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ACORN Around the World

Organizers’ Forum

El Comita, ACORN Tunisia and the Jasmine Foundation hosted the organizers forum in Tunis, Tunisia from September 12th to September 18th. The Organizers’ Forum annually visits different countries.  In Tunisia, we met with unions, NGOs, environmental, and women’s organizations along with communities where ACORN’s affiliate, La Comita, was organizing.  ACORN representatives induced Olivia O’Conner from Hamilton ACORN, Adrien Roux from the Alliance Citoyenne, Eloise Mallet from ReAct and ACORN Africa, Sammy Ndirangu from ACORN Kenya, and Marius Beloch from ACORN’s affiliate in Cameroon.

Cameroon

After months of campaigning, the threat of an action by the members of ACORN affiliate OnEstEnsemble led the agency to pay the hostesses of the GCG agency after waiting for months. The repair of the main pipe has been completed which will reconnect households to the network of water Bonewanda. Local residents have asked the Metropolitan regulate the parking of motorcycle taxis to avoid congestion.

Canada

At the national level, ACORN Canada released the report “Barriers to digital equality” which calls for affordable and universal access to the internet. In Toronto, ACORN members won the city vote for effective implementation of the RentSafe Toronto, a landlord registration program that we had won in 2016. In Mississauga, PEEL ACORN members won a proactive inspection program based on RentSafe Toronto which will be piloted in select buildings. In Ottawa, members won a motion at the city council to enact minimum distance and licensing requirements for payday lending companies. In Hamilton, members having fighting renovictions, the city voted unanimously in support of a motion to review the its incentive grant programs to developers to ensure no city funds are given to renovictors.

Czech Republic

Members of the social building cooperative and AKORN gathered on November 17 at the Republic Square to support the Real Left event called the Revealed Revolution. It was a call out for a comeback of the unfinished “velvet revolution” that began in November 1989, marking the establishment of the Civic Forum. Members are working to create a connected platform like the Civic Forum through which power can be shared and people are able to be actively engage and influence or propose programs.

France

ACORN’s affiliate in Lyon, France, Alliance Citoyenne represented its members in an action demanding burkini wearers be allowed to swim in public pools, wearing the ACORN visor hats! This comes in the wake of the proposed banning of the garment by the authorities in several French towns.

India

ACORN foundation in India demanded Indian companies to devise a method to buy back plastic packaging and bottles that get discarded by consumers after usage at a Bloomberg Equality Summit in Mumbai. ACORN India also featured in the award winning article in the Global Post.

Kenya

Members have been planning for the campaigns on Feeding program and that of Environmental sanitation in Korogocho and its neighboring villages.  Members were able to strike a partnership with Koch FM which is the only radio station in Korogocho. This will allow ACORN to have four hours of daily programming with live or pre-recorded on air programs. Further, over 400 women attended an empowerment event in Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya where six months’ supply of sanitary pads were distributed to all participants.

United Kingdom

In Brighton, as part of ACORN’s National Renters Vote campaign to mobilise people in vulnerable housing to vote in the General Election. Working across Brighton and Hove at soup kitchens, housing advice and community centres, street stalls and in temporary accommodation, the union has successfully registered almost 100 people, including 50 people with no fixed address. ACORN alongwith several allies launched a national renter manifesto which sets out the steps needed to ensure that everybody has a secure, affordable and decent home. The manifesto covers six key themes: Security, Affordability, Justice, Conditions, Discrimination, and Housing for People Not Profit.

ACORN Liverpool held a protest against homes being auctioned off in Kensington Fields. Members managed to get one of the homes pulled from today’s auction, but sadly the other one went ahead. Families with children in Liverpool are facing potential evictions as landlords advertise their homes to be sold off as student house shares. Acorn Liverpool’s AGM was a big when members spent time plotting and scheming to build working class power. A new committee is in place, and members are ready to get back at it.

ACORN started another new chapter for ACORN in England: ACORN Portsmouth!

United States

New Orleans: A Community Voice, ACORN’s Louisiana affiliate alongwith Justice and Beyond, a community group and other scientists and environmental activists were able to highlight the issue of lead poisoning and put forth demands for cleanup in New Orleans. While groups have been trying to call attention to the problem for years, it was only recently that a demonstration with some 50 people outside the water board headquarters to protest high water bills and lead levels brought attention to the issue. A 2016 study estimated that there are 6.1 million lead pipes bringing water to homes in the US, a fact that was hidden for long.

Memphis: Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), and Diné Butler, community organizer and policy analyst, explored ways large equity firms are reducing homeownership in Memphis’ low-income neighborhoods.

Netherlands

Netherlands is pushing forward to build ACORN and more there. Inquiries about ACORN organizing have come from Tel Aviv where there’s interest in a building an ACORN Tenants’ Union.  Marielle Benchehboune from Lyon is meeting with them in December when she is there for a conference.  Progress is reportedly slow but steady for ACORN in Ireland as well.

Photos from ACORN San Pedro Sula

ACORN at the Forefront of the Working Class

12 members and workers of our social building cooperative and civil association met at the Republic Square to support the event called the Revolution Betrayed held by the emergent student platform Real Left.

Equality, unity and fraternity somehow disappeared yet left with a taste for the unknown fruit of freedom, which we had managed to try.
We suffered bitterly from how worms wriggled, irritated the stomach juices and triggered a thunderstorm of pathological effects, but its taste, the taste of sweetness still lingers on the palate and reminds of what we were worth and what we would like to achieve.
Yes, the Velvet Revolution is considered to be an unfinished piece of hot iron, and we are holding wrenches and ringing them loudly! Velvet Revolution.

Execution on Property, Debts, The Unemployed, The Homeless and Dead Ideas.

Our solution is so far taking place primarily within the social cooperative and civic community association, but it can also grow to be political. We are both a social cooperative and a registered community association.

At the event “Revolution Betrayed”, we chanted: “Velvet is not over, so let’s pull it through!”

It is a slogan that certainly does not end with one demonstration or will not just repeat on the next November 17.

Czech ACORN members are considering how it can work throughout the year, prospectively until next November.

-Why not launch our own year-round campaign “Completing the Velvet” or some such?

In 1989, the Civic Forum was founded. CF was supposed not only to mediate between citizens and executive bodies of the state, but to strengthen the thesis that democracy is a space for equal opportunities to offer various solutions, concepts and principles.

Public policies should engage in the form of competition, but it does not always have to be rivalry in terms of being attracted to the trough or persuading crowds. We can imagine devising and social consensus and increasing efforts to cooperate.

Why do we propose the principle of political competition?

It is here to give citizens the opportunity to choose the agenda that convinces them most, which is the best.

Unfortunately, the very principle of today’s political competition forces the policies of particular political parties to sell their agenda at all costs as well as denigrating the agenda of other political parties. There is practically no way in which a politician would recognize or attempt to support the agenda of their political rival.

But democracy is here to stay

However, democracy is the principle for an independent platform through which citizens can propose legislation, administrative and executive decisions, engaging in social activism, as well as expressing their views on a variety of issues, such as local matters.

The Civic Forum originally stood a chance to become a platform, as a tool for citizens to exercise control in a transparent way.

Parliamentary democracy is good, but it has its shortcomings

Parliamentary democracy, except for all its advantages, to a number of parties means the incessant abstention from putting the proposed changes into practice. One government spends four years trying to implement their policies The opposition makes attempts to disrupt it, explaining to the citizens that this is the wrong direction. Four years later they want to come to power and the situation is reversed

That is also why we believe that a comprehensive platform of civil control and citizens’ direct influence on the legitimate and executive power would be a party principle. By offering people the means to exercise control, we simplify the way civil society works as it begins to function more directly and thus we create a more democratic environment for its full development.

Society is not built in such a way, but it barely survives !!!

Therefore, we staunchly support the implementation of the idea of ​​an organization similar to the Civic Forum. For instance, a way of its instantiation could be establishing a organization that would be nonprofit in civic transparent hands and would force the current order to share power.

We think that creating a peaceful environment based on a friendly community can transform the whole political culture.

At first glance, small communities seem to be unable to change anything by themselves. Nonetheless, they work internally, for example, to provide social help, establish social cooperatives, and externally, they engage in tasks such as activism.

Small grassroots communities can form a common local organization. More local organizations can make up a common regional one, which, if united, can result in a nationwide network.

At first glance, it is a small scale drudgery, but at the same time, small communities keep emerging and some have recently joined together.

So in our view it is possible both to influence political culture and attain certain political goals.

A community does not automatically have to mean a political movement.

In a community, social work, counseling, say neighborhood assistance, is shaped, which can later grow to form cooperatives and become politically involved.

The betrayal of the CF was indeed a revolution betrayed.

CF initially assumed that there would naturally exist political parties and the notion of the party would work, but CF also counted on its own role. CF should be a community and politics should emerge at a grassroots level.

ACORN at the Forefront of the Working Class..

ACORN Czech Republic: We will complete the 1989 Revolution

Demonstration on November 17th anniversary.

We are a ready organization

At the beginning of its establishment ten years ago, the ACORN Association had constituted statutes ready to support a political parties wishing to set up platforms or non-profits alongside its own political activities that would offer citizens the opportunity to engage in their forums and assemblies either as individuals or entire groups with their goals.

According to the Articles of Association, it is possible to establish both a freadom members forum and a council of associated organizations with fixed settings or a council of organizations which belong directly to ACORN.

In doing so, we seek to extend the possibilities of party politics by involving citizens and, above all, bringing organizations and independent citizens together.

Our association has therefore decided to support some specific movements, to try to create a direct, united platform through which other engaged organizations or independent citizens can directly influence events and, using this principle, directly run or propose programs. Initiatives of free members, community associations, employees of social enterprises and so on can be involved.

Contact us on Messenger on the ACORN Czech facebook page and join the association or cooperative, we are recruiting all those interested in taking democratic measures to reach common consensus of all citizens!

Women’s Empowerment Event in Korogocho

Over 400 women attended an empowerment event in Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya. A 6 month’s supply of sanitary pads were distributed to all participants.

ACORN India at the Bloomberg Equality Summit in Mumbai

Vinod Shetty talks about the Dharavi project & Dharavi Rocks performs.

Watch the Bloomberg Equality Summit in Mumbai here.

Video of Dharavi Rocks and Vinod below.

ACORN Hats at Burkini Action in Lyon France

ACORN India Featured in Award Winning Article in The Global Post

Illegal Recyclers Prevent India’s Mumbai from Choking on its Waste

Mansi Chouksey

India’s financial capital, Mumbai, generates 11,000 tonnes of waste daily. In the absence of a proper waste segregation and recycling system, the city’s only saving grace are thousands of unauthorized recyclers, who run their operations in Mumbai’s infamous Dharavi slums.

Dharavi, the biggest slum of Asia, is an eyesore to the neat and continually rising skyline of Mumbai. A labyrinth of thousands of small workshops and homes, Dharavi is located right in the heart of the maximum city, making it one of the most expensive pieces of land in India, housing the poorest of the poor. It is hard to believe that this mesh of shanties and narrow lanes, littered with garbage and flooded with sewage water, is what prevents the financial capital of India from choking in its own waste.

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Spread across 520 acres of land, Dharavi is the center of recycling of thousands of tonnes of waste that Mumbai generates every day. More than 5,000 single-room recycling units work relentlessly to skim through unsegregated and monumental quantities of waste to cull out metals, plastic, paper, and glass.

Laxmi Kamble, a single mother and a third-generation Dharavi resident said that recycling has been a business in the slum since independence.

Making of Dharavi

Dharavi came into existence in 1882 during the British colonial rule in India. An outbreak of bubonic plague in Mumbai prompted the British government to transfer some of the polluting industries to a piece of land that later came to be known as Dharavi. With the advent of mechanized technology, labor-intensive industries died out and Dharavi became the abode of migrant-waves that swarm the city every month.

Recycling eventually emerged as a profitable business. Director of Acorn Foundation (India), Vinod Shetty, said that it is hard to make profits for organized recycling businesses in India due to the lack of a system to segregate waste at the source and keep it segregated during the transit. Garbage trucks managed by Brihanmumbai Municipal Commission do not have provisions to carry segregated waste which is simply toppled inside the trucks and dumped in landfills on the outskirts of the city.

India’s largest and the oldest dumping ground, Deonar, is located in the eastern suburb of Mumbai. Deonar landfill occupies an area big enough to encapsulate more than 240 football fields. Set up in 1927, Deonar landfill now has mounds of trash that have attained a height equivalent to a nine-story building. In 2016, a fire broke out at the landfill. The dump continued to be on fire for four days, forcing 70 schools to dismiss classes.

A high disposable income and lack of awareness and concern for the environment among urban masses has led to a 105 percent rise in waste generation in Mumbai between 1999 and 2016. Recycling units in Dharavi play a huge role in intercepting recyclable items from getting dumped into a landfill and adding to Mumbai’s mounting waste crisis.

Supply Chain of Recycling

Through the decades, these unorganized recyclers have developed an organized and robust supply and demand network that contributes to Dharavi’s total annual turnover of US$1 billion. The smallest unit of this supply chain are ragpickers who skim through trash bins and landfills to pick out recyclable articles. A typical day for Balu, a ragpicker, starts with a glass of strong black tea and a snack. For the next 12 hours, he will be meticulously fishing out recyclable items from public trash bins. “You won’t believe the kind of things that I find in the garbage. Once I found a fully functional foot massager,” he said. On other days Balu makes less than $3 a day, which barely covers his food expense.

Sorting recyclable items from dumps exposes ragpickers such as Balu to a variety of health hazards. At 17, Balu complains of shortness of breath, but he cannot afford to consult a doctor or buy medicine. “It is a skill that you acquire at the cost of your health. Once I opened a bottle of liquid and spilled some of it on my hand. I think it was acid as it burnt the skin on my hand,” he said while showing a patch of burnt skin on his hand. “I don’t have a choice, rag-picking is the only way I can make a living.”

Recyclers also source material from Kabadiwalas. For decades, Indians have been selling recyclable household waste to these door-to-door collectors. The Kabadiwalas make rounds of residential areas while pushing their hand wagons, announcing their presence. People call them to their homes to sell paper, plastic, glass, and electronics. Many haggle to get the best price out of a kabadiwala for their discarded items. The kabadiwalas sell their purchase to recyclers in Dharavi for a paltry profit of 5 to 10 percent. The most organized of all these suppliers are scrap agents who buy large quantities of reusable waste auctioned by companies and then sell it for a profit.

Hours of Labor

Shirish Jani, a second-generation entrepreneur, is very proud of his family business which was started by his father in 1962. His 250 square feet recycling unit is packed to the rafters with cardboard, paper, and plastic barrels.

“We often buy plastic and cardboard through a scrap agent who has ties with the pharma and chemical companies. The purchased scrap is then transported to our recycling unit in Dharavi. After washing and processing we generate a profit of 10 percent,” said Jani.

Repackaging units with a small demand serve as clients for recyclers such as Jani.

Dharavi’s thirteen compounds have mounds of segregated colored plastic. Segregated plastic is ground and the granules are sold to packaging companies. However, the process of dismantling and sorting needs hours of labor.

Shadab Chaudhary left behind his wife and two daughters in his village in North India to come to Mumbai for work. The lack of blue-collar jobs in rural areas stimulates waves of labor migration to Mumbai. Shadab works 12 hours every day and sleeps on the pavement to save enough money to send home. “I get paid Rs.10,000 ($144) a month, this is the best you can get here,” he said.

Second Life

Metal extraction from e-waste to the refurbishing of second-hand home appliances, there is nothing that cannot be used or reused in Dharavi. At 18, Sandeep Soni is the proud owner of a second-hand home appliance shop that supports his family of six. A customer can buy a functioning washing machine at one-third of its original price from his shop. “We even give a guarantee of three months,” he said. On days with slow business, his staff consisting of three teenage boys sit in the dark backroom to extract copper from discarded electronics which fetches him about $5 per kilogram.

E-waste recycling in Dharavi is not as popular as plastic, paper, and glass, owing to the hazardous nature of the extraction techniques. The metal extractors at Dharavi employ two to three workers at a time to extract profitable quantity of metals. Workers sit in an assembly line fashion with each taking a different set of responsibility during the extraction process. Javed* has been making his living through metal extraction from discarded e-waste for over a decade now. “I extract metals after taking apart electronics. There is a huge market for metal extraction from PCBs but I lack knowledge and equipment,” he said.

Governmental Guidelines

In 2016, the Government of India introduced Extended Producer Responsibility to ensure that the industries associated with plastic and electronics take the onus of recycling end-of-cycle products by establishing collection systems. Since 2016, the Central Pollution Control Board has been cracked down on some of the major electronics companies in India for not complying with the norms. According to the same set of rules, the dismantling of e-waste is only allowed to be done by authorized recyclers in workshops equipped to carry out the processes with compliance to the central government’s 2016 guidelines for e-waste management.

For Dharavi’s e-waste recyclers such as Javed, it is impossible to execute environmentally safe dismantling of e-waste, and there is no way for him to acquire an authorization to conduct his business legally.

“We have a hand-to-mouth existence. We have neither time nor capital to invest in compliance. My business may not be legal but it is essential. E-waste recyclers in an unorganized sector not just earn a living through recycling, but also process tonnes of e-waste, which is beyond the capacity and means of recyclers in the organized sector,” he said.

Acorn Foundation (India) Director Shetty works closely with recyclers in Dharavi to provide them with legal advice and solicit licenses and permits on their behalf. He calls the situation of Dharavi recyclers an epitome of Catch-22. “Excluding the unorganized sector from the recycling ecosystem is a mistake. Organized recycling units do not have the benefit of cheap migrant labor and a seamless supply network,” he said. “Only people who are destitute and desperate for work will put such hard labor to make a meager living.”

For Shadab and Javed, the pros and cons of their profession hold little importance. “I don’t understand legalities associated with my business. I try my best to keep my workers safe and only extract metals that can be easily extracted,” said Javed.

For Shadab, the illegal status of his workplace makes no difference. “What would you choose between supporting your family now and developing a new set of skills in an attempt to find some other kind of legal job,” Shadab said.

Environmentalists, organized recyclers, electronics, and plastic product manufacturers and the government are yet to devise a sturdy waste management system in India. Meanwhile, thousands of recyclers and labors in Dharavi continue to process the waste generated by the millions of inhabitants of Mumbai.


*Name of the metal extractor Javed has been changed to protect his identity.


This article won The Globe Post’s 2019 writing contest.

Kids Making Art in Dharavi

Dharavi Rocks at the Cummins Excellence Awards


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