Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

The recently announced scheme of "Garima" by the Odisha Government in India for the Sanitation Workers called GARIMA  .

This scheme targets the core sanitation workers who " ... work in cleaning & maintenance of toilets, drains, sewer systems, septic tanks, septage and sewage treatment facilities in unsafe and undignified work conditions dealing directly with human feacal matter and suffer from social stigmas attached to these critical but essential public services. " ( Reference )

So at a policy level in India, Sanitation Workers is a more recognised term for people working specifically in the sanitation side over waste collector or manual scavenger.

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Eva
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Hey Elizabeth,

Yes, the twitter link was on Sanitation Health Workers, but they are not hospital employees per se, rather the municipality sanitation workers who are normally engaged in the solid waste collection and who are now being retrained for the new role and care they must take on.

On the job advert from SA, I would read it the same way as you and may also include decontamination.

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Eva
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Hi Eva,
Very interesting. Let's keep collecting examples of what the term means from around the world...
Your twitter link talked about "Sanitation Health Worker" (rather than "sanitation worker") - I wonder if this refers to a sanitation worker that works in a hospital setting?

And the link to the South African job website baffled me with the usage of the term like this (bold highlighting added by me):

Sanitation workers carry out tasks relating to the sanitation and upkeep of facilities and facets of operation within a company. The duties of a sanitation worker vary based on what is needed within a company; some examples include sanitation of various equipment used, proper disposal of waste, and the sanitation of work areas. Restrooms may also be cleaned by sanitation workers.

What they are describing probably means "cleaning of various equipment and cleaning of work areas", right?

Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Interesting points in the discussion.  I recently came across a training done by CDD Society for Sanitation Health Workers on safe collection and disposal of discarded Covid19 medical waste and on personal hygiene practices (Twitter link to CDD Society's status) .

It is an interesting usage of the term and arising from the need of the hour. 

I do agree that with their article defining the roles of sanitation workers, WHO brings to light the human link in the sanitation value chain who is vital in many regions for the existence of the sanitation management services. And it shows that terms are used and adapted to highlight/ uplift the section of people to bring them out of sidelines to mainstream.

On side note, I have come across the term Sanitation Worker being used in companies to posting jobs with the tasks of "sanitation and upkeep of facilities and facets of operation within a company" in South Africa , further broadening the usage of the term.

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Eva
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Thanks for pointing this out, Paresh. I agree with you that stormwater drainage cleaning is another task that sanitation workers may be involved with. Even if there was no wastewater in the stormwater drains, it's still part of sanitation - i.e. drainage being the "lesser known" part of sanitation, see also discussion about sanitation definition here

The Wikipedia article about Sanitation worker starts like this and includes stormwater drains cleaning in the third sentence:

sanitation worker (or sanitary worker) is a person responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or emptying the equipment or technology at any step of the  sanitation  chain. [1] :2 This is the definition used in the narrower sense within the  WASH  sector. More broadly speaking, sanitation workers may also be involved in cleaning  streets parks public spaces sewers stormwater drains  and  public toilets . [2]  Another definition is: "The moment an individual’s waste is outsourced to another, it becomes sanitation work." [3] :4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation_worker

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Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear Elisabeth,
In the webinar today, Sharada Prasad who has worked extensively on issues of sanitation workers made an interesting point. The spectrum of activities that can be called as sanitation work is very broad; includes manual scavenging, cleaning of sewers, emptying on-site sanitation systems, cleaning storm water drains, etc. One thing which struck me was the mention of workers involved in annual maintenance of storm water drains.

(Sharada didn't say it in as much words, but here is my understanding of his reasoning) 
Typically, in cities and villages in South Asia (may be true for other South-East Asia as well) storm water drains are cleaned and maintenance work carried out before the onset of monsoons. Since, on-site systems are the norm and systems are far from perfect, some part of wastewater inadvertently ends up in these drains (reasons include direct disposal of blackwater from some houses or supernatant from septic tanks, grey water). Consequently, the workers hired as construction workers for the job come in contact with wastewater. Sharada is of the opinion that these workers should also be referred to as sanitation workers and the risk they face needs to be recognised. 

I understand, we may be far from adding this to Wikipedia for lack of adequate work and reference, but thought it was important to  inform the forum. 

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paresh
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear SuSanA Members.

We have had many posts since long,  on the definition of worker and specification of work, in the sanitation and waste management field is turning very intricate, however for a common man to identify the title of worker in thse types of work , the best title would be "Sanitation worker". 

The specification of the work done by the concerned, can be indicated in the "Work contract " and needed jobs carried out accordingly.

What we have been stressing is that, as the job is needing some skills and care to be followed, Guidance SOPs may be followed. And in working, PPEs to be used for safety of personnel, machinery and others.

Well wishes.
Prof Ajit Seshadri .  INDIA .. 
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Hi Phil,

thanks for pointing out these three references to me, they have been very useful! I have picked out key pieces of information and used them to enrich some of the India-related Wikipedia articles, namely: Did you specifically only search for India-related references or is that just what came up first? I think for the Wikipedia article on sanitation workers, we now have enough about India and should also bring in some other country examples and definitions (if they differ)? I think particularly in the US, the term "sanitation worker" might refer just to municipal solid waste collectors, or also to workers at sewage treatment plants?

I have worked more on the definition of "sanitation worker" within the article and I am still struggeling with being succinct. The trouble is this: the very first sentence of the lead of the Wikipedia article is meant to "say it all". At the moment we begin with that WHO definition but then continue to say that there are other definitions. So if someone doesn't read past the first sentence then we have given misleading information. Hmmmm....

This is how the summary of the article starts now:

sanitation worker (or sanitary worker) is a person responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or emptying the equipment or technology at any step of the  sanitation  chain. [1] :2 This is the definition used in the narrower sense within the  WASH  sector. More broadly speaking, sanitation workers may be involved in cleaning streets, parks,  public spaces sewers , drains,  septic tanks  and  public toilets . [2]  Another definition is: "The moment an individual’s waste is outsourced to another, it becomes sanitation work." [3] :4

I actually really like the defintion that I found in the second paper that you linked:
"The moment an individual’s waste is outsourced to another, it becomes sanitation work."

Regarding your suggestions about explaining the defintions of sanitation: well that should be done in the Wikipedia article on sanitation , right? But not really repeated here. Unless perhaps we say that "since there are various definitions of sanitation, it is not surprising that there are various definitions of "sanitation worker"". Edit on 8 May 2020: I have started up a new thread to discuss the definition of sanitation here

Some more small comments: The first paper you linked to wasn't open access, so it is a little less useful for the Wikipedia work. Nevertheless, I made sure that the Hindi term "safai karamcharis" is now also included in the article on sanitation worker. I also added the term "pourakarmikas" from your third paper. Is that also a Hindi term?

Thanks again for your inputs to this discussion, it's been very useful for me! And hopefully, future Wikipedia readers will be grateful and intrigued by the more detailed content that is now being offered about these topics.

Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear Elisabeth, dear all,
 
I have managed to track down more publications that show different uses of the term “sanitation worker” as you requested. Three studies from India, in particular, provide a good insight into the meaning/usage of the term. In these papers, “sanitation” is used more broadly than it usually is in the WASH sector. 
 
For Vicki Walters (2019), “sanitation workers” can be used as a translation for safai karamcharis, which not only includes manual scavengers, but also people who “work as sweepers,employed to clean streets and open spaces, collect, segregate and transport solid waste, and clean open drains and public toilets” ( https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00856401.2019.1556377 ). She raises an interesting point that “The work of sweepers and manual scavengers are not necessarily discrete. Sweeping open places, cleaning public toilets and clearing open drains is manual scavenging if it involves physical contact with human excrement. It is also not uncommon for a person to work as both sweeper and scavenger.” Further, as sanitary work was previously caste-based, contemporary safai karamcharis who do not deal with human excreta per se come from families who did. As an example, Walters tells a story of a woman who has continued working in her family’s caste occupation of safai karamchari; while the woman works as a municipal sweeper, her grandparents worked as manual scavengers who emptied dry latrines. In other words, for Walter, sanitation workers refer to everyone who works in sanitation (broadly-conceived) because 1) sweepers often come into contact with fecal matter, and 2) sweepers often work as manual scavengers for additional income, or at least come from families who have traditionally worked as such. 
 
Similarly, a paper by Participatory Research in Asia defines sanitation work broadly, noting how Dalits “continue to work in sanitation - as manual scavengers, cleaners of drains, as garbage collectors and sweepers of roads” ( https://pria.org/knowledge_resource/1560777260_Occasional%20Paper%204%20(2019)%20(Lived%20Realities%20of%20Women%20Sanitation%20Workers%20i....pdf ). The paper insightfully highlights the different definitions of sanitation that lead to confusion (e.g. dictionary vs. WHO) and reveals how sanitation work can be broken down in two: public and private. Public sanitation work can involve garbage collection, sweeping, various services within the sanitation service chain, including “cleaning drains, school, community and public toilets, sewer lines, sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, and cleaning faecal matter from railway tracks, platforms, train toilets and platform toilets.”Personal sanitation work involves jobs such as “handling menstrual waste, cleaning household toilets, and managing household garbage.”
 
Rangamatiet al. (2015) follow the same vein by choosing to use pourakarmikas and“sanitation workers” interchangeably. According to the authors, pourakarmikas,in Karnataka, India, refers to “persons employed in all forms of collecting waste, cleaning sewage pits and drains, sweeping roads and collecting and disposing of human and animal excreta, and animal corpses” ( http://archive.nmji.in/archives/Volume-28/Issue-2/Short-Report.pdf ).  

I hope that these are helpful examples for the Wikipedia entry. Since we have to capture the broadness of the term, I wonder if it would be helpful to start the article with an expanded definition than the one we have currently. I also wonder if it would be helpful to first clearly state the different uses of “sanitation” as well (e.g. Merriam-Webster, which is broad, vs. WHO, which acknowledges broader uses of the term but focuses more on the WASH sector)—I think the paper by PRIA serves as a good model for this. It would be interesting to hear others' thoughts as well!
 
Best regards,
Phil
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

P.S. I have now added the information that you provided to the Wikipedia article, please check.

In the lead (summary) I have added:

Some organisations use the term specifically for municipal solid waste collectors, others exclude the solid waste sector from its definition.

(since the lead is a summary of the article it does not necessarily require inline citations)

And in the definitions section:

In the United Sates however, some organisations use the term exclusively for municipal solid waste collectors.[3][4] A famous example of "sanitation worker" referring to waste collectors is the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike in 1968, supported by Martin Luther King Jr., which brought together both waste collectors and sewerage maintenance workers.[5]


More work is required to figure out how the term is used colloquially in various English-speaking countries.

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear Phil,
Thanks for your thoughtful response! I think we need to do exactly what you said here:

Perhaps this issue would be resolved with a clear statement (in the Wikipedia entry) that acknowledges the different uses of the word, but reiterates the term’s importance for those in the WASH sector more specifically. It would be interesting to hear about what others think about this.


Would you be able to help me get the wording and the references right? Every major statement in Wikipedia needs to be verifiable which means I have to give a source. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability )
What we sometimes do is write a piece of text and then add "citation needed" as a reminder to other editors to help find a citation. But often the statement actually gets deleted in that case.

Please note the Wikipedia article on "sanitation workers" should describe it for all sectors and for all English-speaking countries. So even if we from the WASH sector wanted to limit "sanitation workers" to exclude solid waste collection, we would still have to acknowledge that elsewhere in the world, the term does include solid waste collection. This is the tricky thing about many terms used in the WASH sector: something means one thing to me, but something else to another... In Wikipedia we have to give a balanced view.

I can start by trying to weave what you wrote into the Wikipedia article, maybe using those two websites that you gave as references although "proper publications" would be better...

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear all,

This is a fascinating discussion that I think brings up questions about the purpose and the history of the terminology “sanitation workers.” Broadly, I also agree with you all that “sanitation worker” could be potentially used as an all-encompassing term that covers “manual scavenging” and solid waste collection. However, as Elisabeth has indicated, the landmark World Bank/WHO/ILO/WaterAid publication ( www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_d...tion/wcms_728054.pdf ) uses the term more narrowly to describe those working with human excreta and sewage. I do believe, though, that this was a strategic choice that successfully enabled the report to highlight the plight of workers in the WASH sector who are often overlooked in the development sector—all despite their continued social, economic, and legal marginalization.

I do not think that this means that “sanitation worker” should only be used describe those in the WASH sector per se. For example, the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike in 1968, supported by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., brought together both garbage collectors and sewer/drain maintenance workers ( www.memphislibrary.org/diversity/sanitat...tion-workers-strike/ ). The fact “sanitation worker” is used in an overarching way to describe the now-famous event indicates the broader potential of the term. Further, the only time the above-discussed joint report mentions solid waste collectors is when it discusses this event—suggesting that the report itself acknowledges the ability of the term to be used beyond the WASH sector.

I wonder, however, if using the term too broadly could lead to confusion and potentially undo the work that the report has done to zero in on the hardships of those in the WASH sector. I noticed that Waste 360, a U.S.-based industry organization focused on solid waste, recycling, and organics, uses “sanitation worker” to only describe garbage collectors ( www.waste360.com/ ). Some academic articles also do the same ( access.portico.org/Portico/#!journalAUSi...rk:/27927/pgk5t03gsr ). Do we risk losing the focus on precarious WASH sector workers by using the term too broadly?

Perhaps this issue would be resolved with a clear statement (in the Wikipedia entry) that acknowledges the different uses of the word, but reiterates the term’s importance for those in the WASH sector more specifically. It would be interesting to hear about what others think about this.

Kind regards,
Phil
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