Women Waste Pickers’ Lives during the COVID-19 Lockdown in Ahmedabad, India
9 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2021
Date Written: October 22, 2020
This paper focuses on women waste pickers’ experiences of the COVID-19 lockdown in Ahmedabad, India to explore the value of paid employment in public space as an empowerment strategy. Drawing from phone interviews we find that women waste pickers were prevented from working during the lockdown resulting in loss of income, increased borrowing and hunger, and disruptions to the empowering benefits of this precarious livelihood. The inability to leave the home, increased time spent on household chores, and increased stresses affect women’s health as does the disruption of occupational networks that enable waste work and emotional support. While women are keen to return to work, they face challenges pertaining to privatization/ mechanization, hygiene/sanitation/infection risks, and seasonality, necessitating more precarious adaptations within or outside of waste work. The COVID-19 lockdown reaffirms the need for a rights-based enabling context within which individuals can work with dignity, exercise agency and pursue wellbeing.
Keywords: Waste Picking, Women’s empowerment, Livelihoods, Wellbeing, COVID-19, India
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