Kasturba Nagar, India
Sometimes all you need to save an entire community is one strong woman. And for the slum community of Kasturba Nagar on the outskirts of Nagpur, India, that woman was Usha Narayane. For more than 15 years, Usha’s community was terrorized by a local thug named Akku Yadav. Akku was a notorious rapist and murderer who committed crimes with impunity because he knew how to take advantage of corruption in the local police force. The people of Kasturba Nagar remained helpless as officials continued to turn a blind eye to the dire situation. In 2004, Usha became the community’s hero when she decided to stand up to Akku in a brave act that could have cost her her life.
Usha’s story was exposed to the world by award winning New York Times journalist, Nicholas Kristof, in an article released in January 2006. Usha was embraced as a hero by readers around the world, but this recognition was not what she yearned for. Usha had a vision for her community’s future, and all she needed were partners willing to support her in seeing this vision come to life.
We were so taken by Usha and her story that we flew to Nagpur and asked her how we could help. She said the biggest challenge holding her community back from development was that the local women needed jobs. And so, in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the National Institute for Women, Children, and Youth Development, we designed a three-year skills training program specifically for Usha’s community. This program, called the Kasturba Nagar Community Project, trains both women and men from the community in skill-specific jobs that are in high demand in Nagpur’s labor market. The training covers skills needed by industries like catering and cooking, ceramic teeth design, milk processing, cardboard box manufacturing, and IT. The Kasturba Nagar Community Project also runs an entrepreneurship program for those interested in starting their own business.