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On 27 September, at Patan Museum, Nepal Picture Library and its partners opened a photo exhibition- Dalit: A Quest for Dignity, exploring the various meanings of dignity for Nepali Dalits. The exhibition includes more than 80 historical and contemporary photographs from 20 different contributions, including personal and institutional archives. It emphasises the need to document Dalit experience in Nepal.
“I used to throw up all the time because I could not take the smell,” says Sevanti Bai, recalling the many decades she worked as a manual scavenger in Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh. Convinced by others in her community and the law which prohibits manual scavenging, she quit in 2007. Since then, she and her family have struggled, making ends meet, through odd jobs, working in the fields and cleaning grains.
Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers. Since 1993, key legislations have been enacted prohibiting employment of people as manual scavengers, banning the construction of dry latrines and providing rehabilitation. Yet, a significant proportion of an estimated 2.6 million dry latrines in India continue to be cleaned manually.
Breaking Free: Women Champions End Manual Scavenging Despite legislation that prohibits manual scavenging, it is estimated that a significant proportion of the country’s 2.6 million dry latrines are cleaned manually. Women comprise the vast majority of manual scavengers. Community advocates are playing an important role in ending the practice.