Jyoti Mhapsekar

Ashoka Fellow
Mumbai, MM, India
Fellow Since 2001


This profile was prepared when Jyoti Mhapsekar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Jyoti is improving the lives of women who collect and sort garbage, demonstrating the value of their work to society, and changing the attitudes of the middle and upper classes toward them. Often called "ragpickers," these women are among the most disadvantaged groups in India. Jyoti's organization, Stree Mukti Sangathana (SMS), educates and trains these women and organizes them into labor cooperatives. As a result, they are able to increase their bargaining power and develop leadership skills. As the women become more informed of their rights as citizens, they gain confidence in dealing with middlemen in the garbage management system.
The women also form savings groups, which double as working and training groups. SMS teaches techniques for dry-garbage sorting, vermiculture, bio-composting wet garbage, and gardening. To date, one hundred thirty groups, each with between ten to fifteen women, have been established. Eighty of these groups are joining together in a federation. Jyoti is also partnering with government and neighborhood groups to bring better wages and opportunities to the women ragpickers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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