On May 17, actor Nithya Menen flagged off the online auction with her Lakme Fashion Week outfit to help raise funds for women in Perumbakkam resettlement colony in Chennai.

Nithya Menen Lakme Fashion Week ramp
news Coronavirus Monday, May 18, 2020 - 17:59

While the battle against novel coronavirus pandemic rages on, the day-to-day lives of the marginalised have been affected the most. With an intent to support about 1400 families living in Perumbakkam, that’s reportedly one of the largest slum rehabilitation projects in the world, 30-year-old Ann Anra, founder of Wasted Solutions, an innovative solid waste management company based out of Chennai, has launched a crowdfunding campaign. Perumbakkam falls under the district administration of Chengalpattu.

Ann is a familiar face among the Tamil cinema audience for having played Kamal Hassan's daughter in the film Avvai Shanmugi.  Previously a marketing consultant and now a social entrepreneur, Ann, with the campaign, hopes to be able to support women from Perumbakkam tide through testing times brought on by COVID-19.

A unique aspect of this campaign is the Rebirth Collective, an online auctioning items pre-owned by celebrities. “In Tamil Nadu, it’s easier to get people’s attention if celebrities are involved,” Ann says.

On May 17, actor Nithya Menen flagged off the auction with a custom made dress by her friend and designer Kaveri, in which she had dazzled at the Lakme Fashion Week ramp earlier this year. “This was made especially for me by my friend and designer Kaveri. She works with linen and makes these beautiful, natural, real and pleasant clothes. She also promotes body positivity. I thought her dress would be perfect for this cause. I will also be adding a personal, handwritten note,” the actor shared in a video message.

The auction went live at 4 pm on Sunday and will end at 9 pm on Wednesday, May 20. Ann sounds hopeful about the bids. “So far the highest bids have exceeded the starting bid and the original product price,” she says. New celebrities will be revealed every Thursday and new bids will go online every Sunday for the next eight weeks. You can bid online on their Instagram page here.

A multi-pronged approach

For the past one year, Ann has been working with the women of Perumbakkam jointly with the Arpanam Trust, an NGO that helps under-served communities like tribals and the urban poor across Tamil Nadu, and is run by sisters from Church Park, a convent.

“There are over 20,000 families and it is one of the largest relocation projects in the world. The Arpanam Trust has been working with about 1400 families and about 30 to 35 self-help groups that come under the trust. They have a strong reach in the settlement because they have centres inside the housing board colony,” Ann explains.

The crowdfunding campaign is for a total of Rs 50 lakh. The funds raised will be used to provide three months of rations, training workshops, machinery, salaries and more for the women who come under the Trust. “A lot of NGOs have been supporting the women in the colony during the first two months of lockdown by sending them food and provisions. But now it has become even more difficult since cases of COVID-19 have been reported from Perumbakkam. We decided it was time to empower them so they don’t face a situation like this again,” Ann tells TNM.

“Women here are being trained by different NGOs to learn new skills. But they don't have access to a bigger market to promote and sell their products. I would like to bridge this gap.” Ann hopes to be able to make the women into micro-entrepreneurs and skilled employees to be able to self-support themselves and their families. Through her Wasted Solutions initiative, she will be training women on how to repurpose waste like tetra packs and cigarette butts, consequentially empowering the women and also reducing waste sent to Chennai landfills.

While funds raised through online auction will directly go into the crowdfunding, the exercise itself will be a prelude to another project Wasted Solutions will be working on. “We are trying to bring thrifting and second-hand shopping like how it is in the West. Even if it's a broken object, we will train the women to fix it. We will be able to create new value for things that are looked at as waste. While the platform is getting ready, we wanted to create some awareness for second-hand shopping,” says Ann.

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