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Underprivileged Women in Chandigarh Upcycle Dry Waste to Make a Living, Thanks to These Students

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Project Navriddhi in Chandigarh aims to kill two birds with one stone: offer a source of income to women from underprivileged backgrounds and tackle the issue of dry waste in the city through upcycling.

On a small tarpaulin-clad platform in Sector 25 of Chandigarh, a group of women is busy working on different things simultaneously. Some are sorting used cardboard from the heap of waste paper, some are busy painting glow lamps made from used glass bottles, and one woman is busy teaching some newbies the crafty skill of making a lampshade. An innovative project is taking shape.

Navriddhi, a project by Enactus GGDSD College (Goswami Ganesh Dutta S.D. College), is not only helping women from underprivileged backgrounds earn a livelihood, but is also tackling the problem of dry waste management through the means of upcycling.

The college student-run not-for-profit organisation has engaged over 25 women from the slum area to make different products like lamps, lanterns, lampshades, diyas and papier mâché products using waste material like plastic and glass bottles, cardboard, and waste paper.

“When we were in the research phase for a new project, we realised that despite being one of the cleanest cities in the country, Chandigarh has no means to recycle its waste. As of now, we have space to dump waste in landfills, but what after the available space is filled with garbage? Nobody is thinking about the future. Therefore we decided to work on the problem of dry waste management,” says Sahil Sharma, founder member of Navriddhi.

The Enactus team discovered that an average of 350 tonnes of solid waste is generated in municipal corporation areas per day. The students then started to search for ways they themselves could contribute to solving the problem on an individual level. Their research brought forward some innovative upcycling techniques that could be used to turn dry waste into marketable products. Instead of engaging students, Enactus members decided to rope in women from slum areas, with the aim of creating a source of income for them in the process.


Also read: These 12-Year-Old Boys Managed to Collect & Recycle over 1 Tonne of Dry Waste in One Month!


“We talked to the slum dwellers in Sector 25 about our idea and soon realised that it wasn’t that easy. While some women came forward by themselves, convincing their families was very difficult. They didn’t want to allow the women to leave the house. So we set up a workshop in the slum itself, so the women would feel at home and the families wouldn’t have a reason to worry,” says Sahil.

And so the project began in January 2016. At first the students organised door-to-door waste-collection drives for dry waste. But they soon realised that by doing so, they were taking away the job of the kabaadiwalas and rag pickers. Therefore, they decided to buy the waste material from rag pickers and kabaadiwalas instead.

Since the inception of the project, Navriddhi has managed to upcycle over 300 kg of dry waste like cardboard and newspaper and has sold over 600 units of different upcycled products.

Different products made by Navriddhi members

While the prices differ for different products, the women take home the entire amount, assures Sahil. A glow lamp made out of a discarded glass bottle is the most expensive product in their slate, which costs about Rs 150-200.

“We have had sales amounting to over Rs 1 lakh in the past one year, which has resulted in a straight 40% increase in the family incomes of the entrepreneurs. And the most important thing to note here is that the women aren’t working full time on this project. I’d say on an average, they only put in about 4 hours a week,” says Sahil.

In the beginning, the students would sell these products through door-to-door marketing. Now, they organise a weekend market in the Sector 18 of Chandigarh, where the women sell their products themselves.

“We are planning to rope in some experts and professionals, who would be able to train the women in making different products. We want to focus on making customised lighting for interior decoration and we are hoping that with the guidance from experts, we’ll be able to achieve the finesse in our products,” says Sahil.


Also read: TBI Blogs: Meet the 25-Year-Old Using Her Cooking Skills to Empower Underprivileged Women in Delhi


To know more about Navriddhi, visit its Facebook page here.

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