Waste pickers rehabitation and economic self sufficiency

misereor logoMisereor is a Roman Catholic Church based German organisation working for marginalized communities throughout the world. This donor agency helps people in distress and has extended its support to help the Ragpickers of the Kolkata city.

This particular project has been successfully running for more than a decade and it has achieved a lot for the rag pickers in the sphere of education, health and alternative livelihood. Last but not the least the recognisition and acceptance by the civil society.

A typical rag picker is despised and shunned by the so called civilized society as they are stereotyped as criminals in the guise of rag pickers. We are working to change this notion by conducting awareness programme with members of the civil society. We have even linked the rag pickers with corporates so that they can collect the recyclable waste directly from the source. This endeavour has helped them to enhance their income manifold. Presently companies like Cognizant Technologies, TATA Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, Ambuja Realty, Science City, PS Pace, Baisakhi housing complex and many other corporate houses are contributing their solid waste for the welfare of the rag pickers. We have organized the rag pickers under “The Association of Rag Pickers of Kolkata” to fight for their rights. This is an autonomous registered body run by rag pickers themselves with some handholding support by functionaries of Tiljala Shed. Our areas of intervention are Park Circus, Topsia, Tangra, Mir Meher Ali Lane and Narkeldanga. We are in the process of expanding our area of intervention to other rag picker settlements.

Health fit Nutrition: Health and Nutrition is one of the important component of this project. Malnutrition is more widespread in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. As many as 48% of Indian children under the age of 5 are stunted, a sign of chronic malnutrition. Girl children are more vulnerable than boys to malnutrition and mortality (NFHS 3, 2005-2006).

Since its inception, Tiljala Shed work with deprived communities has focused on nutrition, an issue that remains key challenge in India till the present day despite the country’s progress and exponential economic growth. A child who is malnourished in the womb and in her first two years of life is unlikely to grow to its full physical and mental potential. Lack of proper nourishment in the womb can cause brain damage, still birth and neo-natal death. A malnourished child is more susceptible to illness and may experience a restricted capacity for education. In a child, proper nutritional status is a prerequisite to attaining adequate health, education and protection.

The problem of malnutrition is not always as straightforward as simply lack of food. Many families do not always share food equally among their members. Mothers and infants, especially girls, are rarely given priority. Traditionally, in Indian families, women eat last. When food is scarce, men may receive more than women, boys more than girls, older children more than younger children. Diet may be imbalanced owing to limited understanding of nutrition as much as lack of food availability. For example, less than half of Indian children under six months are exclusively breastfed (NFHS 3, 2005-2006). Tiljala Shed nutrition projects focus on educating women, especially pregnant and lactating mothers, to make the best of what is available. This process is usually entrusted to health workers and health volunteers (local women) who are trained by Tiljala Shed who then can approach women in their homes living in slums, squatters and pavements of the Kolkata Metropolis.

Our interventions seek to address a variety of determinants of malnutrition in children, adolescents and pregnant women, as they relate to healthcare, hygiene and sanitation, child care, appropriate feeding practices (including breastfeeding), growth monitoring and promotion, adoption of low-cost home available foods, promotion of gender equality. Tiljala Shed developed Nutrimix which is a low cost nutritious food made from locally-available cereals (rice/sugar) and legumes (dal – lentils), which have been promoted at the home and community level and in various nutrition programmes.

To address iron deficiency anaemia, in addition to nutrition education, Tiljala Shed has partnered with the Government and international NGOs to provide iron supplements to children and women .We also distribute oral contraceptive pills and condoms to the community to promote family planning programs. We also provide linkages for permanent sterilization (tubectomy/vasectomy) for the community people.