The Body Shop India has partnered with Plastics for Change (PFC) India Foundation to ring in the festive season with a difference for female waste pickers. With Project N.A.R.I. (Nutrition – Ability – Retraining – Inclusion), The Body Shop acts true to its community roots and activist heritage through its support for female empowerment and sustainability, with its focus on India’s invisible frontline COVID-19 warriors – female waste pickers.
Part of India’s 1.5 million waste pickers collecting over 6,000 tonnes of plastic every day, female waste pickers go unrecognized as essential workers even as they bear the burden of gender inequity, caste oppression and the social exclusion of their profession. Despite keeping our streets and cities clean and providing indispensable environment and public health service, most waste pickers work without protective equipment, suffering from lack of financial stability and adequate access to healthcare.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prices offered for plastic waste have collapsed leading to rampant joblessness and severe poverty. Further, collecting waste from residences, hospitals and other establishments, means increased vulnerability due to unsegregated and contaminated waste. The growing usage of disposable masks, gloves and other protective materials is adding to the quantum of dangerous waste handled by waste pickers every day. COVID-19 is not just a colossal health crisis, but also an immense challenge to India’s waste management system which is the key line of defence against the country’s plastic pollution crisis.
What is Project N.A.R.I.
Project N.A.R.I. is a grassroots initiative for female waste pickers in partnership with PFC Foundation in Bengaluru, Karnataka, focussed on four vital pillars namely Nutrition – Ability – Retraining – Inclusion. Specifically designed to address the pressing economic and social issues that female waste workers face, the project will directly benefit women waste pickers in Karnataka with the aim to positively impact their financial, health and family’s well-being in the long-term.
The Body Shop has set up Project N.A.R.I. fundraising to support women waste pickers and allows voluntary consumer donations of Rs. 20 from its customers. For every customer donation, the brand will donate an equivalent amount for this cause. Through this, the brand aims to create awareness and raise upto Rs. 5 million over the next 6 months towards Nutrition, Ability, Retraining and Inclusion needs of female waste pickers.
Project N.A.R.I. includes systemic interventions spanning 6 months which are required for sustainable, on-ground impact in reducing health and financial risks faced by female waste pickers. Some of the issues that The Body Shop and PFC India Foundation will address are reducing health risks by providing robust PPE kits; access to safe nutrition, healthcare awareness and most importantly training and development of female waste-pickers towards becoming plastic quality engineers.
The programme also includes strong measures of financial inclusion such as access to banking systems and cash incentives for female waste-pickers working within the Plastics for Change system to help source recyclable plastic, sustainably.
Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India, while talking about the project says, “We remain deeply committed to the vision of our founder Anita Roddick that business can be a force for good. Through project N.A.R.I, we continue to work with a spirit of activism and need to create awareness, raise funds to benefit local communities. While we have a Global partnership with Plastics for Change, we are also working to create real impact for our female waste-pickers in India who are facing an unprecedented threat to their lives and livelihoods due to COVID-19. This year, as we are all hit by the severity of the pandemic, we realise how much we owe to these Frontline Warriors in keeping us safe at great risk to themselves. As we approach this festive season, we want to make a real difference to this community and celebrate the essential nature of the work they do to keep us all safe and healthy. With the support of our consumers, we look forward to affecting real change to benefit their lives as we fulfill the ambitions of this project.”
The project’s scope extends from safety and nutrition to capability-building and healthcare. Distribution of PPE kits (N-95 masks, caps, face shields, gumboots & gloves) to healthcare programmes including awareness about maintaining social distancing at work and otherwise, amidst other preventive measures, form the elementary phase of the project.
Andrew Almack, CEO and Founder Plastic For Change, while talking a project says, “Plastics For Change is thrilled to launch this campaign in India and it just re-emphasizes how The Body Shop’s commitment to people and the planet is unparalleled in the industry. We are glad to have the opportunity to serve and provide safety to the waste-picker communities in India who are on the front-lines of this crisis.”
As part of the gender inclusion measures of this project, PFC is specifically hiring female waste pickers and retraining them to take up plastic quality engineering roles. Each 3 month course with the entire cost of training, development and stipends will be borne from the project funding to make them ‘job ready’ for placement into full time employment.
Financial inclusion for the female waste-pickers will include providing access to about 6-8 governmental social and financial security schemes which will lessen their economic vulnerability. In order to promote behavioural change towards savings, traceability and transparency, cash incentivization will be deployed wherein the project will deposit an incentive of Re.1 for every 1 kg of plastic traded with PFC verified scrap shops — directly into the bank accounts of the female waste picker.
Shifrah Jacobs, Chief Impact officer, Plastics For Change India Foundation, says, “At Plastics For Change, we believe that when women are healthy and empowered, their lives and communities automatically thrive. We’re pleased to partner with The Body Shop and their customers to create this awareness and to equip and invest in women who are on the frontline of waste management. This campaign will have a sustained impact towards their safety and financial security.”
With the objective of reducing malnutrition and anaemia rates, the project includes distribution of a daily meal as well as daily protein & vitamin supplements to female waste pickers (including pregnant/ lactating) as well as their children. Health awareness building programmes will also be conducted towards building a better understanding of balanced diets and available resources to battle anaemia.
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