The waste collectors, called Swachata Mitras (Friends of Cleanliness) to do away with the social stigma attached with the word “rag-picker” or “sweeper”, belong to the very low-income level of the society.
For men, the salary that they get as waste collectors is comparable with their other opportunities. For women, it is mostly more than what they get at otherwise and hence it is a better opportunity. On the other hand the salary is not sufficient for a family when only one person is earning. In this case, they have to look for another earning opportunity or they depend on their relatives for support
As waste collectors, they have the opportunity to improve their financial situation by selling recyclables, which are possible to separate from the collected garbage. But it is very dirty and difficult work and delivered income is very low (approximately Rs.173 per month). Since, they have morning timing of the work, they can do another job in the afternoon. It is found that only a small number (6 %) of them avail this opportunity. They claim to be too exhausted to work in the afternoon. Also the women have to do household chores.
CDC started waste workers self-help group in Jaipur & Nagpur. The scheme of micro-financing through Self-help groups (SHGs) has transferred the real economic power to the hands of women and has considerably reduced their dependence on men. This has helped in the empowerment of women and building self-confidence, but lack of education often comes in the way and many a times they had to seek help from their husbands for day-to-day work.
After working with the various groups of women, CDC realized that the higher level of learning will help them learn skill and vocations and help them to contribute even more in the management of SHGs.