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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E78: The Washing Machine Project with Navjot Sawhney, Founder

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Navjot Sawhney uses his engineering degree and previous career to improve the lives of others. Setting up The Washing Machine Project, he hopes to help some of the most deprived communities across the world.

"I’m lucky to have had experiences with diverse individuals worldwide to reach a resolute decision that innovation must work for everyone and not predominantly serve the already-wealthy. I believe that intelligent engineering has enormous potential to benefit people right where they stand on the income scale. And as a privileged engineering social-entrepreneur, I owe the world to be at the forefront of developing this potential.

The Washing Machine Project’s (TWMP) mission propels me every waking hour: to help women and children who are hand-washing the clothes of 70% of the global population. The idea for “Divya”, the innovative hand-cranked washing machine, was born out of compassion for my neighbour Divya in India, who spent 20 hours a week suffering joint pains and skin irritation from hand-washing clothes on her hands and knees during my humanitarian work with Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK) in 2017.

With a prototype in 2018, I’ve demonstrated my seriousness in delivering life-changing results to families, which we’ve taken to Iraq for field-testing to influence next-generation design. Today, with 75+ volunteers mobilised into action and 10+ outlets reporting on our work including BBC TV, TWMP is a force that partners with the UN, Oxfam, Care International, EWB-UK, World Vision and others.

Winning prestigious funding from Response Innovation Lab enabled us to overcome countless engineering and manufacturing challenges through design iterations and deploy the first batch of the 250 machines to Mosul’s refugee camp. 500 people are already straining less, and 2,000 will shortly join, halving water usage in the drought-affected region and able to use the saved time on activities that enrich livelihoods. TWMP realistically plans to grow production to 500 washing machines in 2021 and geometrically thereafter, driving-down unit cost to $35. Moreover, our data insights are helping Care International generate higher value-adding humanitarian sector proposals."

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