From waste to taste: Utkarsh empowers women

Image : Indian Express

In these difficult times, when a fatal virus hits the world, the entire life has come to a standstill. With the onset of COVID-19, the attempts to revive the economy has reached an all-time low with massive unemployment of the daily wagers and seasonal labourers. This being said, the marginalized sections of the society have been hit the hardest due to the nation-wide lockdown. 

Lost in a frenzy and constricted due to the lockdown, the clutches of poverty shackle people. Crippled with unemployment, starvation, and gender bias, the underprivileged community, has borne the brunt of deprivation. The basic right of every human being has been neglected due to widening the gap between the rich and poor. 

These being a few of the perils faced by society, there are many more sectors in which exist a multitude of socio-economic and humanitarian issues that have long withheld the progress of our country. 

However, witnessing these grim realities did not dampen the spirits of the brave women living in Ravidas Camp. This is the success story of their plight against the age-old constructs of patriarchy.

Due to the archaic prejudice prevalent against women, these women weren’t given an opportunity to educate themselves. They were deprived of their fundamental rights and became financially dependent on others. After getting married at a very young age, they were restricted to domestic work, tending to their family, and were expected to fulfil their conjugal duties. 

However, these women were determined to tide over these challenges by breaking the oppressive and undermining constructs of society by transforming themselves into social entrepreneurs.

Women of the Ravidas Camp, a crowded and congested neighbourhood in R.K. Puram, New Delhi, are a group of four ambitious and compassionate women – Chanda Srivastava, Anguri Devi, Anar Devi, and Chanda Sharma.

They realized one of the constant issues faced by the country was food wastage, death due to starvation, and unhealthy consumption of junk food. 

These women saw the potential of project Utkarsh that could tackle the issues of gender biases, food wastage, and unhealthy consumption patterns by empowering underprivileged women through a source of earning. This was achieved by attaching an entrepreneurial approach to their existing skills of cooking.

They are delighted with the employment opportunity extended through the making of a simple delicacy along with the benefit of the production unit being very close to their house.

“People around me appreciate my work as we can generate extra income while sitting at our homes. After my husband and children leave for work, I finish the home chores and then head to the production centre. We all then segregate the work amongst ourselves.

When I received my first pay, I was thrilled, and I gave it to my husband. He said, ‘keep it, you have earned it.’ My husband is very supportive and wants me to continue working here as it adds extra income to my family” said Chanda Sharma.

These women entrepreneurs utilize the waste pulp of vegetables like Carrot and Beetroot that contain high amounts of fibres, minerals, and antioxidant properties that are used to make healthy savouries. 

The student-led team of young entrepreneurs through their consistent efforts, consulted with various nutritionists to ensure the best quality food delivery to consumers. Thereby preventing food wastage and generating a healthier snacking alternative to unhealthy fried chips that contain a high amount of trans-fat. 

The increase in the income of lady entrepreneurs’ families has allowed the children to gain access to better educational facilities. Some of them went to the extent of resuming their unfinished education –

“I have been able to save money to build my own house and provide for my family. I am looking forward to earning and supporting my husband in managing the house with the help of project Utkarsh” said Chanda Srivastava, a social entrepreneur under project Utkarsh, RK Puram.

Through Project Utkarsh, these women entrepreneurs have saved over 90,000 gallons of water and 1200KGs of wasted food. 

“Now, I plan to look for ladies facing similar problems and will further teach them how to make chips. It will be good for them; they will also feel that they have earned something for their family.” 

“This project has potently employed more than 50 opportunities deprived women by transforming them into successful entrepreneurs. Now, being proactive members of my community, I take part in important decision-making affairs and reach out to form networks, wherein, both the societal interests and theirs can co-exist” said Anar Devi, a proud social entrepreneur.

Battling against the obstructions of society, these courageous women have successfully mastered the skill of making veggies and are striving to achieve higher levels of efficiency. They have proficiently attained the status of being both the home-maker and a bread earner. 

The growth and development of this project is just a stepping stone towards the triumph of a massive revolution. The team of students and women entrepreneurs solemnly believe in the assertion, “We rise by lifting others.” With the same dedication and diligence, they strive towards chasing a better tomorrow.

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Romaana Aamir

Author: Romaana Aamir

Romaana Aamir is a social entrepreneur, also literature and psych enthusiast with an ardent desire to explore the world by marching to the beats of her own drum.
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