A project launched by members of Rotaract in Uttar Pradesh, India, is liberating women who emptied dry toilets with their hands by teaching them skills that enable them to earn a living for their families.
Although the practice of manual scavenging was banned in India in 1993, it persists in many parts of the country. The women who engage in it, many of them the sole wage earners for their families, make a meager income for their efforts.
Through Project Azmat, members of the Rotaract Club of SRCC Panchshila Park, partnered with the international nonprofit Enactus to organize these women into a cooperative, teaching them basic literacy skills and training them to make and market detergent.
The project also is replacing the dry latrines with two-pit toilets, which require no maintenance and use only a small amount of water to convert human waste into manure, improving sanitation and preventing the spread of disease. So far, the project has installed 128 of the new toilets and enabled more than two dozen women to earn a living through the sale of detergent.
The initiative was chosen as this year's Rotaract Outstanding Project Award international winner, and is one of seven projects singled out for honors. Representatives from the clubs presented their projects and received their awards at the Rotaract Preconvention, held 4-5 June in São Paulo.
Other regional winners are:
Sub-Saharan Africa: Rotaract Club of Kisumu, Kenya, for the Rotaract East Africa Impact Project, or REACT, which brought together more than 100 Rotaractors from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda to provide households with clean drinking water and to educate community residents about water purification and hand-washing methods.
Asia Pacific: Rotaract Club of Selbe, Mongolia, for a project that provided clean and safe toilets for rural schoolchildren who were previously exposed to unsanitary outdoor facilities during harsh winter months. Through fundraisers, the club was able to purchase a 20-foot container that was modified to create an insulated, 18-unit facility serving more than 1,000 secondary-school students.
Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia: Rotaract Club of Pisa, Italy, for a project called You Are Not Alone, which involved more than 1,000 members of Rotaract in Italy who worked with psychologists to develop school workshops for teaching students anti-bullying techniques. The group distributed education kits and mentored children in conflict resolution.
Latin America: Rotaract Club of Tijuana Nueva Generación, Mexico, for Cena a Ciegas, an initiative to raise awareness and funds to support visually impaired people. The Rotaractors worked with restaurants and community members to collect and distribute eyeglasses and equipment and to distribute educational materials.
South Asia: Rotaract Club of the Caduceus, India, for Breakfast Revolution, a project providing nutritious, affordable, and tasty meals for children through a market-driven and sustainable supplementary food program that also includes regular medical checkups for the recipients. The Mumbai club, which has many members who are doctors or medical students, partnered with other Rotaract clubs and community organizations to develop the meals, raise funds, and market the program.
United States, Canada, and the Caribbean: Rotaract Club of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, for Brown Paper Bag Project, in which members partnered with the Department of Community Rehabilitation to bring balanced lunches to mental health clients attending court for a required appearance, and also to visit with them. When department funding ran out, club members took charge of providing meals and personalizing the lunch bags with messages and decorations.