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Malayalis all around would be familiar with the saying that Stree kudumbathinte vilakkaanu- which can be loosly translated into - "woman is the light of the home". I had not given much of a thought to it before. But today when I saw the ladies of the Kudumbasree unit toiling in the rain to clean the garbage that we thoughtlessly throw away, I felt that the name kudumbasree is apt for them.
Picture Courtesy:
Kudumbasree is a project initiated by the Government of Kerala envisaging empowerment of women, especially in the lower economic strata of the state. It is one of  the largest and successful women empowerment projects of the country. Though the Kudumbasree units function in various other areas like micro credits and entrepreneurship, the most visible role they play is in the arena of waste management. 

How much thought do we really spare to the people who collects the garbage from our homes and sort them - many a times without even gloves on their hands- before it can be disposed? How many of us can infact pick the waste from our own waste baskets with our hands? Many even find it disgusting to put away the leftovers from their own plates into the dustbin in the kitchen...

In these modern times, one of the most difficult task that a household encounter is the waste disposal. The increased use of plastics and other materials that are not environment friendly has presented the greatest dilemma to the people in these times. Though they are easy to use, they are difficult to dispose. In the early days one could throw away the banana leaves some where in the vast compound surrounding the house, and not worry about the waste. In came the fancy, use and throw plastic / paper plates... though the name implies use and throw, there is no place to throw them. Most of us live in flats or in houses where there is no place to burn some waste, if the need be!

Hence, the Kudumbasree units that cater to waste management are like God-sent angels! They visit the homes every day, collect the garbage and take them for disposal. (How effective is the waste disposal system is another story, which merits a thorough examination, hence not done here.) If they fail to make their rounds even one day, the whole house will reek of garbage!!! So, they have become the most important aspect of our lives, especially in cities.

Even then, we don't seem to make things easier for those women... We unceremoniously dump all the waste in a plastic bag and leave it in the collection bin; never giving another thought to it. How many realize that the people who collect them has to separate the waste into degradable & non degradable? These unfortunate folk work in the least healthy environment; and often without the necessary protection - even the basic tools like gloves are lacking. (They tie plastic covers on hands in place of gloves!) If we take care to keep the waste separate, what a huge help would it to be to these people! A small thoughtful deed of ours could save them a lot of time and also help them in preserving their self respect.

I have seen people being indifferent or looking down upon people who do menial jobs. Many a times, people don't even acknowledge these people in public. But, if we stop to think even for a minute what an important role these people have in our lives, then we cant help being thankful for their services... 

Picture courtesy:  The Hindu

As far as I am concerned, these ladies in maroon overcoats driving the cargo autos, relentlessly collecting the garbage from house to house, come rain or shine, are an integral part of our lives today! Every time I see one of them, I feel proud of them - in spite of the tough times, they toil to make their lives better. Rather than complaining about the difficulties in their life, they choose to join the cadre of women empowering themselves and take life head on...They make use of whatever opportunity life has presented to them and try to lead a better life. They are truly the "Shree" (literally, prosperity) of their "Kudumbam" (family). The least we can do is appreciate their efforts...

More on Kudumbasree can be found at


  1. Dear Behna
    I am extremely glad to have 'met' you here. I had my doubts:)))
    Happy to see you blogging!
    Love to all at home and to Deepa's too.


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The Lost World

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