We’ve been in Ahmedabad for 5 days now, and have learned a LOT about the value chain and supply chain for Gitanjali’s products. A huge part of our learning has been about what the Gitanjali employees no longer have to do – wastepicking.
The goal of Gitanjali is to provide the daughters of wastepickers a chance for a safer life of employment. The main goal that we commonly learn about in our MBA classes – maximize profit – is a secondary objective here. The foundational goal of Gitanjali is to employ as many SEWA sisters as possible.
Neelma-ben, Gitanjali’s CEO of only 6 months, took us out into the city and beyond on day 2, to get a feel for what the life of a wastepicker is really like. The first stop was the dump, a literal mountain range of garbage. Women that work as wastepickers walk into the dump, sometimes barefoot, to sift for salvageable scrap such as plastic bottles, pvc pipe, metal wire, etc.
We were lucky enough to catch 5 women at the edge of the dump, on their way out with makeshift sacks balanced on their heads. They were kind enough to stop for a moment to be interviewed. We learned that the average day for a wastepicker involves waking up at 6am, performing the household chores like cooking and cleaning. She then walks the 25km to the dump and spends about 4 hours searching for scrap. One out of the 5 women we interviewed had recently been attacked by a wild dog. Others told stories of being burned by acid still left in bottles they found, attacks by hawks, and many stories of trash fires. 20 to 50kg of scrap is usually found, and carried home by noon. More chores commence. The scrap is then brought to the SEWA sorting facility, where the average daily load earns RS 40, less than $1.