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Swami Vivekananda once said: “there is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved, it is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing”.

The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women stipulates that gender discrimination should be eradicated, not only by law, but in practice. In all fields – political, economic, social, cultural – women should enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities as their male counterparts. In 1993, India officially ratified this convention, leaping the state’s journey to gender equality forward. More progress has been made by UNICEF India’s 2018-2022 Country Programme whereby each category focuses on gender inequality.

Although much progress has been made, it is necessary continue to fight for equal rights, income and working conditions for women. Currently, girls and women are still more vulnerable, less likely to receive an education, and less likely to find a place in the formal workplace. Unfortunately, the wastepaper industry is not an exception. This raises the need for female empowerment. Due to great initiatives of both Swach and Kashtakari Panchayat, the first waste pickers’ union in India was established. Miss-Collect seeks to build further upon this infrastructure, by incorporating the female waste-pickers fully in the process.

By letting female waste-pickers lead the way, Miss-Collect believes that a sustainable product can be developed whereby the women receive more than what they are currently getting. More income, more safety regulations and more appreciation for their work. All waste-pickers in the wastepaper industry are powerful in the way they take care of their families and all are valuable to the recycling process and the environment. We take a stand that gender equality should be established through female empowerment, for all girls and women.

Hanna Hooft