Chintan, a Delhi based NGO that works with wastepickers to convert waste into social wealth, has been awarded the US Secretary of State's award for Innovation. This was the first award instituted by Secretary Clinton and the Rockefeller Foundation.
In her remarks, Secretary 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. It is also a stark reminder about why we must protect and advocate for the rights of workers to organize.”
She described Chintan's work in these words: “Chintan, an Indian nonprofit, is working on the ground to train and organize waste pickers and to eliminate child labor from their ranks. This group is advocating for those who work in the informal sector, pushing for recognition, basic protections, and fundamental dignity.”
She asked the audience not to forget that “In advanced economies, it is sometimes easy to forget what used to happen in our own factories, on our own shop floors, in so many industries where, yes, children were exploited and people's working conditions were dreadful”.
The jury comprised eminent persons across the world, including the CEO of Facebook, Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus, Cherie Blair, the Head of the Rockefeller Foundation Judith Rodin and representatives from the United Nations and the Department of State. In their recommendation, they described Chintan's work as one “truly holding the promise of transforming the lives of women and girls.”
Chintan's founder, Bharati Chaturvedi, accepted the award on behalf of the wastepickers of India, who rummaged through the trash of middle class India. She pointed out that it was important to remember that the work of wastepickers was important not only for recycling alone, but that it makes everyone else's existence on the planet more sustainable. She commented that while the poor, particularly women, were the worst impacted by climate change, they could also become the foot soldiers in the battle against climate change.
Chintan will use the prize money to implement a dream many wastepickers of Safai Sena have shared with Chintan-that children stop picking trash and get into schools.