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Social-Ecological Transformation | 

Struggles and Successes of Women Waste Pickers

Swach workers at work in Pune

Kashtakari Panchayat and RLS aim to amplify waste-picker voices through the story of SWaCH. The SWaCH Cooperative is a women-led organisation built and operating on democratic principles integrating informal waste-pickers and other urban poor into the City’s formal waste management system, creating microentrepreneurs providing front-end waste collection and management services to the citizens of Pune through the empowerment of waste-pickers.

Despite the achievements of Pune's waste-pickers, privatisation's spectre continuously threatens their unique model and livelihoods. The struggles and successes of waste-pickers and the story of SWaCH have not been effectively documented, with replication being limited to the solid waste management aspects of the model. While some video documentation captures aspects of the SWaCH model, none amplify the voices of waste-pickers, which could be heard beyond Pune by regional, national and international governments, other waste-picker groups, and environmental conservation advocates. The perceived threat of privatisation felt by the waste pickers of Pune, along with the real impacts of displacement due to privatisation, need to be captured through the voices of waste pickers in other cities, especially the neighbouring city of Pimpri Chinchwad.

Kashtakari Panchayat’s work with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is critical in bringing the voices of waste pickers to the mainstream, highlighting their successes in Pune and highlighting the preservation of their livelihoods as a critical consideration within the waste and recycling sector.

About Kashtakari Panchayat

Kashtakari Panchayat was registered in 2010 primarily to support waste pickers and their families and their collectives. The support ranges from direct financial assistance to indirect support in the form of training, facilitation and research.

SWaCH Pune Seva Cooperative Society was established in 2007 as the first waste picker owned co-operative in India. It grew out of the grass-root mobilization work of the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat, a registered trade union of informal waste-pickers having membership of more than 10,500.

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