We are presently in the process of building a new program to provide aid to 50 mothers and 100
daughters presently living in the trash-dumps of Pune, India. We will provide adult literacy
services and microloans to the mothers to start small businesses, and enroll the daughters in
primary school, freeing these families of the burden of selling and eating scraps found in the trash.
The Unforgotten started working in India in 2008, by providing aid to child wastepickers. About 1.5
million people, primarily women from socially marginalized groups, work as wastepickers in India
(Chaturvedi, 2010). Initially, our goal was to enroll some of these children in school, and provide
them with basic school supplies such as uniforms, notebooks, and pencils. By June 2009, The
Unforgotten had enrolled 15 children in the city of Pune, India, home to some of the world’s most
glaring gender-based inequities, income- and otherwise (Tacoli, 2012; Sen, 2010). By June 2010,
The Unforgotten had expanded the program in Pune to include 31 child wastepickers. In the
same year, The Unforgotten further expanded the program to include 33 primary school age girls
at Bal Shikshan in Sangamner, India. These aid projects have essentially been “pilot-scale”, and
with financial support, we would like to make these “full-scale” programs.
We would like to expand our program in India, to reach more mothers and daughters, and to
create a robust microlending program. Why India? Despite the recent economic growth in the
country, still over one-third of "Indians live below the country's national poverty line and 48.9% of
the entire underweight population (including adults) are young girls (Sen, 2010). And many of the
more than 1.5 million of the world’s wastepickers are in India, composed primarily of mothers and
their girls. And Pune is an ideal location for a project, because although the city of Pune is
renowned for its natural beauty, its dump receives some 1000 metric tons of waste every day (see
punegarbage.org), and at least 10,000 wastepickers try to recover recyclables from the city’s trash
(Chapin, 1995). Living and working conditions are treacherous, as fires break out nearly daily.
Our field teams have visited the main dumpsite (where all trash is ultimately transported to) in
Pune which is called “Uruli Devachi”, and the neighboring dwellings and slum areas (Janata
Vasahat, Gosavi Vasti, Ramnagar and Wadar Wadi). It should also be noted that each Ward in the
city also has its own trash bins/collection points which are like mini trash dumps. Mothers and
girls are generally found browsing through these bins to collect recyclables as well.
Wastepickers inhabit slums near the well-to-do areas, because these privileged consumers tend
to throw out a lot of recyclable items like tin cans.
At present, in India, because of financial constraints, we are only enrolling wastepicking children in
school. We would like to purchase equipment and materials and to provide training and micro-
loans to enable the mothers to make fine Indian jewelry pieces (or to start other small businesses
of their choosing). Our objective is to empower girls and mothers and through their continued
advocacy and leadership, to transform and uplift entire communities from the ground up (see
Asaki & Hayes, 2011; Roever & Linares, 2010) through qualitative education, adult and family
literacy (Pandey, 2012; 2010), and accessible financial independence offerings.
Asaki, B. & Hayes, S. (2011). Leaders, not clients: grassroots women's groups transforming
social protection, Gender & Development, 19 (2), 241-253.
Chaturvedi, Bharati (2010) Mainstreaming Waste Pickers and the Informal Recycling Sector in the
Municipal Solid Waste
Pandey, A. (2012). Language Building Blocks. New York: Teachers College Press. http://store.
Pandey, A. (2010). The Child Language Teacher: Intergenerational Language and Literary
Enhancement. Manasagangothri, Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages. 405pp.
Roever, S. & Linares, L.A. (2010). Street Vendors Organising: The Case of the Women’s Network
(Red de Mujeres), Lima, Peru, Urban Policies Briefing Note No. 2, WIEGO.
Sen, G. (2010). Poor households or poor women: is there a difference? The International
Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Sylvia Chant (ed), Edward Elgar,
Cheltenham, UK, pp 101-104.
Tacoli, C. (2012). Urbanization, gender and urban poverty: paid work and unpaid carework in the
city. IIED, UN Population Fund, March.
The UNForgotten Fund
A wastepicker’s home near the trash
dump in Pune
Country Directors Mr. Eeshaan Asaikar
and Ms. Dhriti Nayyar