The initiative is a project of the Aga Khan Development Network

...Human resources have become more important than natural resources in determining the wealth of a society…the best interests of every society will be best served if its future leaders can be adequately prepared for an unusually demanding future.

- His Highness The Aga Khan


Heritage conservation is often seen to be delinked from socio-economic development. The Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative is an example of rethinking conservation and demonstration that heritage conservation is a stepping stone for socio-economic development. The project looks at the regeneration of a historic city centre through its three-fold objectives of heritage conservation, environment development, and improving the quality of life for the residents of Nizamuddin.

A multi-disciplinary team has worked with local communities to fulfil these objectives. The project’s principal focus remains leveraging the cultural assets for the community’s benefits.

The Challenges

Livelihood opportunities in the Basti were found to be limited in scope. Incomes tended to be irregular and mostly in the unorganised sector. Skill deficit was another cause for limited employment opportunities for the youth.

The 2008 quality of life survey and discussions revealed that the livelihood of most of the adult population was dependent on the informal, unorganized sector. Youth tended to join the traditional occupation of their families as there were practically no opportunities to train in skills that equipped them to work outside Nizamuddin Basti.

The youth identified lack of English and computer operations as the two major impediments to their employability. Another vulnerable group was youth who had been unable to complete their schooling for a variety of reasons, usually a pressure to earn for the family. They tended to begin their working lives as apprentices or the bottom of the pyramid with their low/no skills.

Women had limited opportunities in Nizamuddin Basti and limited mobility to travel which restricted their capacity to earn thereby limiting the number of women with their own income. It was these findings that guided the interventions made by the project in terms of choosing the target groups i.e. youth and women and the nature of skill enhancement offered. Care was taken that programmes for the youth included at least 50 % women.

Our Programmes

The Aga Khan Development Network 2008 Quality of Life survey revealed that under 1% of youth from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti were able to access any vocational training. The urban renewal project offers an opportunity to the youth and women to learn new skills and increase their employability. Through its various strategies, the project has undertaken livelihood generation programmed under the following categories:


The 2008 baseline survey revealed that only 9% of the women had some income of their own.

Insha-e-Noor is a Self-help group comprising of women from the Basti who have been trained in the traditional aari embroidery and crochet as well as tailoring and embroidery, and creating paper-cutting patterns inspired from the architectural heritage of Nizamuddin Area.

The women members of Insha-e-Noor learn and practice five crafts - embroidery, sanjhi (the art of paper cutting), crochet, garment construction and binding and packaging under the supervision of dedicated instructors and produce a range of beautiful products marketed under the Insha-e-Noor brand. The livelihood group not only creates employment and source of income for these women, but since their patterns and motifs inspired from monuments of Nizamuddin, has also led to a renewed sense of appreciation for one’s own heritage.

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Zaika-e-Nizamuddin, as the name suggests, is the ‘zaika’ or flavours of Nizamuddin which has been carried forward generations after generations in this 700 year old living heritage.

It is a women’s group that was established as a response to address malnourishment in children resulting from the consumption of nutritionally poor snacks between meals. The Early Childhood Care and Development baseline survey of 2010 that more than 50% of children in Nizamuddin were malnourished.

Following a sustained dialogue with the mothers, the members of ZeN make healthy, low cost snacks for children that are supplied to aanganwadis and retailed in Nizamuddin.

Food from ZeN also gives you a peek into the culture of Nizamuddin and a delightful sense of contentment, packed nicely in a box of kebabs or a bowl of biryani. That’s what makes it stand apart!

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The Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti is a custodian of 700 years of a living cultural heritage. That this legacy encompasses secular and inter-faith cultural traditions makes it even more valuable in today’s context. Consequently, conservation efforts in the area have to go beyond restoration of tangible assets to revive and preserve traditional music, art, crafts and festivals. The project aims to integrate the community with its cultural heritage by making its revival and preservation inclusive to the community’s economic and social interests.

Sair E Nizamuddin, the Self Help Group (SHG) of community heritage volunteers comprising of young boys from the Basti was started in 2010. The group conducts heritage walk through the Humayun’s Tomb - Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti for school children as well as visitors.

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Career Development Courses

The Career Development Centre (CDC) was initiated in 2010 to address some of the skill development and training needs of the youth of the community, especially the trainings that relate to computer operations.

The CDC is run in partnership with the NIIT Foundation. We chose to work with the NIIT Foundation as they are one of the earliest groups to begin computer based vocational training and they have a history of working through similar CDCs in other underprivileged areas.

The courses offered by the CDC fall into two broad categories – professional courses and non-professional courses. Professional courses are offered to youth over 18 years of age and include skill training, soft skills development and placement in an appropriate organization.

The livelihood component has a special focus on women – the programmes in the career development centre ensure that there are approximately 50% women participants.

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