Wearing a clean set of clothes is not just about hygiene. It’s about dignity. Putting on clean clothing in the morning can help you feel more confident and empower you to put your best foot forward.
Unfortunately, without access to clean clothing, respect from others can be hard to come by—not to mention self-respect. While most of us enjoy the luxury of being able to easily wash our clothing each day, people in many parts of the world simply don’t.
When University of Bath student Navjot Sawhney volunteered in India, he witnessed the struggles his neighbor went through on a daily basis just to clean his clothing, relying on handwashing techniques that are time-consuming and painful. On top of that, this job is mostly undertaken by women.
Seeing this, Sawhney was inspired to create a low-cost washing machine that makes it easy for people in refugee camps and other regions to wash their clothes. The machines, called Divyas, work using a hand crank and are created in the UK before being sent to those without access to electricity. Sawhney launched the Washing Machine Project in 2018 to distribute Divyas to people in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So far, the project has delivered orders to 15 countries. “To give them the dignity of clean clothes is very fulfilling,” said Sawhney. “Handwashing clothes is restrictive and painful. The Divya means women, who are usually the primary washers, have more time to rest.” Going forward, the Washing Machine Project has plans in motion to roll out the device in Uganda, Lebanon, India, and Jordan.
“When you read the news, places like this can seem really daunting but the people here are like everyone else in the world. They just want their lives to go back to normal,” said Sawhney after making his latest trip to Iraq to deliver Divyas. “This is my third trip to Iraq and each time I come it is unique and I learn so much. Every time I’m reminded of the dignity and pride people have in clean clothes.”