India – INC The Story Of Waste Picking Women


“Janvikas Society” is an NGO based in Indore, in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. It was started in the year 2001 as an organ for social action in Indore by the India Central Province of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).

Janvikas works for the integral development of the underprivileged and marginalized people, who are deprived of their right to live as dignified and responsible citizens because of their ignorance, illiteracy and poverty. Janvikas pays special attention to the welfare of the unorganized labourers, waste picking women and children, unemployed youth, street children, migrant and Nomadic people.

Waste picking women form the most marginalized group among the unorganized workers. An estimated number of over 6000 families in Indore earn their livelihood from waste picking. And three times the numbers of people depend on allied activities with the waste collection and the waste recycling trade. They include the rag-picking women, itinerant buyers, small traders and middle-men, stockiest, workers at the small and medium sorting units,recycling factories and the dealers of the end products. Thus, Janvikas has been working with the waste picking women, to mobilize them under the banner of a recognized organization, wherein they would gain from the collective strength and get the privileges of a registered body. Janvikas gave rise to the formation of a women’s Cooperative Society called the “Sarvodaya Sramik Mahila Sakh Sahakarita Samithi” in the year 2004. This cooperative society has been registered with the Registrar of Cooperatives, the government body for the promotion and running of cooperatives in the State. It was begun with 50 rag picking women as its initial members. Today the cooperative society has 2000 unorganized women as members in it. The cooperative Society has designed welfare schemes for the benefits of its members, like emergency loan at low rate of interest, Group insurance, Social security schemes, Small saving schemes with attractive interest and guidance for better Entrepreneurship etc. Today some of the rag picking women have more than Rs. 80,000 in their savings account.

Various activities have been undertaken under the banner of this cooperative society for the empowerment of the unorganized women workers. Tangible results are seen in the slum communities in all the fields. The women have become more and more conscious about cleanliness and hygiene. The waste picking women take interest to send their children daily to the classes. The slum people provide space for the non-formal classes and see that the children attend the school. Appropriate teaching methodology and syllabus are adapted for the classes.The cooperative society has today become a source of strength and means of empowerment for the waste pickers in the city of Indore. The members learn much through the participation in regular meetings of the cooperative. They take training on issues connected to their life and work, and the facilities they could get from the cooperative Society.The role of Javikas is thus to facilitate this process of empowerment of the waste picking women, children and other unorganized labourers. The process of learning has to continue with guidance and support so that these women who are the last, least and the lost of the society may be able to live a dignified life and be able to stand on their feet.

Basil Bhuria SVD, Mission Secretary