Women power to the fore

Twelve women from two slums who underwent training in making nutritious and low-cost dishes for over a year sold their products for the first time on Thursday.

By Rith Basu
  • Published 24.08.18
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The women cook in the mobile kitchen van at the Webel crossing, Salt Lake, on Thursday; the day’s platter (above) included a nutritious pancake, mixed vegetable with soya seeds, a spinach cutlet, a boiled egg and a peanut and sesame seed dessert bar. Pictures by Mayukh Sengupta

Salt Lake: Twelve women from two slums who underwent training in making nutritious and low-cost dishes for over a year sold their products for the first time on Thursday.

Their stall at the Webel crossing in Salt Lake was a success and all products were sold out in less than three hours.

They will visit more such office hubs in the coming weeks with dishes low on fat and sugar but high on fibre, vitamins and proteins.

The women from a slum along the canal near RG Kar hospital and another near the Chetla Lock Gate said they had been taught to tweak the dishes they already used to prepare apart from some new ones.

The training was provided under a pilot project of a University of Cambridge initiative called Bhavishya Shakti, which looks to empower underprivileged women in the country.

"I used to make gola ruti (a type of pancake) with only wheat, eggs, onions and chillies. Now, we have been taught to put some shredded vegetables, flour, rice flour and curd in it as well, which makes the same item more nutritious without making it very expensive," Kanika Mandal, 26, from the Chetla slum said.

She has been raising her five-year-old daughter, Trisha, working as a domestic help. Her husband died two years ago.

Apart from pancakes, the platter that the women sold on Thursday included mixed vegetables with soya seeds, spinach cutlets, a boiled egg and a dessert bar made of peanuts and sesame seeds, the last item turning out to be the most popular.

"Now these women will go to various office hubs once or twice every week. They will teach other women, bringing more underprivileged women under the fold of the project," Sumantra Ray, professor of applied human nutrition, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, said.

The women wore gloves and had their heads covered in contrast to other roadside stalls selling rice meals, dosas and puris at the Webel crossing.

Bhavishya Shakti and two Calcutta-based organisations, Inner Wheel Club of Greater Calcutta and Remedy Clinic Study Group, have provided the women with a mobile kitchen van.

At the Webel crossing, the van arrived at 10.30am after which the women began cooking. They started serving from 12.30pm. The first of the five items ran out in two hours. It was the dessert of peanuts and sesame seeds. The rest were gone by the next hour.