Our Mentor: Bezwada Wilson
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Manual scavenging is blight on humanity in India. While the Constitution and other laws prohibit dry latrines and the employment of manual scavengers, these have not been strictly enforced with government itself being the biggest violator.A hereditary occupation consigned to “dalits” & “untouchables”, manual scavenging involves 180,000 dalit households cleaning the 790,000 public and private dry latrines across India; 98 percent being meagerly paid women and girls.
As a national convenor, Wilson launched the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) in 1993 to wipe out this inhuman practice. He has spent 32 years on this crusade, leading not only with a sense of moral outrage but also with remarkable skills in mass organizing, and working within India’s complex legal system. SKA, today a movement across 500 districts has liberated around 300,000 scavengers till date. While Wilson has placed at the core of his work the dalits’ self-emancipation, he stresses that manual scavenging is not a sectarian problem: “You are addressing all members of society, because no human being should be subjected to this inhuman practice. Society itself has to be transformed.”
The world saluted Wilson’s moral energy and prodigious skill in leading a grassroots movement to eradicate the degrading servitude of manual scavenging in India, reclaiming for the dalits the human dignity that is their natural birthright by conferring the Ramon Magsasay Award (2016). We are highly honored and privileged to be guided by Wilson“.