Suma Ajith Kumar doesn’t strictly need to work to keep the pot boiling. Her husband, Ajith Kumar, is an advocate practising in the District Court at Vanchiyoor in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital city.
But then, if she can earn about Rs 50,000 a month, why should she kick her heels at home?
She owns a taxi car, and drives it herself. “I make around Rs 80,000 a month driving my own vehicle and after maintenance expenses and loan repayment, I take home around Rs 45,000,” says Suma.
Suja, a temporary ticket-collector with Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, too drives a She Taxi whenever she gets time. “I make around Rs 45,000 a month, and after expenses I can take home around Rs 20,000,” says Suja.
Both Suma and Suja are two of the many drivers with She Taxi, an initiative by Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation (KSWDC), which has launched an ambitious social entrepreneurship network, Sandesh One. She Taxis are operated in three cities now: Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode.
“Across the world we are witnessing a social enterprise movement. Unlike conventional industries, social enterprise is about developing solutions against pressing societal challenges. The Sandesh One programme is designed to meet this challenge,” PTM Sunish, managing director of KSWDC, told Tehelka.
Supported by the Social Welfare Department, Sandesh One is a network of 1000-plus women to generate mass employment at the grassroots level by promoting various micro-enterprises.
“Over 1000 women entrepreneurs will be selected from panchayats under the programme and they be given a six-month residential training under the aegis of IIM Ahmedabad and IL&Fs (an infrastructure development and finance firm),” says Sunish.
High-tech agriculture, preventive healthcare, water management, waste management, renewable energy, deforestation, safety solutions, etc., will be the focus areas of Sandesh entrepreneurs.
The women entrepreneurs can open Sandesh One centres in all panchayaths across the state,” says Sunish, who is also the chief executive officer of Gender Park, which is a first-in-the-country initiative for gender equality.
KSWDC has also introduced She Toilets. “It (She Toilet) is an extended facility for women making use of modern technology for their personal sanitation,” adds Sunish. She Toilet is India’s first women-friendly toilet, designed and developed exclusively for women, with features like napkin vending machines and napkin incinerators.
Resource Enhancement Academy for Career Heights (REACH) is another major project conceived and developed by KSWDC to groom women and help them achieve their career goals. reach focusses on communication as an effective tool. “reach is designed in such a way that women, from both APL (above poverty line) and BPL (below poverty line) get the same classroom benefits,” says Sunish.
KSWDC is also planning to set up World Women’s Trade Centre near the proposed Smart City at Kakkanad in Ernakulam. “This project is aimed at providing a centre of excellence like the World Trade Centre and it will be a converging point for all-round business activities,” adds Sunish. The KSWDC is planning to construct a building on bot basis and is on discussions with major firms like IT&Fs.
Going by the man behind the “woman power” movement in the state, Kerala is going to see a women’s network which could soon become a massive social entrepreneurship movement.