IDS funded a waste picker community development program, including children's education and women's empowerment and training.
Multi-Faceted Development Case Study
IDS has been fortunate to partner with many ground-breaking NGOs over an extended period of time for the betterment of marginalized communities. One such organization is AVANI near Kolhapur, Maharashtra that works with waste picker women, bonded laborers, and children from vulnerable communities. IDS has partnered with AVANI for nearly 10 years, supporting a variety of initiatives.
- Waste Collection and Management
AVANI trains waste picker women to be more efficient and to develop skills for green entrepreneurship. Beginning with registering 940 women in their local municipality, AVANI works to ensure that these women are earning fair wages. Women collect dry and wet waste for nearly 2,700 households, sorting waste in order to retrieve recyclables to earn additional income. These women collect nearly 300kg of recyclable plastic per month and earn Rs. 5,000-6,000 per kilogram. Through this training program, 18 women earn a monthly income of Rs. 15,000. Wet waste is composted by AVANI and resold, resulting in a monthly income of Rs. 7,000 for eight women.
- Green Entrepreneurship
AVANI has employed seven women who collect wet waste from households and vegetable markets, turning the waste to municipal bodies to create biomass and organic fertilizer. These women earn Rs. 6,000-7,000 per month as salary, selling the fertilizer to produce income for AVANI.
- Self-Help Groups
AVANI has worked with women to form self-help groups so they can learn about savings and take out loans at low interest rates.These women save Rs. 100/month to contribute to the self help group. Currently, AVANI oversees 77 self-help groups established in three districts with a monthly savings of Rs 77,000.
- Leadership Training & Women’s Empowerment
As women have become empowered to earn income and support themselves and their families, they have become more aware of their rights. In nine communities, 25 women have become leaders, taking their issues to government officials.
Additionally, women have started their own co-operatives to secure work opportunities from the government and have become more active in local self-help groups. A group of 10 women created their own organization called Vasudha and held a conference with nearly 350 other women to demand their rights. They also developed the concept of an SMS Marathon, a strategy to petition government officials by sending SMS messages to various government officials to demand their free rations during the COVID pandemic.
- Work with Children
Through a program of the Social Welfare Department, children from waste picker communities are entitled to school scholarships; however many families were not aware of this opportunity. With AVANI’s help, 373 children from nine communities (167 boys and 206 girls) have received a scholarship of Rs. 3,000/year per student.
In nine communities, approximately 270 children benefited from a Mobile Library Learning Program. This was especially helpful during the COVID crisis when children could not attend school, helping them with their literacy and ability to focus on their studies.
AVANI organized a child rights forum to inform children of their rights and responsibilities. Children learn about village child protection committees, children helplines, child welfare councils, and issues of child marriages and child exploitation. Through this program, AVANI helped to prevent at least four child marriages in the last six months alone. So far 80 boys and 88 girls have participated in the child rights forum.
All of these activities show the tremendous impact of AVANI’s systematic and holistic approach. Through building community awareness, improving women’s confidence and empowering them to advocate for themselves, and developing child ambassadors and advocates, AVANI has positively benefited thousands of women and children.
AVANI’s work is recognized by the Prime Minister’s Office, instructing the government of Maharashtra to take action towards waste pickers' demands.