How Recycling Waste Flowers Gave These Dalit Women Dignity Of Labour

From our friends at
Our Better World
India

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:55 PM

HelpUsGreen

Image Credit: Our Better World

When asked what she liked best about working at the social enterprise HelpUsGreen, the woman replied, “the plastic stool,” as she pointed to it. Not the fact that she earns more. Or that she finally has a bank account, or that she receives insurance and retirement benefits.

But a plastic stool, “which is not even worth 200 rupees (about US$2.70)”, says the co-founder, Ankit Agarwal. “I asked her why, and she said, ‘I’m 53 years old, no one has ever offered me a seat before.


HelpUsGreen
Image Credits: Our Better World

For a Dalit in India, everyday dignities, like being offered a stool to sit on, aren’t taken for granted. The caste system, a social order in India powerful even to this day, divides people into different groups based on their professions.

Dalits are deemed “untouchable” by this system, because of their occupations, and so, face social discrimination, even though “untouchability” and caste discrimination are illegal.

It is this oppression, which consigns millions to injustice and poverty that Ankit tries to tackle through HelpUsGreen. But the social enterprise, based in Ankit’s hometown of Kanpur, didn’t start out with the purpose of empowering Dalit women. It had another problem in mind: the endless stream of flowers entering India’s rivers each day, offered by devotees at temples.

There are over 200 temples in Kanpur, and the total waste was more than four tonnes a day,” says Karan Rastogi, co-founder of HelpUsGreen, and Ankit’s childhood friend.

Wanting to prevent the pesticide and chemical-ridden flowers from adding to the water pollution, they began tinkering in their kitchens, looking for ways to turn unwanted flowers into useful products.

HelpUsGreen
Image Credits: Our Better World

Beginning with humble compost, the duo soon moved on to create incense sticks and cones — with harmful chemicals like arsenic and lead removed, using a formula they cooked up.

Along the way, it became clear that the social enterprise could do more-  empower marginalized women by hiring them. HelpUsGreen now hires 79 women. By 2020, it wants to recycle 50 tonnes of waste flowers daily and hire 3700 women.

It’s very easy for us to ask, ‘Why do these people do these jobs? Why do they pick up people’s excreta?’” notes Ankit. “But once a person knows that the person was cleaning sewage or drain pipes, rarely does anyone want to employ them.



So he sought not only to hire women- to sort the collected flowers and craft the incense by hand- but also to create a working environment that treated them as equals. And aside from benefits like health insurance, “the first thing that we did was to provide clean drinking water, the second was a toilet. Two things that make sure everyone in our company is equal. Once you start having the same water, you’re all equal,” says Ankit.

For the full story, and how you can get involved, check out Our Better World – telling stories of good to inspire action.


Published with the permission from Our Better World

Related Stories

Ranger Plastic Bottle Garden

This Forest Officer Uses Plastic Bottles To Grow Flowers To Beautify Govt Office Premise

Kerala: These Poll Candidates Set An Example By Urging Supporters To Clean Up Campaign Waste

School Recycling Paper

By Recycling 35 Kgs Of Raw Materials Everyday, This School Has Made 7.8 Lakh Recycled Sheets In 6 Yrs

Flower Waste

Tonnes Of Flowers Are Thrown Out By Temples Every Day, This Team Is Turning Them Into Incense Sticks

Ecoposro Goa

These Two Friends Started Goa’s First Zero-Waste Store To Beat Plastic Pollution At Its Root

Tanvi Mittal

Meet Tanvi Mittal, The Girl Who Has Been Recycling Plastic To Make 3D Printer Filaments

Latest on The Logical Indian

News

‘CBI Searched Our Offices For Speaking Against Human Rights Violations’: Amnesty India

News

Bengaluru: KSRTC Bus Conductor Pushes Girl Out Of Moving Bus For Incorrect Pass

News

World Toilet Day: Is India Really Open Defecation Free?

News

Israeli Settlements At West Bank Not In Violation Of International Law, Says US

News

‘Gandhiji’s Death An Accident’: Odisha Govt’s Controversial Booklet Teaches School Children

News

UP: Eight Peacocks Found Dead, Many Unconscious, Due To Possible Pesticide Poisoning

x

Stories that deserve attention, delivered to your inbox!

Handpicked, newsworthy stories which deserve the attention of a rational generation.