AVANI Development of Rag Picking Communities

Project: AVANI Development of Rag Picking Communities
Location: Kolhapur, Maharashtra
Category: Education, Empowerment, Health Care


Bettering the lives of rag pickers

Since 1996, AVANI, a non-governmental organization founded by Anuradha Bhosale, a former child laborer herself, has helped thousands of women in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Rather than providing simple handouts or charity, this NGO promotes access to education and municipal rights, enabling future generations.

In 2015, AVANI, with funding from IDS, continued implementing projects in the following domains:avani-1

Health Education: AVANI educated rag picker communities on topics such as nutrition, environment, sanitation, and personal hygiene. Health check-ups were conducted in the slums with the help of private doctors. The target audience was women and children.

Nutritional Education: This prevention-based program helped women understand the importance of including seasonal fruits and vegetables in their diet. Unfortunately, most workers cannot afford fresh produce on a regular basis. For this reason, AVANI provided nutritional supplements, such as iron and calcium tablets, free of cost.

Women’s Rights: In a male-dominated environment, AVANI organized women rag pickers to build awareness about their basic government rights. It continues to help ensure each woman has a BPL (below poverty line) ration card and access to free legal counseling.

Infrastructure: While the government has provided every slum with certain infrastructure amenities such as toilets, access to drinking water, and public sanitation (drainage), it has not been enough. To combat this shortage, AVANI has petitioned the local municipal government to provide more sanitary facilities. This has been a tremendous challenge due to government corruption and bureaucracy.

Education: AVANI has worked with the community to send every “out of school” child to school through the government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009. As a result, 220 unschooled children are in school today. Rag picker families are changing their view on education for the better.

Union Membership: More than 800 rag picker women are now members of AVANI. As union members, these women are allowed to manage a waste management project at the city level.

AVANI is currently working with the government to ensure that the union remains legal and is registered. It hopes to reach this outcome within the next 9 months. Looking ahead, AVANI will continue pursuing outcomes in each of these areas in 2016.

–2015 IDS annual report

The millions of rag pickers who search for recyclable garbage keep India’s cities cleaner, yet the public shuns them. They come from different parts of the country where the rural economy has not been able to sustain them. Without a support system, they lack basic access to education, nutri­tion, health care, and other infrastructure.

In 2014, AVANI, an NGO located in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, began involvement with ten separate rag picker communities made up of 1,800 individuals. In existence since 1996, AVANI has taken a sustainability approach in its out­reach programs. Rather than providing simple handouts or charity, this NGO promotes access to education and municipal rights, enabling future generations.

Through an initial grant provided by IDS, AVANI made substantial progress with Kolhapur’s rag picker communities on several fronts. Highlights include:

Adult Literacy: A pilot program was started with the help of a local volunteer to teach read­ing, writing, and math skills to 30 adult women. AVANI will expand this program to all ten rag picker communities.

First Daycare Center: Shortly after giving birth, most rag picker mothers take their newborn and small children with them as they work in the slums. AVANI started the first-ever daycare center for some of the women of the Rajendra Nagar area. Mothers brought fifteen children to the new center while they themselves received education and training in proper child-rearing methods and issues of health and hygiene.

Sanitation: The local govern­ment does not recognize rag picker communities as living dwellings; therefore, local municipalities offer no assistance to establish proper sanitation in the ten slum areas. AVANI sent a letter to the Sanitary Inspector for the Municipal Corporation to demand attention to the sanitary conditions in the slum communities. The organizations are currently working together to address the sanitary concerns.

Waste Management: Rag pick­ers are unaware of the health con­sequences of continual exposure to medical and electronic waste, nox­ious gases, and fumes from burning trash. AVANI held an informational workshop for women to help them better understand the waste materi­als they handle and to show them how to create a “zero waste” zone. Women were also educated on their human rights as Indian citizens and taught how to advocate for themselves to the local municipalities.

Moving forward, AVANI’s plans for 2015 will focus on sustainable solutions to empower rag picker community members in such areas as obtaining proper identity cards, creating unions at the state level, and implementing technologi­cal solutions to promote safer and cleaner waste management. Waste management within these communities continues to be a pressing need and IDS will assist AVANI with best practices in waste management to address this challenge.

–2014 IDS annual report

More than 80 million children in India are involved in child labor, street begging, or sexual trafficking, and about 35,000 of them are in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Here, in a city famous for its brickyards, children as young as five labor in the sun to mix water, straw, clay, and ash to make bricks. Many of these children work for less than 40 cents per day and have no access to basic welfare, safety, and education. Despite these troubling statistics, progress has been made in the past decade. Since 1996, AVANI, a non-governmental organization founded by Anuradha Bhosale, a former child laborer herself, has rescued thousands of these workers and provided them with essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter.

AVANI has embraced a sustainability approach with its outreach pro­grams. Rather than providing simple handouts or charity, the NGO promotes access to education and municipal rights, helping to empower future generations.

Starting this year, IDS is working with AVANI to help Kolhapur’s 1800-member rag picking community. For $30 per year, AVANI will provide a family of five with access to health care, shelter, and clean water; training on hygiene, nutrition, and proper sanitation will also be provided. AVANI will also embark on unionizing the community so that it is represented at the government level.

Primary goals for the rag picking community include:

Health—Create awareness of skin and intestinal diseases and promote the impor­tance of personal hygiene.

Nutrition—Teach the importance of proper nutrition, especially during pregnancy and early childhood development.

Education—Educate rag picking parents to organize their own school management committees in order to monitor and guide their children’s education.


–2013 IDS annual report