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

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

"Sanitation workers" is becoming a bigger topic - rightly so. We even have a sub-category for that here on the forum now to reflect this.

For outsiders, if they hear the term "sanitation workers" they may be unsure what that is. They may go to Google or directly to Wikipedia to find out what it is (the Wikipedia entry comes up third in a Google search).

What they find is this, i.e. a redirect to "waste collector":
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_collector

From that page they can click through to "manual scavenger" to read about the situation in India.

Are we satisfied with this? I wonder if "sanitation worker" should become a separate article to "waste collector". Perhaps "sanitation worker" is overarching to "waste collector"? The article on "manual scavenging" could probably stay more or less like it is, i.e. focused on just India and the specifics there, e.g. caste-based occupation, outlawed etc.

Please provide your feedback. I have also written about it here on the talk page in Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Waste_collector

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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 and other SuSanA Members.

This term Sanitation Worker, or Waste Collector, Conservancy Worker, Worker in Manual Scavenging path, or any others -
All the above practices, have a noble role to preform for the Society at large.

In India and in most developing countries, this sector is not organised and no clear- cut Rules and Regulations even if laid are not adhered to while practices are carried out on a daily basis.
As Government Departments have formulated Rules and Regulations in the case of Electrical H/T transmission lines Etc, and workers follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) .
Similar practices need to be adhered to in the Sanitation field.

Certain sanitation-work spaces are dangerous and accidents, keep happening with no lessons learnt while age- old practices are followed, putting everyone to risks.

Government machinery ought to bring in strict enforcement with penal actions for defaulters Etc.

Notings issued in the interest of the workers community in the clean up practices.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Environment Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others) Chennai, India
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Dear Elisabeth,
I agree that sanitation worker is a bigger topic; waste collector and manual scavenger are sub-topics. There are certainly many other types of workers (street sweepers, gutter cleaners, collection-vehicle drivers, workers on emptying trucks, etc.) that should be considered under the larger topic. A separate Wikipedia article on sanitation workers will certainly be of value and could include a list of activities sanitation workers are involved in. In practice, there is also likely to be a hierarchy within this group of activities; It certainly does exist in many parts of India. For example, work dealing with excreta is considered inferior compared to work dealing with solid waste.

I also agree with Prof. Sheshadri that the sector is not organised in many developing countries and there is a lack of SoPs. Even when SoPs are in place, workers directly employed by the government follow them while those employed by private contractors may be forced to work around them. he government machinery often turns a blind eye to get the work done and keep the system running but will swing into action against the contractor in case of fatalities. This is exactly the point raised in the video posted by Prof Sheshadri in his post dated 12th Jan in the thread related to manual scavenging; see here
forum.susana.org/sanitation-workers/2200...a-job?start=12#28849

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

Dear Elisabeth,
Thank you for your post on the issue of sanitation workers viz a vi waste collector. I tend to believe that “sanitation worker” should be the main topic that can be considered when highlighting the issues to do with sanitation. Currently “waste worker” leaves the question of whether it is solid waste collection or faecal sludge collection. The definition given by Wikipedia on sanitation is:

“..refers to public health conditions related to clean drinking water and adequate treatment and disposal of human excreta and sewage.”

The “Sanitation worker” title will then focus on the different types of workers giving a clearer breakdown on the many forms of handling human waste that are being carried out in the various parts of the world.
That is my opinion on this.

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Charlotte




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

Thank you for your inputs so far. I am going to set up a separate Wikipedia article on "sanitation worker" now. But I am not sure we can claim it to be the overarching term. I am saying this because the landmark publication by World Bank Group, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Water Aid from 2019 defines sanitation worker as:

"The term sanitation workers refers to all people—employed or otherwise—
responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or
emptying a sanitation technology at any step of the
sanitation chain. This includes toilet
cleaners and caretakers in domestic, public, and
institutional settings; those who empty pits and septic tanks once full and other fecal sludge handlers;
those who clean sewers and manholes; and those
who work at sewage and fecal waste treatment and
disposal sites (Dalberg Advisors 2017; WHO 2018). "


So they do not include the solid waste collection workers in this (which I find a bit of a pity).

Do we have any other publications available that define sanitation workers differently (more broadly?) which we can cite for comparison purposes? I can only add information on Wikipedia if I have publications to cite.

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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 Dr Elisabeth.
We need a mention of all others cleaning and maintaining works left out eg
The term - solid waste collection - is left out..
This if I am not mistaken could be under " conservancy works "
Willing to assist..
Well wishes.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Environment Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others) Chennai, India
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Re: Sanitation worker, waste collector, manual scavenger - same thing? One, two or three Wikipedia articles?

Here is what the new Wikipedia article on "Sanitation worker" (created by me today) looks like:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation_worker

Help needed to make it better. Please suggest more content and more references that should be added.

E.g. it would be interesting if we found other definitions for the term (personally I think "solid waste collectors" should be part of "sanitation workers" just like solid waste management is part of sanitation!). So far we have cited the Worldbank definition but we could also cite others if they exist.

Ajit, what is a "conservancy worker" and is that perhaps Indian English?

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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 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
Technical Support Unit, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
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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 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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  • Elisabeth
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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 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?

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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