This is the largest landfill site in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Situated just on the outskirts of the capital, it is here where more than 2,500 women and children spend their days sifting through rotting waste to find plastic bottles they can sell to recycling companies. Our project in Bangladesh with partner Grambangla Unnayan Committee is supporting these vulnerable mothers and children to help them break out of the cycle of poverty.
Alice, our Fundraising Officer, visited our partner Grambangla in Bangladesh. You can read about her trip below.
When I arrived at Dhaka’s dumpsite, the first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the site with mounds of rubbish piled high in every direction. In 30-degree heat, the smell of putrid waste was overpowering. I couldn’t even begin to imagine this being somebody’s place of work. But sadly, for the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh, it is.
I was fortunate to meet with two waste picking mothers, Sayeda and Tanzia. These smiling, chatty ladies migrated to Dhaka for employment opportunities and have been working on this dumpsite for 20 and 11 years.
They start their days incredibly early, between 3 and 5am, when the rubbish trucks arrive to deposit new waste. They spend up to 10 hours on the dumpsite and cannot work more than two days in a row due to the toxic fumes. For every bin bag-sized sack of bottles they sell, they get 5 taka… the equivalent of 5p.
Before our project, they had no other option but to take their children with them to work each day. Now though, things are different: “At Grambangla school they get a free lunch and education. Before, we had to take our children to the dumpsite. Now we know are dropping our children off in a safe environment.” - Tanzia
Grambangla goes beyond just supporting the children and ensures the mothers are better equipped to provide for their children. Sayeda, Tanzia and hundreds of waste picking mothers have formed savings groups. Sayeda has already started to benefit from the scheme: “I am a single mother and the only earner. With my savings from the Self Help Group I have invested 5,200 taka (£47) in a new scrap business. I buy bottles and scrap from other waste pickers, sort it and sell directly to recycling companies. I now have a higher income to provide for my children and spend less time on the dumpsite.”
The stories I heard whilst on my visit were so moving, and the happiness, resilience and optimism of the children I met was truly heart-warming. Thanks to this project, the poorest families in Dhaka really do have hope for a brighter future away from the dumpsite.