The Dharavi slums were featured in the film "Slumdog Millionaire". I visited the area to work with the Dharavi Project in February 2019 with the aim of teaching upcycling skills to the ragpickers of the slums. I also hope to share some of their traditional sewing skills back in the UK.

The Dharavi Project

The Dharavi Project in Mumbai is an initiative of the ACORN Foundation (India), and is a registered charitable trust. The Dharavi Project is a multimedia project that utilises artists and social-impact programs to change the living conditions of over 100,000, 'rag-pickers' who are segregating waste in and around the landfills of Mumbai. Its mission is to increase the welfare of rag-pickers, and give their profession a legitimate and sustainable voice in the recycling and waste-management value chain at Dharavi.

The 8000 tons of waste generated daily by the city cannot be entirely picked up by the municipal corporation, and the gap is filled by Mumbai's rag-pickers who pick up the tons of garbage littering the streets. For this work they are not paid by the city and the city does not recognize them as a workforce. These thousands of children women and youth earn a living by selling the dry waste to scrap dealers, and most of the rag-pickers make barely 75-100 rupees (75p - £1) a day.

The Dharavi Project has been working with the community of rag-pickers in the slums of Dharavi, and hopes to give them the credit they deserve as green collar workers who are cleaning our vibrant but messy city. The hard labour of Mumbai's rag-pickers has ensured a place for Dharavi as one of the largest recycling hubs in Asia.

The foundation has also undertaken another initiative - to organise health clinics, programmes and workshops from which young children engaged in ragpicking can get some kind of informal education in music, photography and other arts. A number of artistes have participated in such programmes, among them singers Shankar Mahadevan, Sunita Rao and Apache Indian and Katrina Kaif. "Nearly 40 per cent of those in the waste business are children and women," says Shetty. "We do not want to support child labour but realise that this sector needs alternatives. We hope such cultural events will help them think differently."

Extract from the Acorn Foundation Website