Leadership

Housekeeper in Indian slum leads housing revolution

Indian children outrside their home in a slum of Mumbai. (PAL PILLAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents of a slum in Ahmedabad, India, had their cramped sheet-metal homes replaced with a new apartment building that the community now owns as a cooperative, thanks in large part to the efforts of the women living there.

In 2010, a national “slum free India” policy was announced that encouraged in situ redevelopment — rehousing slum dwellers in the same spot, rather than displacing them. When Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation attempted to put this into practice, they faced resistance from the community — many assumed the development was, in fact, a plot to evict them.

The developers found an ally in Geetaben Thakore, a housecleaner who had assumed a leadership role in the community after helping Mahila Housing Sewa Trust, a respected housing NGO, implement major infrastructure upgrades that included toilets, running water, and street lights. Thakore gathered the 11 women who, under her leadership, helped implement those changes, and over two long years managed to convince nearly everyone in the community of the plan’s benefits.

By November 2014, the four-story cooperative housing society was complete. The tenants all have titles to their new apartments, and nearly all are in the names of women. Thakore heads the building society, and recently received a call from another slum asking if she would help with their redevelopment. “I didn’t know I was so strong,” she says. “After I joined MHT, I learned I can do it. And I will do it.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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