#SheLeadsthechange: Chennai’s All-Women Waste Management Team  Extraordinary Efforts to Give India Sustainability Lessons

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National: Women are recognised for their contributions in various spheres during International Women’s Day. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge the overlooked unsung heroes. Among them are the women conservancy and waste management workers who work tirelessly every day to keep our cities clean. This International Women’s Day, Re Sustainability Limited (ReSL) is raising the bar by celebrating and highlighting the story of an all-women conservancy team in the Manali zone of Chennai through a special campaign: #SheLeadsthechange.

This all-women conservancy and waste management team in Manali, Chennai comprise of 400 women who serve as sanitation workers, waste collectors, supervisors, waste collection vehicle drivers, composting team members, and managers at various levels. This team serves 27,000 households in their zone every day. While it is common to see women waste collectors, at times even in uniforms, it is rare to see an entire Municipal Sone, where women are in charge, across all levels and functions. What’s even more impressive is that the Manali all-women team utilises the most advanced technology to manage municipal solid waste. Thus, on any given day in Manali, one can witness women operating technically advanced vehicles and scientifically collecting segregated waste.

By recognising and celebrating the efforts of this all-women team, Re Sustainability Limited hopes to raise awareness about the crucial role that women play in keeping our cities clean and also inspire others to follow their lead.

Re Sustainability, through #SheLeadsthechange campaign, celebrates two key achievements of the Manali all-women team. Within a year of their formation, the team has made Manali sone, one of the best-performing Municipal Sones in the country and the fastest to achieve a consistent 90-96 percent waste segregation at source. Furthermore, the team has also achieved substantial compliance to an ambitious ‘Zero Waste’ goal, with only 1.5MT of inert waste being diverted to landfills from this Municipal Sone on any given day.

#SheLeadsthechange campaign also brings to light the extraordinary everyday efforts put forth by this team to create public awareness about waste segregation and responsible waste disposal through its IEC programmes. The Manali all-women team has developed a bespoke Information – Education – Communication (IEC) public education model, that they are delivering door to door to educate families on the importance of source segregation of waste. From awareness meetings in parks to street plays, various modes of community involvement and engagement have been employed in order to make their Sone a near zero waste region.

A local resident of Manali shares her views, “Waste segregation is now a part of our lifestyle. We cannot go back to the old days of non-segregation.”

The efforts of the all-women team in Manali demonstrate that women can initiate positive behavioural change in waste disposal habits. These changes often begin with small, incremental steps that gradually build momentum and create a culture of change. This self-sustaining effort by the Manali women’s team is an inspiring example of how women can make a tremendous difference at the grassroots level towards the Swachh Bharat Mission and towards the zero waste city model of India.

The achievement of the Manali all-women’s team is a valuable lesson in sustainability for the entire country. It is a remarkable example of how women can bring about meaningful change towards the mission of a cleaner and greener India. The success of the Manali model raises the question – is your city ready to adopt the all-women conservancy model and become a trailblazer for sustainability and gender equity? 

Masood Mallick, CEO, Re Sustainability, summarises, As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is essential to acknowledge the vital role that women play in creating sustainable communities. The all-women team in Manali is setting an example by empowering their communities to take ownership of the waste generated and making a significant contribution to the sustainable development of Chennai. Their efforts are proof that women can be powerful agents of change in building sustainable communities. At Re Sustainability Limited, we remain committed to seeking support from women and strengthening our capacity to play an active role in shaping the zero-waste cities of India. We believe that women’s leadership and participation are crucial for achieving our sustainability goals and building a greener, cleaner future for generations to come.”