Usha Chaumar: From A Manual Scavenger To A Padma Shri Awardee

Usha Chaumar

Usha Chaumar who is currently the President of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation has been awarded the Padma Shri award for this year for her inspiring social work. Speaking to the India Today reporters she said, “There is a drastic change in my life. Earlier, I used to work as a manual scavenger. It was Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, who helped me in coming out of that work.”

Working as a manual scavenger made her feel dirty and an outcast in society. Doing this work also killed her appetite and she didn’t feel like doing anything after coming from work. However, the discriminatory practice was banned in 1993 by ‘The Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, it is still practised in some parts of India.

Fortunately, Usha could leave her old life due to the aid of NGO Nai Disha. This NGO transformed her life and helped other women like her. It focuses on empowering women by making them independent and their lives better. It aims to teach them various life-enhancing skills like stitching, Mehendi, and food processing.

Read Also: 88% Women Manual Scavengers Rehabilitated, Claims Centre

Here are a few things you should know about the Padma Shri Awardee Usha Chaumar journey so far:

  • Usha Chaumar is from the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. She was born to a Dalit family and practised the family profession of manual scavenging.
  • Chaumar began manual scavenging at the age of seven. She said that when she was a child, she would often insist on getting a broom from her mother so that she could help her.
  • Then she got married at the age of ten and moved to Alwar district of Rajasthan. However, at her husband’s place as well she had to continue with the same occupation.
  • A life-changing point came in Usha’s life after the intervention of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak whom she calls Baba. He visited the colony where Usha lived and offered manual scavengers the opportunity of having an alternative occupation.
  • Dr Bindeshwar Pathak established a center of Sulabh International at Alwar called Nai Disha. This became the center for the production of pickles, noodles, papads and other food items. Thus, Sulabh helped generate gainful employment for these women.
  • Usha’s affiliation to Nai Disha gave her not only economic independence but also human dignity. She left manual scavenging in 2003. She has three daughters and a husband, she solely runs the household.
  • Talking about her achievements, Usha mentioned that she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and also tied him a rakhi. She later became an activist and a powerful speaker, she raised her voice against the inhumane practice of manual scavenging.
  • Usha inspired hundreds of women and travelled all around the globe. Currently, she holds the position of president at Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.
  • The social activist has travelled to the USA, Paris, and South Africa. She has also learned to speak English and is not scared of public speaking. She wants to spread the word about the cause as much as she can so that this practise can be eliminated from society.
  • Due to her constant efforts and dedication, she was awarded with the Padma Shri for bringing about social change at the age of 53-years-old.

Image Credits: India CSR

Gaurika Taneja is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv