For Ramila, a woman living in the slums of Vile Parle, each day starts at 5:30 am. She performs her morning prayers and soon starts preparing breakfast for her husband and three kids. Her children have started schooling nearby and are excited by the prospect of a new world beyond the one they already know. Her husband, Kanti, leaves for a job without perks, security, or bonuses, but it manages to help them get by, and for Ramila, that is all that matters. “Our dream is to be able to provide for our kids, to give them chances we never received. So even if the job pays less, I cannot complain,” says Kanti.
One day, Kanti returned home earlier than usual. Their worst fears had come true; he had lost his job. Ramila hears her children reciting their alphabets and cannot stop crying. “How will we pay the fees? How can we afford to feed our family now?” Even though it may be the city of dreams, the sheer competitiveness of Mumbai, can break the dreams of many.
Project Parivartan, hence, is an implementation of the need of the hour. Started by an energetic bunch of students from Enactus – Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering, Mumbai in 2013, the project works with diverse, economically weaker sections of the society involving mainly trash pickers. Currently, the team is working with communities residing in the slums at Vile Parle, Jogeshwari, Juhu and the Deonar dumping grounds. The purpose of this project is not to provide any charity to these communities, but to help them start their own business, by making and selling these products, and thus empowering themselves with new skills. The project, thus aims to create micro-entrepreneurs in slums by helping these women become self reliant. The focus on recycling has an environmental upside also, as it reduces the carbon footprint of the otherwise non recycled waste.
The team saw a business model that focused on betterment of living standards of women in deprived communities and waste free environment. At the inception of this project, they trained 9 women residing in slums near Juhu Millennium Club to make Paper bags by reusing newspapers. Capitalizing on the abundance of waste paper, the team created a system to collect used paper from shops, offices, and colleges to ensure this material would be recycled and transformed. These paper bags were then sold to the retailers in local markets of Mumbai. Having gained some traction from paper bags, the team introduced some more products such as Bows, Bowties, Sawdust Pencils, Incense Sticks, and Handmade Paper.
Within months of implementation, each project participant’s monthly income rose by 37.1%. Today the “Parivartan” project is operational in 15 slums across Mumbai, working closely with around 30 women entrepreneurs. By developing a previously-unrecognized potential, these women have gained confidence and dignity in the society while creating a greater degree of financial stability for themselves and their families.
Ramila now earns 6000 rupees per month. Her husband found another job while she continues to run the business from home.
“I didn’t have to pull my kids out of school after all,” she says. “They tell me what they learn each day and I get to learn something from that too. It makes me happy.”
“I am now a role model in the community!” she says, grinning. “God is good,” she says. “I never imagined I’d get an opportunity like this. I feel empowered.”