Maduri, on the right, transporting used hotel soap to be recycled
We work with Sundara to employ women with fair wages in Kalwa, India to take used hotel soap and recycle and repurpose it into new soap to be redistributed to children in the slums.
Life before & after soap recycling
On Sundara’s first day of operations in India, in 2014, one of our first employees was Madhuri. Prior to her work with soap-making and recycling, Madhuri would commute over 4 hours daily by train to central Mumbai, where she worked on the cleaning staff of an upscale mall. Her income was the only means of financial support for herself and her mother, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Working for Sundara has allowed Madhuri to be close to her home. Her commute is now a five-minute walk through her community. She is able to work decent hours, make a sustainable wage, and quickly get home in case of an emergency. As her mother’s only caregiver, she is also able to spend more hours at home, providing for the family.
The power of a raise
When the discussion of acknowledging Madhuri's stellar work arose, b.a.r.e. soaps agreed with Sundara that it was time to give Madhuri a 1000 INR monthly raise, bringing her total income to 10,000 INR per month. Madhuri is elated.
“With the extra money, I feel even more comfortable financially. I can buy important items...like vessels to hold clean water for cooking and drinking. This means that water I would normally use for laundry a few times a week can be used for cooking and drinking instead. Also, my husband is unemployed right now. He is a rickshaw driver but struggles to find work. That means it is only my income supporting our entire family… I feel proud that I am able to do this.”
Madhuri says that where she is from, in Kalwa, “I can buy one meal for 15-20 INR.” She is excited to be able to provide her entire family with food. This raise matters- it not only provides financial security, but a sense of relief that she can comfortably provide water, food, and healthcare to the people she loves the most.
What real female empowerment looks like
In the four years Madhuri has been employed with Sundara, she has been promoted to workshop manager, and her fierce and bold spirit has made her a natural at training all of our new employees. She has greatly improved her English literacy and travels to new locations including Pune, Palghar, and Ashte to provide training to women in their communities.
“Since I started with Sundara, I’ve gained incredible skills, independence and leadership..I feel the other women come to me for guidance and advice, which I love being able to give.”
Madhuri states she feels “very confident” since starting with Sundara four years ago. “I’m thankful for what Sundara has brought to the community: health, employment and pride. The community is proud of the Sundara work centre.” The community also has told Madhuri that they love the soaps and how great they smell. It’s one more point of pride that puts a smile on this working woman’s face.
We are even more proud that there had been zero turnover at the Kalwa operation since we started in 2014. This is a testament to 1) the new opportunity these women have been given, 2) the positive contribution they feel they are making to their communities, and 3) the amazing lean team behind Sundara that is able to make this work!