For more than 20 years, Lakshmi and her family struggled to find anywhere to live in Mumbai. She and her husband moved to the Byculla area of the city in the 1980s, where they found a small shop to rent, but after having children they found the shop was simply too small to raise a family in.
Looking around for other accommodation, Lakshmi and her family found themselves up against expensive and unaffordable rent prices in the city. Instead they decided to build a small hut, but this attempt also failed when a neighbour claimed back the land they were using for his business. With no other option, Lakshmi and her family were forced to move to a nearby pavement.
Like many slum and pavement dwellers in India, Lakshmi's situation was considered illegal by local authorities. Without permission to live on the pavement, her family resorted to putting up a shelter each night before taking it down again each morning. In 1986, Lakshmi received notice from the authorities of total pavement clearance. With the support of Homeless International and our partner SPARC, Lakshmi got together with other women in her position to fight the eviction and engage with the authorities over resettlement.
It took many years before land and permission to begin construction was given, but with the support of Homeless International, work on a housing development finally began in 2003 and was completed in 2006. Lakshmi was one of the first pavement dwellers to be resettled there.
The network of women working together to improve their lives, which Lakshmi was part of, became known as Mahila Milan ('women together') and has since helped over half a million people to resettle into safer, cleaner and affordable housing. Lakshmi still commutes to the Byculla area at least three times a week, helping and encouraging women still living on the pavements to join Mahila Milan.