Area of work:
Mahila Housing Trust helps poor women in India’s cities come together and tackle social challenges. This includes supporting them to take up practical and affordable home cooling solutions.
These can cut indoor temperatures by up to 6C, helping women and their families work, study, rest and stay well. The trust also helps women fight for political change on cooling and other issues.
In a warming world, rising indoor temperatures leave people tired and sick, and make it harder for them to study and earn a living. In low-income neighbourhoods, problems including crowding, a lack of ventilation, and heat-trapping materials such as metal roofs increase the danger.
Women are more likely to work and spend time indoors than men, and so are most affected. The International Labor Organization has projected that India will lose the equivalent of 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 due to heat stress.
Mahila Housing SEWA Trust is empowering women in seven Indian cities to tackle heat stress in their homes and settlements. The trust brings women together, shares knowledge about the issue and possible solutions, and helps communities access affordable, sustainable, cooling technologies. More than 5,000 households have benefited from this work, which also contributes to climate mitigation by cutting the energy used by fans and other cooling appliances.
The trust also supports women as they engage with government to address the problems they face. MHT works with a broad range of partners, from city officials to developers, bringing the voices and experiences of low-income communities into high-level discussions about cooling and heat stress. In the city of Ahmedabad, the trust’s engagement prompted the creation of heat-reducing ceramic mosaic roofs in 17,000 new public homes.
Helping communities take the lead
The trust’s work begins with helping families in low-income neighbourhoods form community-based organisations, led by local women. Once these are established, they receive information from MHT and choose priority areas for action, with heat stress being one of options.
If communities choose to tackle heat stress, the trust gives them advice, and access to credit and subsidies for locally-appropriate solutions. These include heat-reflecting white paints, roof materials specially designed to reduce heat, and vegetation that offers a natural barrier to sunlight.
Some of these products have been trialled and adapted by the trust, local women, universities and manufacturers. Customer testimonies are shared and solutions are demonstrated to potential buyers, who are also informed of the cost-benefit of the measures being offered. The trust’s own credit co-operatives play an important role in making the solutions affordable.
Cooling triples Vimala’s income
Vimala Prajapati, a 39-year-old mother of three from Bhopal. The trust helped her cool her roof with reflective paint, a solution she has recommended to her neighbours and sisters. She says: “We are feeling more comfortable on summer days. There is no more need to sit outside the home to get rid of the temperature. Now I can work continuously in the kitchen and spare more time for my tailoring work. This has increased my daily income from about 150 to about 450 Rupees.”
Savita Pandey lives in Surat, where summer temperatures can reach 48C. She runs a small shop out of her home, in a room that until a few years ago had a tin sheet roof. She says: “During summer, we had dizziness, vomiting and fever. I used to get tired and need to close my shop in the afternoons for four hours. The tin sheet roofing made the shop too hot to stay in.”
Then the trust helped her install a bamboo roof. She says: “Now, I can open my shop for the entire day, as I can comfortably sit inside my shop in the hot afternoon.”
27 October 2022
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