The Washing Machine Project
1973. Navjot Sawhney
Navjot Sawhney, from London, is an engineer whose hand-cranked washing machine is benefitting over 1,000 families without access to an electric machine in underdeveloped countries or refugee camps, including humanitarian aid centres in Poland for Ukrainian refugees.
Previously employed by ‘Dyson’, Navjot wanted to use his skills to improve quality of life for disadvantaged communities. While volunteering in India with ‘Engineers Without Borders’ he saw the disproportionate burden placed on women to carry out hand-washing, inspiring him to design a manual, off-grid and fully sustainable machine which saves 50% on water compared to hand-washing, and 75% on time. Naming his machines after his neighbour Divya in India, Navjot set up ‘The Washing Machine Project’ to manufacture his ‘Divya’ devices on a wider scale, with over 300 machines so far distributed worldwide to places including refugee camps, schools and orphanages.
In a personal letter to Nav, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
“You have used your professional skills as an engineer to help thousands of people around the world who don’t have access to electric washing machines.
“Your innovative, hand-cranked washing machines are giving families the dignity of clean clothes and the time you are saving them is empowering many women who have been held back from education and employment.
“I know that your machines are also helping Ukrainian families who have been forced to flee their homes and are currently living in humanitarian aid centres.
“Your ingenuity, compassion and dedication to improving the lives of others is an inspiration to us all.”
“Winning the Points of Light award and getting recognised by the Prime Minister is a phenomenal privilege. ‘The Washing Machine Project’s mission is to alleviate the burden of unpaid labour, mainly on women and children. I’m so proud that giving back the dignity of clean clothes to those who hand wash them is getting the recognition it deserves. Thank you to our team, volunteers, partners and beneficiaries who work tirelessly daily to make our mission a success.”
Pictured below: Nav with his neighbour Divya in India; the Divya handwashing machine