Urban discard provides sustainable livelihoods in India

In a small village in the northern Indian state of Bihar, Rinki Deyi teaches up to 17 students a day how to use sewing machines. Since 2017, nearly 60 young people a year having been completing her course before heading out into the world with the skills to make an independent living.

The project was conceived by Delhi-based NGO GOONJ as a way of helping Indian villagers find a sustainable and dignified way of living, without the need for charity support. In fact, Goonj is strongly against charity of any kind, and believes instead that, with a helping hand, most deprived communities are perfectly capable of helping themselves.

The sewing machines are discarded items collected from the big cities and shipped to training facilities in remote areas all over India. Goonj’s main activity is, in fact, collecting and repurposing discarded clothing, and this too is sent, not just for training purposes, but also as raw material for villagers to create new clothing. Indeed in some areas, particularly West Bengal, the free training, sewing machines and material has sparked several new fashion businesses making quality dresses from the city discard.