BBC Media Action launches a communication initiative, Invaluables which is aimed at shifting perceptions about waste picking and informal waste pickers in Bengaluru. The program is a part of the H&M Foundation-funded Saamuhika Shakti Collective Impact initiative, which aims at making the improve the lives of informal waste pickers in Bengaluru.
The program is intended at lifting the cover of invisibility that cloaks informal waste pickers, by making their contribution more visible to the general public in Bengaluru. As per the studies, the people of Bengaluru, despite caring deeply about waste on the streets, don’t recognize the humans behind the process of informal waste management. Almost 55% of respondents said that informal waste pickers are dirty in appearance while 56% believed that they shouldn’t be allowed in building complexes and societies. The study has also found out that women waste pickers are vulnerable as they face violence at home and are abused by men in the neighborhoods.
Speaking about the ‘Invaluables’ initiative, Priyanka Dutt, Country Director, BBC Media Action, India, said, “For informal waste pickers to experience greater social acceptance, we believe that there is a need to change the way the people of Bengaluru think and feel about waste pickers. Through the ‘Invaluables’ initiative, we hope to help people travel a journey – from waste pickers being seen as ‘dirty’, to being recognized as doing important, skilled work that contributes to society and the environment.”
Eminent residents of Bengaluru like comic and actor Shradha Jain, author Anuja Chauhan, cricketer Robin Uthappa, actor Swetha Changappa, and actor Radhika Narayan have also joined the two-month initiative, Invalueables. Please find the link to the film here.
On the development of the social experiment, Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor, BBC Media Action added, “Too long waste pickers and the role they play in our lives have been invisible. This invisibility has resulted in silence – no questions, no conversation – on social media and elsewhere. We conducted a social experiment to spark a realization and to ignite a conversation – we wanted people to discover that waste pickers do what friends do for us, without us being aware at all! We hope this experiment and the Invaluables group will help shift how waste pickers are seen: from being invisible, to be invaluable.”
Speaking on the campaign, Radhika Narayan, Kannada film actor, said, “During the pandemic, it became even more evident that waste pickers protect our homes and localities by removing waste that could be potentially harmful to us. They do it at great risk even now. Before conducting this social experiment, even I wouldn’t have realized the kind of difference they are making to our lives.
Anuja Chauhan, an eminent author and a resident of Bengaluru who has also joined the Invaluables Facebook community said, “Waste pickers serve an important societal function by picking up, cleaning, sorting, and segregating recyclable waste and selling it further up the value chain. But they lack social acceptance and dignity. Society registers only the dehumanizing filth and squalor in which they eke out sustenance. Creating societal recognition of their work as having economic and environmental value is important. We need to truly see them as invaluable to society and to the community at large and accord them due respect.”
“The Saamuhika Shakti project, through collaboration with multiple stakeholders, aims to address the many challenges faced by the waste pickers in a holistic and sustainable manner. One of the challenges is the indignities they suffer due to a lack of knowledge of and respect for the invaluable role they play in the waste management eco-system. We, along with our partner BBC Media Action, invite the residents of Bengaluru to be a part of the Invaluables program and become change agents for an equitable Bengaluru for all its citizens,” said Lakshmi Pattabi Raman, Executive Director, Saamuhika Shakti, The/Nudge Foundation.
Maria Bystedt, Strategy Lead, H&M Foundation added, “An important pillar of our work is the belief that communication in itself can be a change-maker and spark action. It can contribute to changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, and even policies and regulations. We are proud to partner with BBC Media Action and support the ‘Invaluables’ campaign which we believe is an important piece of the puzzle to improve the lives of waste pickers. For a sound and robust waste management system to exist, there needs to be recognition of those that carry that system on their shoulders.”