Unsung Heroes: Sanu Nani Magar

My name is Sanu Nani Magar and I am 48. I come from Ward Number 4 in Dhadingbesi Municipality, Nepal.

I didn’t choose to come here and sort waste

But life was tough and I needed to find work and to earn money. My husband and I had several children to take care of and we were struggling to feed and dress them.

After looking for work in several places, we ended up here. We earn just enough to survive. Our children are grown now, and we all live in the same house. I’ve had 6 children and 5 of them survived; 4 girls and one boy. 

A friend was working on this site sorting waste. That’s how we found work here. My husband works with me. It’s really hard and dangerous work. We never know what might happen. There is glass, debris and even needles. We have to be really careful and watch out for ourselves.

“I would like to have better working conditions and access to water.”

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As long as the truck comes and unloads, we have work. But when it doesn’t show up, there’s no work. Like on Saturdays, not many trucks come. I work an average of 22 days a month and I make between 400 and 500 rupees.

I live in a house made of corrugated sheeting and it doesn’t have water. We have to go and carry it back from the pump. It’s exhausting.

I would like to have better working conditions and access to water. I’d like to go back to farming like we did before, but we were not earning enough money to survive. I have ideas and dreams of course, but I can’t make them happen. I had thought about opening a small shop. I just don’t have the money.

There are women’s groups where we talk about projects. But it is already hard enough taking care of yourself and your family. There are always problems, everyone has problems. It would be great to set something up with the others but I barely have enough to get by. When you’ve got nothing, people don’t respect you. They don’t even bother to listen. 

Sometimes the men drink and overdo it and become violent. We just try to put up with it all, to work hard and to scrape by.