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TBI Blogs: Meet the 25-Year-Old Using Her Cooking Skills to Empower Underprivileged Women in Delhi

For many women working as helpers and/or cooks in urban households, skill development can go a long way towards improving their employability and prospects. Rupa, one such woman, decided to help her fellow workers by organising a cooking workshop to train them in different cuisines.

Rupa (name changed), a 25-year-old, relocated to Delhi from a small town in Assam five years ago, with dreams in her eyes of a future that made her economically independent and secure. She started working as a cook in a house in Delhi. She knew basic Indian cuisine, but realized that if she was to enhance her earnings, she needed to expand her repertoire. Rupa is now considered an expert in regional Indian, Asian, and Continental cuisines. She can dish out any dish as per her client’s choice. She says “I love to cook” with a smile on her face. Her patience, attention to detail, and quiet determination have helped her reach where she is today.

Recently, Rupa was the main facilitator for a cooking class for underprivileged women organized by AECWF, a non-profit based out of New Delhi working on increasing livelihood opportunities for underprivileged girls and women living in urban slums.

It does this by building skills, providing access to resources and services, changing gender norms and attitudes, and promoting gender-sensitive policies and the environment.

The two-day workshop had more than a dozen enthusiastic women from the nearby slum participate in the training programme. All the participants who came on the first day returned on the second with more people from the community. They ranged in age from 25-50 years. Most of them work as cooks in nearby apartments, or as cleaning women. Despite their tough daily schedules, they took out the time, and made it into a fun event with their own contributions and comments. Learning how to use their cooking skills to start their own enterprise generated a lot of interest.

Rani, the oldest participant in the training, and who has recently relocated from Etah to Delhi, enjoyed the two-day training. When asked what her experience was like, she says, “I prepared sandwiches for my children after returning home. I am visiting my hometown this Holi, and look forward to preparing cake, sattu ka kachori, and sandwiches for my family.”

Saraswati Debi, who works as a cook in the nearby apartments, echoes the fun and learning she had at the workshop, “Bohat acha laga.” (“I really liked it.”) She is now more aware of the measurements of ingredients required for a particular dish.

She has also shared her experience with her employers, and did some experiments with some dishes, which her employers loved.

Many of the participants have said they’ll use the learnings to prepare dishes for their children. In addition, many also want to use them to grow in their professional lives, increasing their livelihood. More training sessions like these will help them grow further. Many of the women have dreams of making their daughters strong, self-reliant individuals. This Women’s Day, the theme (#BeBoldForChange) resonates with the dreams.

Universally, society often suppresses women, restricting their participation in outdoor activities. However, women like Rupa are stepping out of their homes to challenge conventional gendered roles laid down by the patriarchy.

Help the Action for Excellence in Children and Women Foundation (AECWF) improve the lives of marginalized women by donating here.

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