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Not Just a Piece of Cloth
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Not Just a Piece of Cloth
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Living Service

Anshu Gupta, the founder of Goonj, a volunteer-run recycling center in New Delhi, recycles garments to provide clothes, schoolbags, sanitary napkins, and other amenities for India's poor. Anshu offers a heartfelt appeal to be mindful of the unused clothing taking space in your closet right now, and what a treasure it could be for someone in need. 

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Produced by the Global Oneness Project.

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Segment 1

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Not Just a Piece of Cloth
ANSHU GUPTA
The moment you open your almirah [closet], the first thing that you see is a T-shirt which you don't need. Am I right? First thing which you see is that one T-shirt which you don't need; you're sick and tired of it, you want to get rid of it. You don't know what to do with it. My name is Anshu Gupta, and I initiated this organization called Goonj in 1998. We work on a very basic issue of clothing. It's something like, out of three basic needs -- where you say food, clothes, and shelter -- we target the clothing part. We raise a lot of awareness, and talk to people about the concept, organize a number of collection drives, and awareness campaigns, you know? And as a result, we get a lot of material on a regular basis. Then the entire material comes to this store, and these ladies actually segregate it. Every single thing is sorted out in a different manner. Anything which is not useable, if it is repairable, we will repair it, and then it will be utilized. But even [if] there is a cloth which is, which we cannot use for anything, we can work it into different products.
ANSHU GUPTA
What she is doing is that she is basically making this for a school bag. This becomes the cover of the bag, and this becomes the pocket, and this is basically to hold the bag, the strips. This is an absolutely perfect, ready to move school bag. This will be used as a rope, like this, you know? And once you utilize this particular material, which is the last inch of real estate actually, and you weave it in this loom, and make a product like this.
ANSHU GUPTA
This is basically, you know, the waste sheets which we collect. This is like A4 sheets, which is a massive wastage in corporates, and photocopy shops, schools, everywhere you waste these sheets. What we say is why can't we use the other side of it? Every 25 sheets, if you waste, you waste a notebook.
ANSHU GUPTA
Anything and everything under the sun which is an urban wastage, can be reutilized, reused. It might be computers, it might be furniture, it might be school materials, utensils, footwear, but the primary issue has been the clothing issue. When you talk about clothing, per se, either you talk about cloth bank which a few cities have, or you literally wait for a disaster to happen, then you take out clothing. So our basic issue was that half the country in any case does not need a disaster, but they need clothing. For every single person who does not have enough to cover himself or herself, winters are much bigger, regular disasters. You can survive without food maybe for a day. But what about the basics?
ANSHU GUPTA
We travel across the country, and you'll see we raised an issue, that every woman in this world needs a piece of cloth for five days. Have you ever thought about the women who do not have enough to cover themselves? From where do they bring that piece of cloth every month? We went to a couple of villages where you find so many holes in their hut. These people actually dig a hole in the night and put their children to sleep there. But they have nothing to cover them. And then they cover them with weaved dry grass. So in that scenario, how and from where will the women bring the piece of cloth? There are cases when you have two to three women in the family. They have different cycles. And they share the same piece of cloth. You have cases where a woman used a piece of blouse which had a hook, and she died of tetanus. You go to another tribe, and you talk to women, and the women will say that they don't use anything. It is really shocking that five days with so much of, you know, thing, you have nothing to use, and you just roam around.
ANSHU GUPTA
And what a simple solution. In the cities, where you are holding so much, why can't we look at one woman's suit, which is a very traditional and commonly used cloth in India, and if you hold it in your cupboards, you are holding about 20 sanitary napkins for people. We do nothing except cutting that in pieces, and providing it to people, after properly washing and all that. And it becomes a good sanitary napkin for them. And the solution is an old cloth, lying in your cupboard. This is what I always repeat: lying in your cupboard. You go back to your place, you open your almirah, you will at least find 20 cloths which you haven't used for the last three years, two years, one year. You don't need it, but you are holding it.
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