Posted by & filed under In the Press, Photos, Rajasthan.

For two decades, Uganta Umarwal, a mother of three, suffered severe social discrimination as she went about her daily work cleaning toilets, her situation typifying the wider plight of the Dalit people in India’s hierarchical caste-based society. The intervention of an NGO that campaigns to alleviate the plight of manual scavengers has helped her to learn new skills and transform her life for the better

  • India’s ‘untouchables’ offered opportunity of a better life
  • Uganta Umarwal, 38, a woman with three children, is a former manual scavenger. For 20 years, she cleaned human waste with her bare hands. India’s 794,390 dry latrines are cleaned by human waste scavengers, mostly women, despite a 1993 law that prohibits scavenging

Umarwal with her two daughters, Priya and Suman, whom she was forced to introduce to her line of work at a very young age. They helped her by cleaning drains and collecting rubbish

Umarwal poses with members of her family and her neighbour, Mahesh Kirar, who is also her former employer. Kirar treated her as an ‘untouchable’ when she cleaned his house

Umarwal prepares to go to Sulabh Sanitation’s vocational centre in Tonk, where almost 200 women who previously worked as manual scavengers have learned new skills. She wakes up at 7am, cooks her own food, and reaches the centre by 9am

Umarwal with her three children. Her house has a small kitchen and a room where all four sleep. It was given to her after her parents died

Umarwal is pictured with her sister and two brothers. Her sister also worked as a manual scavenger

Umarwal and her elder daughter, Suman, leave for the Nai Disha centre

Umarwal at her former employer’s house. She had to use a separate door to access the residence
As an ‘untouchable’, Umarwal was not allowed to enter her employer’s home. A separate door opened into the back yard, where the dry-pit latrine was located
Umarwal and other women stitch skirts at the Nai Disha centre. The women wear blue dresses every day to signify that they have reached the sky from the lowest stratum of Indian society
Source :