While the civic body struggles to dispose of 10,600 metric tonnes (MT) of waste generated in the city every day, a cooperative of 1,000 women ragpickers has been collecting, segregating and recycling 20 MT of wet waste every day for the past 12 years.
In an attempt to empower women to provide a better future for their children, Mumbai-based NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana launched Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangh (PBVS), a project for women ragpickers, in 2004.
As part of the project, 1,000 women from across Mumbai have been trained to segregate and recycle dry waste. They have also been taught to convert biodegradable waste collected from housing societies, hotels, restaurants, schools, colleges and corporate offices into compost.
Currently, the NGO is training another 1,500 women to carry out similar endeavours.
“After conducting a survey in 2003, we found that a large number of women ragpickers’ miserable working conditions were affecting their children’s education,” said Sushila Sable, founder, PBVS and a former ragpicker who represented India at the 2012 Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
“We enrolled women who were willing to learn under the leadership development programme and also told them about the benefits from such a model,” said Sable.
Following the implementation of the training programme, women working over the last 10 years have been earning a wage of Rs200 a day at housing complexes, Rs300 a day at educational institutions, Rs400 a day at research facilities and hospitals and Rs500 a day at office complexes and dumping grounds through individual efforts. “At each of these locations, all safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves and head cover, have been provided,” said Nisha Bandekar, coordinator, PBVS.
“The efforts of the NGO and the women employed are commendable. Their efforts have ensured that fewer dumper trucks head to the landfills,” said Pallavi Darade, additional municipal commissioner, solid waste management department, BMC.
“Other NGOs should also carry out similar efforts keeping in mind the safety and economic security of these women,” said Darade.