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Offering Good Food and Good Income, Varanasi’s Didi Café is a Hit

To provide livelihood to women self-help groups, CDO, Varanasi, IAS officer Himanshu Nagpal, started the Didi Cafés Didi Café is a canteen in schools and colleges of the district where the SHG women provide nutritional food to the students Through the café, the women are getting monthly income of five to seven thousand rupees

IAS officer Himanshu Nagpal, who is the Chief Development Officer of Varanasi, came up with the idea of a cafe to be manned solely by the women of Self-Help Groups, and also to be named exclusively after them. And, thus, Didi Cafe came into existence, with the aim to provide livelihood and employment to the self-help group women of the district.

This initiative is especially for the women of the self-help group associated with the National Rural Livelihood Mission Varanasi. And they are now running canteens in the schools and colleges of the district under the name – ‘Didi Café’.

Speaking with Indian Masterminds, Mr. Nagpal shared details about the cafe initiative.

DIDI CAFÉ OPENS

Under the initiative, the administration has trained self-help group women to cook better nutritional food, which was earlier lacking in the schools. Although mid-day meals were available in the basic schools, inter-colleges and high schools had no provision where children could get any nutritional food. Hence, they used to go outside to have food.

“So, we have trained our SHG women on how to cook tasty and nutritional food and then opened up the ‘Didi Café within the school campuses, where we are providing nutritional food at a reasonable price to the children,” Mr. Nagpal said.

A MoU has been signed between the educational institutions and the self-help group, whereby the women would cook nutritional food for the educational institution. This would serve two purposes. The women’s income would go up and the school and college children would get nutritional diet daily.

“These self-help group women are getting good amount of money from a sustainable source now. In the regular canteens in government offices, the SHG women have to stay throughout the day. Whereas, the Didi café stays open only for 2-3 hours during the break time in the schools. So the rest of the time can be used for household chores and other works by the women,” Mr. Nagpal said.

In the cafe, food items are provided at reasonable prices which helps the students, while through these earnings, the women are being able to meet their household expenses comfortably as they are earning Rs. 200-250 daily and up to five to seven thousand a month.

HELPING BOTH STUDENTS AND WOMEN

Mr. Nagpal informed that they are getting a very positive response from the school authorities as well as the SHG women. However, initially, there were some apprehensions from the school authorities regarding getting outsiders inside the campus. So, the administration had to conduct several meetings and initiate dialogues between the SHGs and the schools to finally get the cafe plan approved. After that, MoUs were signed and the Didi Café was formally flagged off in October this year. These cafes are being opened not only in government schools and colleges, but also in private ones.

“Around 52 cafes have been started and our target is to open 100 cafes by the end of this year and cover all our inter and degree colleges with this initiative. Our end target is over 500 cafes. With every canteen, at least 3 SHG female would benefit and thousands of students would get nutritional food,” said Mr. Nagpal.

HOW THE NAME CAME ABOUT

About giving the name ‘Didi Café, Mr. Nagpal said that the SHG women are popularly known as ‘Didi” is also a catchy word, so they started the café with that name.

Not just nutritional food, the cafes also keeps stationary items, and there is a plan to add personal hygiene and menstrual hygiene products as well.

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