70% of the world’s population does not have access to an electric washing machine and infrequent electricity and water supplies mean they are often not a sustainable option. People and most often women have no choice but to wash their clothes by hand. This is a time- and water-consuming task, which places incredible stress and pressure on people’s wellbeing, health and livelihood.
At The Washing Machine Project, we believe in the power of innovation to empower lives. That is why we have developed an off-grid, manual washing machine, which saves 60-70% of time and 50% of water, for people in low-income and displaced communities.
This idea was born out of a friendship. Nav, our founder, was on a sabbatical in rural South India, making clean cook stoves when he met his neighbour, Divya. It was through their conversations at the end of each day that Nav came to realise the significant burden unpaid labour places on women.
Divya would spend up to 20 hours each week washing her family’s clothes, a burden which prevented her from pursuing paid work and caused her to suffer skin irritations and back pain. There are many health risks associated with hand-washing clothes, notably contracting infections and water-borne diseases from direct contact with contaminated water sources.
It is not just Divya who bears this burden. We have spoken to women and communities in 11 different countries around the world, including Lebanon, the Philippines and Cameroon. In those communities we have met children as young as 6 who have begun helping with this task. This is detrimental not just to their education but also to their childhoods; to being children.
It is through our conversations and pilots that we have kept people at the centre of everything we do. Our user-centred design is driven by feedback from our beneficiaries and we will continue to develop our design for the communities we provide for.
We are currently preparing 30 of our ‘Divya 1.5’ model to be sent to Mamrashan Refugee Camp in Iraq with the help of Care International. This will positively impact 300 people and save up to 750 hours annually per household (2 months of daylight hours). Later this year, we will also be fulfilling orders to refugee camps in Jordan.
With your help we can give many more people greater time, health and therefore agency over their lives.
We hope you will support us on this journey. Together, let’s engineer a more sustainable future.