Nov 24, 2014

Enabling urban poor to avail essential services in Guwahati

“Now I can save money.”
Vegetable vendor Kharanti Marak is a widow in her late 50s. She is a Garo tribal who lives in the Assam-Meghalaya border area near Guwahati city. She said: “I bring vegetables from the villages to sell on the street in Ulubari area of Guwahati. I have been doing this daily for the past six years. I am also a member of a group called The Greater Guwahati Women’s Vegetable Vendor Association, formed by Oxfam India and sSTEP.” “Being a part of this association has given me support, a sense of being together and unity with other women vendors. The organisation is engaged with the municipal authority to get an authorized space for selling vegetables. “Now each of us saves Rs 10 per week, the money is collected and given as loans to association members in need.”

Urban Poverty Work In Guwahati

Investing in the poor in urban locations and small enterprise has the potential to enable them to overcome poverty. Oxfam Insia’s “Linking up Urban Poor of Guwahati City (LinkUP) for Enhancement of Socio-Environmental Situation and Livelihood (ESENSIAL) programme” is an initiative linking the urban poor with key essential services and enabling women vendors to form collectives.

Greater Guwahati Women’s Vegetable Vendor Association was formed with the membership of indigenous women street vendors in Ulubari areas of Guwahati city. The members save Rs. 10 each week, and the money helps fund loans within the association.. This association is engaged with the municipal authority to get an authorized space for selling vegetables. Collectively women street vendors are able to ensure that on certain days - Wednesday and Sunday - in the week, only women can sit in their designated places, and they do not allow men to occupy this self designated space during these two days.

Our programme in Guwahati city also focuses on access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services for the poor living in government recognised “poverty zones”. We have, since 2011, supported public health engineering initiatives on water and sanitation, from setting up hand pumps and aprons for access to safe water, to installation of latrine complexes and bathing spaces for women and adolescent girls. The urban poverty programme in Guwahati city covers 1174 households. Oxfam India works with its local partner sSTEP (Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection), and a wide range of urban poor groups to find innovative and sustainable ways to improve their income; add value to their products and find ways so that they have access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

Slum development committees were formed in Shivanagar and Bhaskar Nagar areas with the participation of both women and men members. They are responsible for overall development of their areas, monitoring activities, and functioning of bridge schools, water supply and sanitation facilities and overall cleanliness of the areas.

School monitoring committees, Jyoti Kendra – bridge school for dropouts aged 6-14 years, set up by Sarba Sikhsa Abhijan, were formed in both the slums with support from slum development committees facilitated by sSTEP. These support planning and managing the schools. This intervention led to an increase in the enrolment and retention of the children who mostly worked as rag pickers. Their parents work as daily wage or contract labourers, and domestic helps. The children were left to manage on their own when their parents were away at work.

Guwahati Milestones

  1. Greater Guwahati Women’s Vegetable Vendor Association (GGWVVA) formed, bringing together indigenous women street vendors in Ulubari areas of Guwahati city.

  2. Slum development committees formed in Shivanagar and Bhaskar Nagar areas, . They are responsible for overall development of their areas.

  3. School monitoring committees, Jyoti Kendra – bridge school for dropouts aged 6-14 years, set up by Sarba Sikhsa Abhijan, were formed in both the slums with support from slum development committees facilitated by sSTEP. Latrine complexes with bathing cubicles for women and girls were constructed in Shivanagar slum areas..

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