While 2021 may be the start of a new beginning, it is also the start of our journey to recovery. 2020 was a difficult year for our parent community, many of whom lost their livelihoods and income-sources during the lockdown. To combat the challenges of the pandemic and help our community get back on their feet, Shindewadi Mumbai Public School launched a livelihood and upskilling initiative titled, ‘Sarvodaya’ (universal upliftment) with the tagline ‘Pragati Sabhi ki’ (Progress For All). Focussed on building a network of job opportunities for parents in need, the program is dually centred on women empowerment through training and upskilling workshops.
Nobody gets left behind: Cultivating hope together!
Initiated by the school’s Social Work team, Sarvodaya aims to support and engage three factions – (i) Those parents who lost their livelihood during lockdown, (ii) Working women of the community who were rendered jobless in private spaces and (iii) Skilled and unskilled women who wish to undergo training and earn for their families.
The concept of Sarvodaya was born out of a discussion at an SMC meeting where members decided to create a shared network of job opportunities & open vacancies for vulnerable parents in need. “We noticed that mothers from grade 7,8 & 9 who went to work had lost their jobs. Also, mothers from younger grades like 3 & 4 who were not employed as their children were small were also sitting at home. It was a good opportunity to start an upskilling programme to train women for skill-based jobs as an additional source of income,” says Abhishek bhaiya, Social Worker, Shindewadi.
In order to gauge the response of the community and better understand the interest areas for training under Sarvodaya, the team conducted a survey. The feedback gathered from a women community group revealed cake-baking as the most highly-demanded course followed by beautician training. “Since we could not call the parents physically to school to have discussions, this survey was helpful in identifying options. We thought it would be great if we could start upskilling/training courses for such professions,” adds Abhishek bhaiya.
Making things happen
Although the team identified and contacted several training institutes, Covid-19 restrictions meant that these spaces were not allowed to train so many women at a given time. Plans were put on hold till after schools re-opened and restrictions were lifted.
However, Team Sarvodaya did not give up hope. Swiftly changing courses, they quickly realised that another option was at play. Several women of the community were already skilled and had even made earnings during the lockdown period – the next step, naturally was to connect these entrepreneurs to the market. Identifying five such women with varied skills – two bakers who sold cakes to local connections in the neighbourhood, two seamstresses who stitched masks and a proficient bag-maker, Sarvodaya formed a dream team to take the initiative forward.
Connecting these women to selling platforms, like the Facebook Marketplace dedicated to small-business owners, Team Sarvodaya overlooked the process from scratch. They also made sure to train the entrepreneurs on how to photograph and display their products, list materials, write descriptions and price merchandise appropriately to attract customers.
For now, the initiative is focusing on the basics so the product is uploaded and the women can gain access to local communities through FB groups like local Business Groups and so on.
Bright lives, Brighter futures
Going forward, Team Sarvodaya wishes to empower women through their own people and resources. Abhsihek bhaiya outlines the plan,“Our parent who makes bags is a very proficient tailor and part-time instructor, she is very enthusiastic about training our women over a three month course.Currently, we are identifying a space large enough to start this training and set-up a sewing machine for training and production simultaneously.” This will also aid the entrepreneur in managing her business alongside childcare and household duties. By identifying women with basic knowledge of stitching, they hope to easily train them in advance sewing through small demos. Thus, by employing both women with basic training for cutting and sewing as well more skilled individuals, the community can take bulk orders and scale the production of bags.
A key initiative undertaken by Sarvodaya was increasing awareness about a student scholarship provided by the BMC for children of parents in housekeeping and cleaning professions. Where last year, 110 students availed this scholarship, this year, 150 students availed the scholarship amounting to Rs 1800 per child.
We are proud of Shindewadi for launching such a promising initiative with the potential to not only empower the women of our community but also transform the lives of our families!