TWO DELEGATES from SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling), Pune, addressed an audience which included the Pope at the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements in Vatican City, Rome.
The convention is being held between November 2 and November 6, to discuss ways of social inclusion by reflecting on the organisational experiences of popular movements by the most disadvantaged around the world.
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The delegates, Kavita Vinod Pawar and Sandhya Dhamale explained the plight of waste pickers at the meeting organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in collaboration with various other organisations working for social justice.
“We are recycling agents and help slow down climate change, but never receive our dues. We have to struggle to make ends meet despite the service we offer in keeping the city clean and the environment less polluted,” said Pawar in her address.
SWaCH was among the 150 participating organisations invited from the world over. It was invited to share the struggle of waste pickers in Pune towards integration into the formal Solid Waste Management systems.
Pawar and Dhamale met with leaders from other grassroot organisations of waste collectors, excluded workers, migrants, informal and young people’s groups, landless farmers, inhabitants of urban informal settlements and marginalised areas.
The Pope himself highlighted the growing degradation of workers and their working conditions including housing and food.
Pawar shared the experiences and struggles that she and her fellow waste pickers undergo on an everyday basis and how they still have several battles to fight before they get what is rightfully their due. “We sort through everyone’s waste and salvage a living for ourselves. Yet we do not have proper spaces to sort the waste. If we had the facilities promised to us we would work more efficiently, in less time, and divert even more waste into the recycling streams.” Social security and education for their children are far away dreams, she added.
“We are happy to meet and share our experience with waste pickers from so many different countries. The time has come to recognize waste pickers as entrepreneurs and champion recycling agents, and for the governments and citizens to value the contribution of waste pickers to the society and the environment,” said Sandhya Dhamale. It would be a concrete move towards an inclusive society where all are viewed as equals, she said.