Here is the amazing Pune city’s all-women cleaning army working for a cleaner safer city in Western India. India being the host of World Environment Day 2018, we feature this all-women cleaning army, a group of marginalized women who teamed up and formed India’s first self-owned cooperative society of self-employed waste pickers. These are women who formally earned their living through rummaging landfills and now testify to improved standards of living after joining the all-women cleaning army. In the #BeatPlasticPollution, their grand initiative is creating a cleaner safer city through their “SWaCH” (Solid Waste Collection and Handling) model.

 After reaching an agreement with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the over 3,000 all-women cleaning army workers provide door-to-door waste collection services to over 600,000 homes in the city. They then separate the collected waste into recyclables (including paper, plastics, metals, and glass) and wet waste, which is taken for composting into valuable natural fertilizer. With the efforts of this society and its new and more sustainable model of waste disposal, her benefits to the environment and society at large are very evident. For instance;

  • Over 350,000 trees that would have been otherwise felled (not forgetting the pollution associated with paper production) have been saved through the recycling of waste paper.
  • Secondly, Over 1.2 million people living in the city’s slums where there are little or no waste management services have been reached.  “Earlier the gutters would get choked with all sorts of garbage, now all the plastic that used to choke the drains is collected, also leading to health benefits for the community,” says Rajani, a resident of the Kothrud area in western Pune.
Pune City’s All-Women Cleaning Army Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat/SWaCH

Suresh Jagtap, Deputy Commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation, praised SWaCH and her door-to-door collection efforts saying that they’ve focused on slums first and have been able to remove over 150 chronic spots where garbage would otherwise collect. SWaCH, formed in 2005 has overcome numerous challenges and has been growing steadily. Members pay an annual fee to the organization and an equal amount towards their life insurance cover. They are given identity cards endorsed by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) that allow them to access other benefits, such as interest-free loans and educational support for their children.

The Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Water and Sanitation honored SWaCH with an official award in 2016 in recognition of their great work.

In India, just like in many parts of the world, waste workers are rarely acknowledged or respected. It’s time to put an end to this mentality because without them, you wouldn’t want to imagine the filth that would have been in our environments. Recognize the legitimacy of their work and efforts towards achieving environmental sanity. Salute Pune city’s all-women cleaning army! #BeatPlasticPollution #Rewordit.



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