbashree Cafe and She-Taxi,” he said.
“This is not a working women’s hostel, a She Lodge is solely for travelling women. But just like working women’s hostels in big cities, which have been successful due to the security factor, we are sure that She Lodges will find acceptance, too. It’s a fact that safety still stands in the way of mobility for many women travelling alone,” he said.