Project Azmat

A project that abolishes the heinous practice of manual scavenging. It won the Rotaract Outstanding Project Award (2014–15).

"The sustainable business model not only increase their income level but also ensure the well- being of the community."

Project Azmat is an endeavour by the Rotaract Club of SRCC Panchshila Park and its parent club Rotary Club of Delhi Panchshila Park, District 3011, to liberate and rehabilitate manual scavengers by providing them a sustainable source of livelihood through development of a microenterprise and construction of proper toilet systems.

This project was conferred the 2014–15 Rotaract Outstanding Project Award at the Rotaract Pre Convention Meet in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Project Azmat, (dignity, in Urdu), uses a multi-faceted approach for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers by providing them an alternative source of livelihood and replacement of dry latrines with proper toilets.

Women engaged in detergent making.
Women engaged in detergent making.

The repulsive act involves humans cleaning dry latrines (non-flush toilets) by picking up human excreta with their bare hands and carrying it to the place of disposal. This practice was banned in India since 1993; however, it still continues to be practiced in many parts of the country.

The club members focused on improving the health, safety and economic stability of communities of women working as manual scavengers. After installing pit toilets for the entire community to improve sanitation and prevent spread of diseases, the Rotaractors worked to empower them to build a better future for themselves and their families. The women participated in a literacy programme and financial management training where they learned to apply their new skills to make detergent, market their product within the community, and grow their own sustainable and independent business.

Goals and Objectives

Rehabilitation of women by organising them into a cooperative society and providing them basic literacy and financial training and training in detergent making to enable them to pursue an alternative livelihood. The business model will generate enough revenue to increase their income manifold.

The dry latrines are demolished and two-pit toilets are constructed across the village. These toilets incur no maintenance cost, require little water and convert waste into manure. The Club has collaborated with Sulabh International, an NGO, to construct 128 two-pit toilets to ensure that the women do not go back to that profession.

The Community and the Business Model

A community of 22 women manual scavengers was identified in Nekpur near Ghaziabad, in February 2012 with the help of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA). They lacked basic amenities such as education, health care and sanitation. Coupled with the indignity of their job, they were earning a meager Rs10 per day in kind. The women are the sole bread winners of the family as the men remain unemployed for large parts of the year.

These women are now proficient in making environment-friendly Phenyl and powder detergent under the brand name ‘Neki.’ The products are certified under Grade 2 quality of detergents by an Indian Standards Institution’s approved laboratory. RC Delhi Panchshila Park takes care of the commercial marketing.

Triple Bottom-Line Impact

Economic: Sustainable business model ensure the well-being of the community and income increase is 7 times their current earnings.

Social: Abolition of the deplorable and pitiable practice of manual scavenging. The women will not face differential treatment and will be able to hold their heads high with dignity.

Environmental: The two-pit toilet conserves water and converts human waste into nutrient-rich manure, which creates a positive environmental impact and also promotes the agrarian economy of the village.

In recognition of the excellent social impact, Project Azmat has received awards from various other organisation.

(The writer is President of Rotary Club of Delhi Panchshila Park, RI District 3011)

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