Manjula Vaghela is from Ahmedabad. Until 1981 she used to work as a rag picker on the city streets for a living, earning Rs 5 per day. Today, at 60, she heads a cleaners’ cooperative with a turnover of 1 crore per annum. Her collective has 400 members who provide cleaning and housekeeping services to 45 institutions and societies across the city.
Manjula recalls how her life changed, when she met Elaben Bhatt, the founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), who suggested that she form a collective of women who offered cleaning services. With 40 women rag pickers, Manjula started the Shri Saundarya Safai Utkarsh Mahila Sewa Sahkari Mandali Ltd (SSSUMSSML). Today the women of the collective are equipped with modern cleaning equipments like vacuum cleaners, carpet shampooing machines, and have a dedicated clientele, including residential societies and the Vibrant Gujarat summit.
As the collective today celebrates crossing the Rs 1 crore turnover mark, their next goal is to become tech-savvy to be able to crack the e-tenders many companies offer. In an interview with the Times of India, Hemaben Parmar, one of the members of the collective, said, “Today companies and institutes issue e-tender for contracts and job work which we find difficult to fill as we are technologically challenged. But we shall overcome this too.”
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