Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction
'We are from different settlements but we belong to one city.' - Rekha, Vikasini from Ahmedabad
Living on the neglected margins of the nation's urban sprawls, the poor women of India's slums bear the manifold burden of housework, childcare and livelihood. They struggle to make their voices heard by city administrations, and for planners and municipalities, to acknowledge that the poor are just as entitled as any other citizen of India to a roof over their head, running water, a toilet at home, and clean and healthy surroundings.
The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) was established in 1994 with the aim of mobilizing and empowering urban poor women, and supporting their access to adequate housing. In a journey spanning 25 years, MHT has changed the lives of over 1.7 million individuals, reaching more than 330,000 households and skilling over 17,000 women.
The City-Makers shares with you the story of this incredible journey - a journey of transformation that has the potential to change the cities in which we live. In the accounts of the courageous individuals who took the steps, individually and collectively, to bring about transformation at the personal and community levels, you will read of the struggles, the solidarity, the successes of women workers in the informal economy to own a house; build it with their own hands; bargain with government and private agencies for access to water, sanitation, affordable energy and land rights; find solutions to make their homes climate resilient; and participate in city-level planning and decision-making processes.
Within the success stories of Meena, Munish, Mumtaz, Parul, and many others like them, lies the central message of the Mahila Housing Trust's mission: that women living in urban informal settlements must be taken along if India wishes to make its cities participatory, inclusive and sustainable.
Renana Jhabvala has been active for over four decades in organizing women in the informal economy in India and South Asia into trade unions, cooperatives and financial institutions, and has advocated extensively, nationally and internationally, on policy issues relating to poor women and the informal economy. She is the chairperson (since 2001) of SEWA Bharat, a federation of women-led institutions providing economic and social support to women in the informal sector; chairperson (since 2014) of SEWA Grih Rin Limited, a SEWA housing finance company that provides affordable housing finance to underserved low-income households; and chairperson (since 2009) of WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing). Renana has been a member of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016–17) and is the author of several books, including Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India, co-edited with Sarath Davala, Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Guy Standing (2014).
Bijal Brahmbhatt is director, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (since 2009), overseeing MHT’s operations across eight states and 36 cities in India. With a seat on several government advisory committees, Bijal advocates for equitable housing rights of the urban poor, alternative pro-poor building norms and development regulations appropriate for the provision of affordable housing. Bijal was awarded the SELCO Surya-Mitra in 2019 by the SELCO Foundation for her work on sustainable energy, and was felicitated by Women Change Makers, Switzerland, in 2013 for her work on women’s empowerment. She is a 2019 finalist for the Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) India Award, established by the Schwab Foundation and the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation. Her recent publications include ‘What Getting Land Title Really Means’ (co-author, World Bank, 2014) and ‘Emulating Mortgages for the Benefit of the Poor’ (co-author, WIEGO, 2014).