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Mahila Mall still a scar for Kudumbashree Mission – Mrit News

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What was promoted as the ultimate model for women empowerment, crumbled in two years

What was promoted as the ultimate model for women empowerment, crumbled in two years

When a much-hyped project fails to live up to expectations, it leaves a scar. Mahila Mall is one such scar for the Kudumbashree Mission, as it celebrates its silver jubilee. Even after its shutdown, the mall keeps reappearing in the news for all the wrong reasons, not allowing the scar to fade.

Mahila Mall was a venture of the Unity Group of Kudumbashree under the Kozhikode Corporation Community Development Society (CDS), claimed to be the first ever mall in Asia with an all-woman crew. When Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated it in November 2018, it was promoted as the ultimate model for women empowerment, a platform for women entrepreneurs to start and flourish. But the honeymoon phase faded in just a month and the 70 odd women entrepreneurs who invested their life’s savings in the mall, started expressing their discontent over the management of the mall. What started as whispers among the entrepreneurs soon grew as an outcry for justice.

The downfall

“The management did not keep its promises, nor did they make any effort for better marketing. We were taken for a ride,” said Anitha Bimal who owned a boutique in the mall.

The management on the other hand blamed the entrepreneurs for not keeping their end of the bargain. “Most of them refused to pay rent. How could we function without income? We had no means to pay our loans or the building rent,” K. Vijaya, secretary of Unity Group, said.

The exodus of entrepreneurs started within the first year and by the end of 2019, many of the shops in the mall had closed down. COVID was the last nail in the Mahila Mall’s coffin as the management refused to open the mall after the first lockdown without the entrepreneurs paying their dues. It led to an open protest by the entrepreneurs, who were eventually supported by various political parties. Ultimately, Unity Group did not renew their license and backed out from the project.

The accounts of most of the entrepreneurs, who continued to have shops in the mall during the shut down, had been settled, but a few have approached the court demanding ample compensation for their lost years, investment, as well as emotional turmoil.

The issue led to several tense discussions at the Kozhikode Corporation as well, in which the local body refused to take any legal or moral responsibility for the situation. As the political slugfest in the name of the mall still continues, the mall, as it is, is no more. The building has now been turned into a normal shopping complex with an entirely different management.

But the issue of Mahila Mall is kept alive by the disgruntled entrepreneurs who keep fighting for their due compensation.

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