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Pune rag picker gives voice to India’s downtrodden

Suman More, a waste picker since she was 13, is now a labor activist who speaks at international meetings. (WIEGO)

There was a time when Suman More struggled to find a low-wage job as a laborer in India because of her caste. Today, this once-illiterate rag picker from Pune is an activist who keynotes international forums on worker rights, Chaitraly Deshmukh reports for India’s Mid Day.

At 50, More has been collecting and sorting waste in Pune since the age of 13.  After decades of hardship, she now has a voice as a champion of the poor. Last month, More traveled to Geneva for the International Labour Conference. In a speech to 2,000 attendees from around the world, this unlikely heroine shared her moving story of perservance. “She spoke about her work and the challenges she, and many like her, faced in finding acceptance and a voice in society,” Deshmukh writes.

For years, More and other waste collectors in Pune were treated like criminals by citizens and the police. The situation improved after rag pickers teamed with the municipality on waste management, the article explains. Now, wages are higher, collectors carry identity cards and a labor group agitates for their rights. Read Citiscope’s coverage here of how Bangalore recognized and legitimized its waste pickers. Another Citiscope story here explores the issue in Buenos Aires.

To see one More’s talks in Geneva, watch the video below.

Mid Day

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