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As we know that LEED means Liberation, Education, Economic Development.( it comes from our NGO. But what is the meaning of "Thalir"?

The name 'Thalir' in the Indian origin, means tender leafa new shoot, bud of a plant or tree. We are trying to rebuild the lives of broken families to start over again. We are Self-Help Group which has been initiated by our trust.

The women are from less-privileged background and literally struggling to make ends meet from Kallakotai, Perungudi, Chennai. They are trained from 'The New LEED' trust, since more than 30 yrs, so we like to named, 'Thalir-LEED'. We registered our organization and also met them during pandemic with the goal to help these families.

1. Mrs. Anu, a thirty-something mother of two who had been working with Thalir–LEED and NGO for about a year. But, with the onset of the pandemic, she stopped coming last year and doing basket making at her home. Her husband worked in a company, but due to the pandemic, he has been unable to go to work.

She has also been working in a factory that manufactures wires, but due to the recent lockdown, that source of income has also been cut off. Her children have stopped attending school, and she is unable to afford devices for online education. They haven't been studying. She claims that she is struggling to make ends meet.

2. Mrs. Valli is a mother of two kids. She weaves baskets at Thalir LEED and works as a Social Worker at The New LEED. She has been actively working for the organisation because it has kept her afloat during these difficult financial and labour times. Her husband has been out of work for about two and a half years, and her mother visits them on occasion. She is the sole provider for the family, working in Thalir LEED and doing odd jobs to supplement her income. She claims that she forced her children to take the exams and submit their answers to their school because she does not earn enough to pay for their online education. She is currently sending them to her mother-in-house law's because their house is in disrepair and there has been a rapid increase in Covid cases in their area.

When asked about her job as a basket weaver, she describes it as "wonderful and fun!" She enjoys bonding with other women and having them support one another. Because of the number of women who are married in our area, their husbands are either unemployed or addicted to alcohol, and some are even widowed. One of the ladies is even fighting cancer and making baskets.

3. Mrs. Radha is a single mother with four children. She lives in a rented house and is the sole breadwinner because her husband does not work and is a drunkard. Her two daughters are married, and she has a mentally retarded girl child in her twenties who requires her constant attention. Has a son who is a fisherman and does not support her financially. Her house has a water problem because there is no water supply in the Perungudi area. She has been weaving baskets at an NGO for 5 years while working as a part-time office cleaner at 'The New LEED'. Before having her health issues, she worked as a daily labourer at a construction site for 400 Rs. each day. What intrigues me the most about her is her eagerness to learn new basket weaving skills. Last year, she won a Rs. 1,000 prize for her new designs. She primarily tries to weave at home.

4. Radha's daughter, Iniya, is an artisan. She has been married for three years and has a ten-month-old child. She weaves at home and uses innovative and novel weaving techniques. Her husband is an electrician, and she, too, has a rental house.

Last year, she was awarded Rs. 1000 for her artistry and creative design. She's been weaving for about six months.

5. Lakshmi has been weaving at home for the past five years and lives in a rented house. Her husband is a plumber who is paid on a daily basis. She has three school-age children and a sick mother who requires her care. She is an artisan who enjoys weaving in addition to housework because she needs money to run her household.

6. Dhaya lives in Perungudi with her own house and enjoys weaving baskets as a hobby. She has two children in the seventh and twelfth grades. Her husband works as a fabricator of aluminium. She has been weaving baskets for three years.

7.Arasu, despite being a student, is a skilled weaver who has been with us for 8 years. He is a third-year student at Quaid-e-Millath Government College. He creates stunning works of art. When he entered 'The New LEED office,' he was in eighth grade.He has two working sisters who never contribute to the family's income. He comes from a low-income family with a troubled past. His father has two families and struggles to provide for them. He is only nineteen years old and works a night shift in Medicare to supplement his income. He aspires to be a nurse after completing his

8. Mary has been with 'The New LEED' Trust for over ten years. Her husband is a security guard with three grown children. Only one of the three girls is married, and the other two are less interested in marriage. As a mother, she is concerned about her children and wishes for them to marry.

At the age of 60, she travels more than one and a half hours every day by train to Perungudi in order to get to the office on time.

She is the headteacher and the driving force behind all of the basket weavers. Her time is spent teaching them tailoring, weaving, and guiding them through each step. She is solely responsible for all of the women's tasks.

* Working artisan at Thalir LEED, their names are changed. We met them during pandemic. 

We are located at Perungudi, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Perungudi is a neighborhood of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is situated about 10 kilometres of Adyar. It is bordered on two sides by the OMR and the Perungudi lake where we have our NGO. It is situated on the Old Mahabalipuram IT Expressway right in middle of an Information Technology (IT) Estate. It is between Taramani and Thoraipakkam and parallel to Kottivakkam and Palavakkam in the East Coast Road (ECR Highway).

The suburb is inhabited by an equal mix of new migrants and descendants of some early clans who migrated to the area approximately 300 years ago. Perungudi is seeing heightened activities in recent years due to its strategic location. The population of Perungudi was approximately 8,000 in 2000 but has grown significantly in the years since then. Being in the IT Corridor of Chennai, Perungudi is increasingly being preferred as a residential locality by software engineers. Despite this significant growth, Perungudi lacks basic civic amenities such as underground storm and waste drainage system, piped potable water and good roads. This region has gained more importance owing to its location on the IT highway and proximity to city neighbourhoods like Palavakkam, Thiruvanmiyur, Adyar and Velachery.

Here in this location we have our project and registered office of Our NGO, The New LEED  where they dedicates by training desolated women who suffers immensely, single deprived TB affected mothers, & the struggling widows who are sole bread-earners, and differently abled. The New LEED Trust is an NGO working in the field of education for underprivileged and economically backward people in India. The meaning of LEED is Liberation, Education, Economic Development. It is functioning from the year 1991 and is registered as a charitable trust (Regd. No. 934/2000, 12AA Income Tax act1961). At presentit is working in the slum community of Thiruvalluvar Nagar in Perungudi in Chennai, which is near to Perungudi Railway station. 

Thalir-LEED dedicates itself to bring solace and empowerment to underprivileged women by assisting our trained artisans to express their creativity through weaving, stitching, and earning a living. It is a women's Self-Help Group (SHG) founded by 'The New LEED' Trust to help and train women in Perungudi and Thiruvalluvar Nagar slums in Chennai, India. We have a few of the artisans given below:

POONGKODI: She is a very talented and gifted woman, aged 32, she is a biotech graduate who is married and has two kids (a boy and a girl)  but separated from her husband for 4 years. She was working in a private concern but for the past 6months she is at home. She quit her job as her mother is sick. Now she is learning tailoring in 'The New LEED' Trust  and feels that this learning will help her to become financially independent and this will also help her to build a better life for her family. She has her dream and we welcome her to this NGO and once they are trained Thalir-LEED will take over.

GNANAM: A  woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. Gnanam is a very strong and talented woman, working in Thalir LEED for almost a year. She is 43 years and her husband is working in the LND company. She is the mother of two children. She is basically from Thanjavur. Her parents died during her childhood. After their death her brother took care of her. Recently, her brother who is 53 years old died because of stomach cancer. He was her strong support system and his death made her little weak.

She has completed her diploma and was working in an IT company before her marriage. After the marriage, her husband doesn't allow her to go to work for almost 17 years. Through, all these years, she was said to take care of her family and children. Her life was restricted to the four walls of the house. Afterward,  as their children grew up, their income was not enough to meet their family needs. Thus she joined for training into The New LEED trust thereafter she is full fletched in Thalir-LEED. She knows jewelry making, Garland making, Flower Vase making, and other extra activities. Being part of Thalir LEED has helped her to empower herself in many ways.

Women who are economically empowered contribute more to their families, societies, and National Economies. Now, she is also able to contribute to running her family and meeting her children’s needs. She feels happy and empowered to be financially independent. Working in Thalir LEED, helps her to learn new skills and be more creative. She learned to make different varieties of baskets, varieties of stars, and other crafts. She is highly motivated to learn new skills. At times, she also shares her challenges and problems in her life with her companions, which helps her to get relief. 

Empowerment is more than simply feeling powerful or confident. True empowerment is pure validation, a state of being in which we recognize and celebrate our own wild potential. This feeling is often elusive, particularly for individuals who experience daily oppression, self-doubt, or limiting circumstances.

JYOTHI LAKSHMI: She is 35 years old. She is the mother of three female children. They attend St. Antony School to complete their education. Her husband works as an electrician. It's challenging for him to get a regular employment. As a result, it is extremely difficult for both parents to support the children's education and school costs. In caring for the kids and the family, she works really hard and responsibly. Her husband was unable to contribute to family expenses from his salary. She therefore manages the family's expenses with the meagre income she receives from weaving wire baskets in Thalir-LEED.

She has been working for the past 5 years in The New LEED, Trust. She earns more, based on the number of baskets she weaves. She feels very happy and proud to work and earn money. Now, she is also able to contribute to family expenses and meet her children’s school fees. She feels happy and empowered to be financially independent. Working in Thalir LEED, helps her to learn new skills and be more creative. She learned to make different varieties of baskets, varieties of stars, and other crafts. She is highly motivated to learn new skills. At times, she also shares that she feels safe working in Thalir-LEED.

THANGA LAKSHMI: Mrs.Thanga Lakshmi, from Perungudi, aged 63, has 2  sons and a daughter. All are married. She is living with her spouse, aged 73. She learnt basket weaving 6 years ago, and started weaving baskets for us till the lock down. She's back to our Thalir-LEED to weave baskets and  earn a livelihood. She feels proud to earn and have sustainability.

SANDHIYASandhiya, a 17 years old girl child, who has just finished her schooling in Perungudi Govt school and stands in need of joining college. She has a younger brother doing his 10th grade in the same school. Her father is a drug addict, who doesn't have a permanent job and is irregular to work. Sandhiya has grown up seeing her father physically and verbally abuse her mother. Her mother is a  domestic worker, who is the sole breadwinner of the family. She has a great interest in designing clothes, and does mehndi designing for her friends and  neighbors for a minimum charge in order to support her mother and their family expenses. Her interest in designing motivated her to join tailoring classes and pursue her dream to run her own boutique one day. She is learning now and says eventually she will be great artisans in Thalir-LEED. 

POONGOTHAI: She works at "The New LEED" and a mother of two children who weaves baskets at Thalir LEED. She has been actively working for the both organizations because it has helped her survive during these challenging economic and employment times. Her mother was her helping hand where she also passed away, and her husband hasn't had a job for almost three years. She works at Thalir LEED and takes on odd jobs to supplement her income as the family's sole provider. Because she doesn't make enough money to pay for her kids' online education, she made them take the tests and turn in their answers during the pandemic. She is currently moving out of her home because it is in bad shape, there have been numerous issues, and she is constantly under stress.

She calls her work as a basket weaver "great and fun" when we inquire about it. She enjoys bonding with other women artisans who is too sailing in the same boat and weavind their lives like her and having them support one another. She says that her in her community, Kallukotai the number of women who are married their husbands are either unemployed or addicted to alcohol, and some are even widowed.

She resides in that community where we meet her everyday. She is the eye opener to us every day as we are able to reach out the community and she has been our wire supplier to the ladies who are battling in that community. She tells us a few of the artisans who are weaving and their family details. One of the ladies is even fighting cancer and making baskets.

THANGAM, 45-year-old widow just lost her husband. Her husband was electrocuted by a live wire and killed. She has three kids. The older son is a freshman in college. Third son is in grade 11 and second daughter is in grade 12. She is a home maker. She started weaving for us occasionally till the lock down after learning the skill ten years ago at NGO. She has returned now to Thalir-LEED to make baskets and support herself.

RANI, 46-year-old D. Rani moved from Pallikaranai to the marshlands of Kallu Kuttai in the southern fringes of the city 20 years ago, the area was chest-deep in water. “There was barely any land,” she recalls. “We were the ones who made some for ourselves.”

GOTHAI PRIYA, aged 28 , married and has 2 boy children aged between 5 and 2 . Her husband works as a delivery person in Zomato. She has  completed her Under graduation and was working in a private concern for 2 years. As she has to take care of her 2 children, she was forced to quit her job. As an energetic person by nature, who doesn't like to sit at home watching television series; instead she wants to learn some life skill and earn an extra income to  cover an unexpected expenses. And so she is here in LEED weaving baskets

According to her, the Kallu Kuttai that she remembers housed four families. Today, it is a 370-acre slum broken into various ‘Nagars’ on either side of the Perungudi elevated train station. With around 204 unpaved streets, it has approximately 20,000 houses. None of them are authorized. Kallu Kuttai, a 370-acre unauthorised slum, houses 20,000 families who are not entitled to many facilities

“The land actually belongs to Anna University and the people living there haven’t been forced to leave only because the university hasn’t objected yet,” explains P. Bhagyalakshmi, the Village Administrative Officer in charge of the slum. “But, tomorrow, if we get orders to evict them, we will have no other choice,” she adds. “Everything these people have here is temporary.”

A broken streetlight in one of the roads of Thiruvalluvar Nagar, Perungudi.

The residents of Kallu Kuttai live in poor conditions because they cannot legally claim many facilities. The narrow dirt roads in Thiruvalluvar Nagar are uneven, strewn with rubble and mostly submerged in stagnant water that looks like sewage.

“We’ve never had paved roads and the few streetlights that were put up in the area look like that,” says S. Lakshmi (36), a tailor, pointing towards a broken structure with loose wires dangling from the awning.

“A couple of years ago, some of us protested near Chepauk to change the situation, but nothing came out of it,” she adds.

“Right now, the puddle you see near my house may look bad, but during the monsoon, the whole place gets flooded,” says S. Stella (45), a domestic help. “Even our houses aren’t spared.”

According to Bhagyalakshmi, the corporation cannot provide residents with toilets and sewers, so some Members of the Legislative Assembly have funded the construction of toilets here.

Residents say otherwise. “Nobody has done anything for us. We constructed our toilets with our own money,” says Rani. “Even the garbage dump you see next to my home was organized by my family and our neighbors,” she says.

The residents also complain about the quality of the facilities that the government provides them. “There is one 3,000-litre tank for around 38 families, but it is never filled,” says J. Kamakshi (52), a bajji seller living close to the Perungudi station. “The corporation fills it infrequently and we end up spending around Rs. 50 on making phone calls to them itself. The water they give also is not of good quality.”

Residents say that no drainage system and the unpaved roads here not only make it difficult for them to commute out of the slum, but also leaves them susceptible to many diseases.

People in the area say that they have stopped contacting any government officials about these problems. “There is a tremendous distrust now between the people and the government,” says Dr. Karen Coelho, urban anthropologist and Assistant Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies. “The government does not believe that people will move and accommodate themselves, while the people do not believe that the government will deliver on any of their promises.”

While the residents of the slum are aware of Anna University’s claim over Kallu Kuttai, they are misinformed about the extent of the property. “We don’t live on Anna University’s land. They only own the lake in the area,” says 42-year-old Anna Durai, a fish vendor who moved here from Kannagi Nagar two years ago. Kamakshi, who has lived here for 15 years, and Rani share the same understanding.

“Nobody stopped us when we first moved in,” says Rani. “We’ve been staying here for so many decades, so why should we leave?” says Stella, who has been living in Thiruvalluvar Nagar for the last 10 years. “Our voter IDs and ration cards all say that we belong here,” she explains, holding out a tattered green ration card that reads: No. 27, Subhash Chandra Bose Street, Perungudi.

“The residents of Kallu Kuttai get voter IDs and ration cards with an address proof, but that does not mean that the government recognizes the slum as authorized,” explains Bhagyalakshmi. “Once the Slum Clearance Board constructs flats for them elsewhere, we will be able to shift them out of here. Their address proof will be changed then.”

According to Transparent Chennai, a research organization that presents data on important civic issues in the city, the government of Tamil Nadu has not officially recognized any slums since 1985. The organization adds that the “existing government spending on slums has focused on building large-scale resettlement colonies on the outskirts of the city, to the exclusion of in-situ rehabilitation.”

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