YRG has long recognized the link between poverty and domestic unrest. When providing for even basic needs becomes a struggle, physical, psychological, and societal pressures can become unbearable. This frustration often leads to the abuse of family members. In traditional Indian households, where men are usually the primary income earners, women are most often the target of that violence.
Realizing the social and economic potential that meaningful employment could bring to underprivileged women, YRG CARE began to experiment with different social entrepreneurship opportunities. The first widely successful program was the PI project, in which women were given training to stitch cloth bags. Proceeds from the sales of the PI bags went to both the women and toward medical expenses for HIV/AIDS patients at YRG CARE’s hospital. The financial independence that these women gained also imparted them with a sense of empowerment; with the ability to contribute to household needs and finances, they were able to elevate their status in their own eyes and those of their families.
Using the same premise, the idea of using food retail as another livelihood improvement project came into being. In addition to building business skills and generating income, a kitchen would also be able to address another critical issue of the poor: inexpensive, consistent access to healthy food. ECO Kitchen’s community meals program, called Kathir (meaning “first yield of rice from the paddy”), sells food to women at a low price, which they in turn sell in partner communities for a reduced cost. Meals have been designed with the nutritional needs of the labor class in mind, while respecting the need for a meal that appeals to a South Indian palate.
Currently, Kathir has trained over 40 women to become entrepreneurs, and provides over 1500 meals per day to their vending points in south Chennai.
The program is looking to greatly expand the number of women it can employ and the number of communities that it can serve.
To this end, the project has been posted on Global Giving,
to receive donations to support the creation of 100 more vending points and offer opportunities to as many women.
Candidates are being selected and trained presently.