The only significant way to empower women from underprivileged sections of the society is by bringing them out of their houses and making them financially able. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Urban Community Development department has been doing just that by hiring women from the slums as parking agents in different parts of the city. A project that began as an experiment back in 2016 has now empowered hundreds of women as pay and park operators. They have grown from being non-earners to now earning up to Rs 20,000 per month.
Parking plots of Ahmedabad that hires women
UCD along with ‘Sakhi Sangh’ a women self-help group started this initiative which is helping women become a part of the workforce. Talking to SheThePeople.TV, Jagdish Prajapati, project officer tells us, “We started with creating women SHGs by the name of Sakhi Sangh under the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) which comprises of 10 women. Apart from the parking scheme they also carry out other uplifting work, our aim was to support women and make them economically empowered.
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So, in 2016, we started this program by allotting one parking facility to women. We provided women who were interested in this scheme with the necessary training. Our focus was on providing women with livelihood options.”
There are around over 30 parking plots which are generally under nearby newly-built bridges, to make use of the space under them. Women of Sakhi Sangh take up these parking plots and run them on a shift-basis. Prajapati says, “When these parking plots are built, initially women of the SHG groups are given priority to run them for over a period of one to two years. After that, we release tenders on it and they are sold off to whoever gets the tender. But every parking plot has an income of anywhere between Rs 10,000- Rs 2,50000. Women earn a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month by working as parking operators and it grows as the income of a parking plot increases.”
How Parking Plots Empower Women From The Slums
One of the parking operators, Jayshree Bhavsar, who runs the Raipur, Khadiya Ward parking plot and also leads the Sakhi Sangh in her area, says, “I have been working as a parking agent for two years now. I was a housewife before joining the Sakhi Mandal and I had never stepped out of my house to work. After I joined Sakhi Sangh, I got this opportunity to work as a parking agent and I immediately took it up.”
“By working as a parking agent, I have found new confidence in myself. I started with UCD’s pilot project at Saarangpur parking facility and really enjoyed working there. Then I also encouraged other women in my locality to join this program and to start earning a livelihood,” recounts Bhavsar adding that she really wanted to do something on her own to show everyone that she is worthy of earning an income.
Her usual day working at the parking facility starts at 9.30 am when she unlocks the facility and does a little pooja there and cleans the complex. Then at around 10 am other women come to work. “I usually come back by 2 pm and then again go back in the evening and stay there till 8-9 pm,” she stated matter-of-factly. Bhavsar’s family were supportive of her idea to work at a parking facility which is why, she said, she is able to become financially empowered.
Another parking agent, Prabha Makwana, who works at the Vasukinagar, New Vadaj ward parking facility, was earning a significant amount by knitting and sewing clothes at home before she took up this job. “I worked from home for at least seven-eight years but then the market for this kind of work slowed down in the last few years. Around the same time, I heard about this job. Initially, people used to mock at my job. They said this is a man’s job and women shouldn’t be working in it but they slowly understood and accepted my job and now a lot of women from my neighbourhood joined it too.”
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“It happened sometime back where some men thought they could park without paying the charges but I stood up against them and called the police and the matter was sorted. I never let anybody park without paying. Since that incident, people call me by different names like ‘Singham’ and ‘Don’.”
“It has been a really wonderful effort for women like us as we aren’t educated. If we go anywhere else to find work, companies demand literate women so for us to earn anywhere between Rs 10,000-20,000 becomes a huge challenge. But with this job, we can earn a good amount even without education.”
Like Jayshree, Prabha also got support from her family.
However, this job also comes with its set of challenges. Prabha tells us that there have been instances where few men have pointed a gun at her for asking parking charges from them. “It happened sometime back where some men thought they could park without paying the charges but I stood up against them and called the police and the matter was sorted. I never let anybody park without paying. Since that incident, people call me by different names like ‘Singham’ and ‘Don’. Till date, even the policemen have to pay in my parking facility.” She earns around Rs 15000- Rs 18,000 every month.
Images: Jayshree Bhavsar