During her visit to Mumbai today, the Duchess of Cornwall met an enterprising group of mothers who began their own businesses of selling scavenged bits to make into baubles.
When she arrived, the Duchess was welcomed in traditional Indian fashion. She was given a garland of flowers and a vermilion tika was placed on her forehead.
The tour today had the Duchess view a presentation by the Vandana Foundation Micro-Finance Project. The Project aids some of Mumbai’s poorest women with free or low cost loans to fund their startup businesses.
“Many of these women are hugely vulnerable and make no mistake there is a huge stigma here about them going out of the house to work, let alone start their own businesses. Each of them is an inspiration,” CEO of the Project, Saumya Roy said via The Telegraph.
Living on Shivajinagar, the largest rubbish dump in Mumbai, is Lila Manohar Chauhan. The Duchess met with the 59 year old who labours every day from dawn until dusk collecting scrap metal and bits of rubbish. Chauhan then sells what she collects daily to support her unemployed husband, son, daughter in law and their three children. She makes around 200 rupee a day the equivalent of £2.
Known for some of the poorest slums in the world, the grandmother of three goes to the rubbish heap daily, earning enough to be able to pay for her grandchildren to attend a private school. “I want them to have a good education and a better life,” Chauhan told the translator.
Chauhan was asked if her husband, who is unemployed, greets her with a cup of tea when she returns each day, Chauhan rolled her eyes as a reply.
Camilla then met a young widow who was cast aside by her late husband’s family. 21 year old Pooja Sachin Bhagat’s husband committed suicide along with many of the approximately 7,000 cotton farmers who did the same due to the complications in the cotton business.
Left with two small children and living with a relative, Bhagat is making ends met by selling nail polish, bracelets and makeup earning around 500 rupees, about £5, to support herself and her two children. “My in-laws are now very jealous that I can support us all,” commented Bhagat.
Browsing the stalls, the Camilla purchased gifts for Prince Charles and her family. She picked up some children’s clothes, embroidered jackets, sweets, and a belt for Charles.
“Sorry I just can’t resist, these things are so lovely. So beautifully made,” she said as she browsed the various stands.
“What would we do without the women,” she commented walking around the women’s displays.
The women all wanted to give gifts to Camilla from their stalls; she would not accept and insisted on paying, “No I wouldn’t dream of it. I must insist,” she said.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will end their Indian trip on 14 November, Charles’ 65th Birthday, to leave for Sri Lanka. Charles will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that he will be hosting on behalf of the Queen.