In a small Ghaziabad village that is barely 40km from the Capital, a group of 20 women sets out to work just like millions of others in the region. The only difference is that they do not earn money or respect in return for their work.
These women are manual scavengers, who remove human waste from dry toilets to the fields for disposal. All they get in return are 50kg of grain and a set of clothes every year from the families they work for.But their lives are soon set to change for the better with members of Students in Free Enterprise, Shri Ram College for Commerce (SIFE-SRCC), chalking out a plan to rehabilitate the women and give them vocational training. The project, called Azmat: Repossessing Respect, has already been kicked off.
“We have partnered with Sulabh International and PHDCCI. The plan is to build toilets in the area to ensure sanitation and to give the women vocational training, such as candle- and soap-making, so that they are not forced to go back to their demeaning job," said Abhay Kumar, faculty advisor, SIFE-SRCC.
Sulabh International and PHDCCI will help the members of SIFE-SRCC build 90 toilets in the area.
“The vocational training for the women will start in the first week of June. The trainers have also been identified and will go to Ghaziabad to train the women,” said Surabhi Seth, president, SIFE-SRCC.
The project is expected to be completed in July.
The student organisation had earlier started the project, Life on Wheels, with rickshaw-pullers in North Campus that utilised a micro-credit model to help them own their rickshaws rather than hire them.
The project has been successful, having helped 100 rickshaw-pullers so far.
Azmat is not the only new project this year. SIFE-SRCC is also engaging with puppeteers in Kathputli Colony and helping them identify and develop a stable and sufficient source of income and to tap newer markets.
“The lack of basic organisation in the community, inability of the artists to market their art, growing middlemen-caused debts and the advent of TV and the Internet have stifled the growth of the traditional arts. Through Project Kayakalp, we aim to empower the puppeteer community and spread social and environmental messages among children,” said Twinkle Uppal, co-president, SIFE-SRCC.
The organisation has partnered with various NGOs and schools for the project already and has trained 10 puppeteers to create skits that are of social relevance today.