.

Bezwada Wilson

Activist & Raman Magsaysay Awardee

About Bezwada Wilson

Bezwada Wilson is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), a human rights organization that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging.

He is well known as one of the leading figures of the Dalit movement in India. His work at SKA, a community-driven movement, has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation which has nominated him a Senior Fellow.

On 27 July 2016, he was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award. In 2009, Bezwada was elected an Ashoka Senior Fellow for human rights.

Bezwada was born in 1966 in the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in Karnataka in Southern India. He is the youngest child of Rachel Bezwada and Jacob Bezwada, both members of the Thoti caste, one of the historically discriminated and untouchable castes of India.

Bezwada graduated in Political Science from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad and involved in community service, especially youth programs. He saw that many children dropped out of school and then took up scavenging. He believed that if he helped the children complete school and take vocational training they could keep away from scavenging.

During this period his brother took him to the employment exchange to register. The government officer filled in the desired occupation as "scavenger" without even asking him. This was his first personal experience of discrimination. In anger, he refused to submit the application and tore it up in front of all the employment exchange staff.

Safai Karmachari Andolan

In 1994, Bezwada helped found Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) along with S. R. Sankaran and Paul Diwakar. SKA's goal is to end the practice of manual scavenging and help those engaged in it find dignified work. SKA trains teams to work towards the elimination of manual scavenging in various Indian states. SKA initially worked on the state level, until 2003 when Bezwada and four other team members moved to Delhi to launch the Safai Karmachari Andolan nationwide.

He is well known as one of the leading figures of the Dalit movement in India. His work at SKA, a community-driven movement, has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation which has nominated him a Senior Fellow.