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How Ghazipur Wastepickers Became Flower Artists, Shareholders

Gulmeher gets 10/10 for creativity

Garbage is one of India’s top problems which does not interest the majority of citizens. Ghazipur has Delhi’s third largest waste dumping ground and amidst the mountain of filth, there lies a civilization of waste pickers who work in hazardous conditions to earn a few bucks.

Credit: Ravi Choudhary
Credit: Ravi Choudhary

The locality also has a phool mandi, a wholesale flower market which sees around 1 ton of waste on a daily basis. Gulmeher, a CSR project, began encouraging women to try their hands on these flowers instead of garbage.

Credit: Radhika Agarwal
Credit: Radhika Agarwal

The idea was to employ waste-picking women and teach them to use flower waste to make a range of products – boxes, cards, stationery items, diyas, natural holi colours among other handicraft products.

Earlier, these waste-pickers earned in odd double figures everyday after being exposed to a highly toxic environment. But now their smiles tell the story. Today, the women are working in a clean atmosphere which also has a creche for their children. This has improved their family health and also pulled them out of the poverty trap.

Their earning touches Rs 5,000-6,000 every month and they are also the share holders of their company – Gulmeher Green Producer Company Limited.

A resident of Ghazipur phool mandi
A resident of Ghazipur phool mandi

Like every good initiative, Gulmeher had its phase of initial struggle. The project trainer say that it was most difficult to break the mindset of wastepickers. They were okay to see women working in such difficult and unhealthy environment but not in a new initiative. But gradually the things changed.

Another hurdle was the training phase. “Wastepickers had to first learn the art of designing which meant their daily income of Rs 150-200 was at stake for a few days. They did not like that,” says Suresh Khanduri, Institute of Developmment Support, Dehradun.

Within 6-7 months of operation, 74 women participated in the project and were given salaries amounting to Rs 5 lakh.

After sisters Tara and Sitara joined Gulmeher to earn some extra money, they are able to earn enough to send their 9-year-old sibling Chandini to school.

Designer Viduta Malik, who is closely associated with Gulmeher since its inception, tells that the products made by Gulmeher artists are taken to urban market. It is wonderful to see the pride of women’s faces when they say they are artists.

Here’s a short video explaining what the women do:

Gul = flower + Meher = Kindness. You can check a variety of gifting items of their Facebook page here.

ghazipur gulmeher

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