Envisioning suppressed women of today as super entrepreneurs of tomorrow, an all-girls student group from Jesus and Mary College, are making steadfast progress with 10 underprivileged lives already secured through an environment-friendly project.
Enactus, Jesus and Mary College (JMC) established in 2014, is part of the larger family of Enactus, an international non-profit organisation that has dedicated itself to inspiring students enough to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.
With a presence in 36 countries with more than 72,000 student members globally, the Enactus team believes that an entrepreneurial approach by students acts as a twofer, “Our work transforms both the lives of the people we serve, and in turn, the lives of our students as they develop into more effective, values-driven leaders.”
Looking for the same outcome, out of the 161 active Enactus college teams in India, Enactus JMC, Delhi University, keeping collaboration and innovation as key, is bringing human progress and setting up businesses through the umpteen number of projects they conduct. One such ongoing success, in line with the same motive, is Project Dhara.
Upliftment of urban slum women through waste management
“Project Dhara is what we, at Enactus JMC, envision to be a radical change in the system of waste management,” says 19-year-old Aadya Sachdeva, President of the 65 young women member Enactus team, pursuing her BCom at JMC.
After observing the 400 kgs of waste generated in their college every single day, from which a considerable chunk didn't even reach a bin, the Enactus team found out that whatever sadly made its way to the bin was nothing but a mixture of wet, non-biodegradable and hazardous waste. The unsegregated waste posed to be a big problem to Manzir Alam, JMC’s waste collector/ kabadiwala who had to painstakingly rummage through waste piles to sell conspicuously sellable waste to earn a living share the team.
The trouble did not end there. With rest of the waste making its way to the Ghazipur Landfill on weekly basis, the emission of methane each time waste is burnt was only adding to the already snowballing threat, global warming. “To tackle this environmental quandary we set up a waste segregation system in our college under which waste was segregated into 3 categories: biodegradable, non-biodegradable but recyclable and non-biodegradable and non-recyclable,” says Aadya.
The separation of non-biodegradable but recyclable waste, allowed the waste collector to sort through more items, enabling him to earn more. While the problem of non-biodegradable waste was resolved, a solution had to be arrived at for wet waste; thus the team decided to use the waste for compost production.
Mustering the perfect target group
The team's next step was to zero in on a community to create real progress. This came from learning of the growing slums in Delhi that harboured social issues like irregular incomes, seasonal jobs and poverty ingrained families. “Under such circumstances the most oppressed are women, witnessing their husbands splurge all the money on alcohol or even abuse and become violent with them. Whatever little is earned is squandered away without basic needs met,” says Aadya. This made us understand that to benefit maximum members of a poor community we must target the ‘woman of the family’, she adds.
The general idea of waste management and upliftment of urban slum women collectively led to the conceptualisation of Project Dhara in November, 2016. Dhara led by a 15-member team involves waste segregation into biodegradable, non-biodegradable and hazardous waste, after which the biodegradable waste is used in the production of manure and non-biodegradable waste is sold as a raw material to recycling industries. In this way, the waste sent to landfills is minimised and a positive impact is left to our environment.
But the project is beyond just the production of manure, says the team. It aims at uplifting women belonging to the underprivileged minority community by providing them education, skills and employment opportunities. Referring to the Chinese axiom of teaching a man how to fish to feed him for life, Aadya says, “We not only employ our target audience in production of manure but train them to do it effectively and efficiently so they can independently handle the production cycle without depending on our team once they move out.”
Assured financial independence
Over the year, Project Dhara has employed 10 women from slums trained by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in the production of vermicompost, who now, financially independent are successfully producing 100 percent organic manure that is chemically tested to be rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
"My name is Jharna and I live in Vivekanand. We lack proper facilities here. Along with water scarcity, we also face hygiene issues. It isn't easy to find work here which in turn leads to problems - regarding our children's education. One day, girls from Jesus and Mary College came and asked if we would be willing to work with them. We agreed and were trained in making manure. Today we can make and package manure by ourselves, selling it to different areas in Delhi. The money is equally divided among us and is used for our children's education, rent and have even put some of it in the bank. The project and the girl's have been our lifesavers,” says Jharna, who is an elated entrepreneur today.
Growing tremendously Project Dhara touches 12 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals issued by The United Nations and has completed its initial three batches of production, successfully generating a revenue of Rs 11,000, 32,500 and 34,000. Through a diversified and loyal customer base, they have also made over 5,000 people aware of waste segregation, produced and sold 1550 kgs of compost and have segregated 84000 kgs of waste, with expected numbers to double in the next quarter
Currently, the team is seeking funds to meet challenges like transportation costs to pits, procurement of cow dung, wet waste and packaging, and labelling. They have taken to online crowdfunding and are also looking for offline donations to expand the project and empower more lives.
Anyone interested in funding the project can contact, firstname.lastname@example.org