Washington:  A prominent Indian NGO has been presented the US' first Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hailed its efforts in eliminating child labour.
Clinton presented the award to Indian NGO 'Chintan' along with two others from Kenya and Tanzania. Received by Chintan's founder Bharati Chaturvedi, the US award was given to the NGO in support of its work to reduce ecological footprints and increase environmental justice amongst the informal sector through green jobs, advocacy and organising.
Clinton announced that each of these NGOs would receive USD 500,000 to assist them in their work. The Award is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation through the Secretary's International Fund for Women and Girls.
Chintan, Clinton said, is working on the ground to train and organise waste pickers and to eliminate child labour from their ranks.
This group is advocating for those who work in the informal sector, pushing for recognition, basic protections, and fundamental dignity, she said in her remarks.
"Chintan's efforts have reached more than 20,000 waste pickers in India in the past five years. More than 2,000 children have been pulled out of the trash heaps and put on a path toward education and opportunity," Clinton said.
"Chintan's work in advocacy and research has expanded beyond local concerns and is helping change the way we understand informal labor sectors around the world," she said.
Chaturvedi said she is accepting the award on behalf of all those women and young girls who scavenge through the Indian middle class's trash.
"The organisation that I work with, Chintan creates green jobs. We convert waste into social wealth, not just wealth. And these women I work with, their children don't go to school.”
"It's hard for them to get in because there's a lot of discrimination, and they experience a new kind of untouchability, even though what they're doing is recycling our trash in a country that's becoming more and more affluent," she said.
"We will use this award to get a lot of young girls into school out the trash heaps, but also create more and more green jobs for women waste pickers.
"But most of all, because poor women feel and experience the brunt of climate change, we also want to talk about how they can be foot soldiers in the battle against climate change," Chintan said.
"And through green jobs, we can really transform how cities in India – and India is an urbanising country – how they experience just being better, more equitable cities and more inclusive of these people," Chaturvedi said.
She hoped that this recognition helps her NGO get Indians to recognise and embrace and acknowledge waste and realize that their work is important, not only for the recycling, but also because it makes our existence on this planet more sustainable.