This story is a unique tail with a fragrant impact on one of India’s most undermined workforces: Wastepickers. This story focuses on a slum which is sandwiched between the Ghazipur Landfill located in East Delhi and the city’s largest flower and meat market. In spite of their pitiful living conditions, disaster struck the community of 300 families when in 2013, a former infrastructure and financial services biggie named IL&FS created a waste-to energy plant at the landfill. While the move was integral in waste-management, it threatened to leave hundreds of waste-pickers jobless.
In an effort to create jobs, the company through its CSR wing called The Nalanda Foundation implemented a slew of initiatives, one of which was Gulmeher- an all-women’s initiative. Thirty women from the Ghazipur slum were involved in this social initiative that struck the challenges of unemployment and pollution with one sustainable stone. Their aim was to leverage the women’s expertise in waste collection and segregation by imparting them with professional training in skills that would help them relocate to safer, more hygienic jobs.
Gulmeher zeroed-in on women given the societal weight imposed on women’s employment. The initiative focused on building on existing skills like tailoring and embroidery that would help make zero-waste products from raw, waste material that was abundantly available.
Gulmeher: At dawn, the women set out to the market landfill where most unused flowers are discarded. The flowers are sun-dried after which the women separate and segregate the flower, petals and leaves. Their designs are nature-intrinsic and take inspiration from wildlife and the environment.
So far, 7,000 kilograms of paper and 15 tonnes of discarded flower have been recycled by these women who were trained in design by a professional designer. The flowers are delicately hand-pressed and dried to create a plethora of sustainable products including designer stationary, home décor and natural colours for Holi. Gulmehar is adding colour the sustainable way with their petal embellished green products that provide employment, and environmental relief.