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Are these the new tools of empowerment?

With festivities coming to an end, we take a look at two initiatives - one for urban India and one for rural India. Find out how you  can help alleviate poverty by walking a 100 kilometres or drinking chai for women's empowerment

Test your stamina and alleviate poverty

For 23-three-year-old Gina Dias, the day starts early -- five-thirty in the morning --and starts with a 10-km walk. Gina is no fitness freak. She is an Oxfam Trailwaker, hoping to raise funds to overcome poverty and injustice in the country.


Participants practising for the Oxfam Trailwalker

Organised in India for the first time, the event will see 150 teams of four members each walk one hundred kilometres through villages in Bangalore in under 48 hours. Each team has pledged to raise Rs 40,000, which will be donated to a charity of their choosing. "We have pledged to raise Rs 1 lakh," says Gina, who is also the Corporate fundraising officer for Oxfam India. Oxfam India, which is one of 15 affiliates of Oxfam International.


The Chai Shai etc... outlet in Vashi

Oxfam India is a non-profit organisation that strives to create a more equal, just, and sustainable world by empowering the poor to demand their rights, engaging the non-poor to become active, advocating for an effective and accountable state, and making markets work for poor people.  The Oxfam Trailwalker started as a training exercise for the Gurkha Regiment in Hong Kong 30 years ago and last year 15 Oxfam Trailwalkers were organised in 12 countries.

"Till date, we have about 80 teams So, people who want to be part of the event should register fast as the registrations are open only till November15," informs Gina.

"You should have completed at least 50 km before doing the actual walk," says Gina about the walk which is scheduled for February. For those who are apprehensive about being able to complete the walk, the Trailwalker website offers a nutrition regime and training tips.

Log on to: www.trailwalker.in
Registrations close on November 15

Chai with a twist
Walk on the main road of Vashi, Sector 29 and you will come across a bright small food joint called Chai Shai Etc. The 12 women who work inside, are housewives from the Mankhurd slums. An initiative by Prasun Bhowmic, Kanchan Roy of the The Kanchan Foundation and a few others, Chai Shai etc stemmed from the need to empower women.

The 26-year-old Prasun who teaches kids at the Anand Nagar English Municipal School in Dahisar as part of the Teach for India movement felt that education alone cannot solve problems and job creation was needed to improve the condition of families. "I happened to meet Kanchan Roy through a friend and she suggested why not generate employment for women," says Prasun. The Kanchan Foundation works to put NGOs in touch with people in need of empowerment.

"Most of the women seek  meaningful employment.  If the money goes in their hands, it benefits the entire family, while most men use the money for their vices," explains Kanchan. Though they tried to open an outlet on the western line, the exorbitant cost of rent was a deterrant, and hence the first outlet of Chai Shai etc was opened in Vashi in mid-July. The outlet serves about 20 varieties of beverages and snacks.

"It was the first time the women were taking up a job, so there were problems. The men were insecure and initially the attrition rate was high. Since the last one and a half months, things are stable," says Prasun.
"We are looking for more funding, especially from corporates. It would also be great if brands want to come in and tie up with Chai Shai etc for promotions," says Prasun. "Companies can do marketing at our outlets," adds Kanchan with the hope that some day they will provide employment to over 5,000 women.

At: Behind Sector 29 bus stop, 13, Manek Complex, Vashi.
Call: 27889002

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