We Speak Too: Foregrounding the Voices of Sanitation Workers in India

Kavita Wankhade, Abhilaasha N, Arka Sinha Roy, Kabir Arora, Haris Najib, Nikita Patil  | 2023


The lives of sanitation workers are largely invisible, and their stories are unheard by the rest of society. The daily challenges they face in their occupation are multipronged, ranging from direct exposure to waste to social stigma. Much of the sanitation workforce consists of informal workers who receive negligible pay and no social security. Additionally, they work in conditions that endanger their health and lives, while also facing social stigma and discrimination. We Speak Too, by Sanitation Workers, is a series of curated, multi-city seminars that enables a broad spectrum of sanitation workers to speak up and voice their concerns. The seminar series highlights stories, challenges, experiences of workers in their own voices to a diverse audience. This paper presents key reflections from various editions and speaks to what the sector can learn from bottom-up approaches to inform policy.