Project Syahi: Reducing Plastic Waste and Challenging the Patriarchy

In this piece you will read about an exceptional initiative - Project Syahi, which involves pens created out of paper which is upcycled from the waste generated in various commercial sectors. Youth Time had a unique opportunity to speak with Purva Pasricha, Executive Member of Enactus Kirori, who elaborates more about how these pens are crafted, how they protect the environment, as well as how women working with them are at the same time challenging patriarchy norms and becoming more financially independent.  

The body and the cap of each pen are shaped from paper that has already been used once. In this way leading to its optimum use before it is discarded, hence taking a step toward reducing plastic waste. To put it simply, this is the result of Project Syahi, one of the three key initiatives of Enactus Kirori Mal College – an international non-profit organization, dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. Syahi contributes to fulfilling the Enactus mission to engage the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders to use innovation and business principles to improve the world.


Purva Pasricha
Purva Pasricha

Syahi involves pens created out of paper which is upcycled from the waste generated in various commercial sectors. It involves a team of over 60 students aiming to uplift socio-economically marginalized communities through building sustainable business models. Purva Pasricha, Executive Member of Enactus Kirori Mal in this interview with Youth Time digs into the background of this initiative and its practical implementation. In addition, she also explains how this initiative supports women’s employment and financial independence.

To get things into context, let’s remember that the students realized that over 1.65 crore pens are discarded every month, adding to the mammoth plastic waste accumulated from various other sources. Also, according to the members of the project, over the last seven decades, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced. This was an incentive for the launching of the Syahi Project, in September 2019.


Paving the path of a world without single-use plastic

Project Syahi aims to challenge the ever-growing problem of single-use plastic.

“Syahi pen has a seed attached to its rear end. This means that after you finish using the pen, you can plant it in soil.”

These pens contain seeds encouraging people to sow them
These pens contain seeds encouraging people to sow them

As the paper disintegrates, she continues, the seed will grow into a sapling and enrich your garden. Thus, this results in an innovative and environmentally friendly product.”

“These unique environment-friendly pens contain seeds at the rear end, thus encouraging people to scribble sustainably, sow seeds and save the planet by combating the plastic menace. “ Pasricha elaborates in the beginning.

Moreover, Pasricha brings into discussion the fact that pollution caused due to plastic is not only limited to plastic bags or bottles, as we usually tend to see it.

“Pollution caused due to plastic is at its peak right now and it is not only limited to plastic bags and bottles. It has been estimated that more than 1.65 crore pens are disposed of every month in India alone. “

“These plastic pens cannot be recycled and ultimately they end up in landfills and water waste, adding to the plastic waste already generated by society.”

Under Syahi, the body and the cap of each pen are shaped from paper that has already been used once, thus leading to its optimum use before it is discarded. Another feature of the Syahi pen is that it has a seed attached to its rear end. This means that after you finish using the pen, you can plant it in soil. As the paper disintegrates, the seed will grow into a sapling and enrich your garden. This is an innovative and effective way to do your part for the environment and society as a whole.

The impact that Project Syahi has created is enormous, replacing a huge amount of plastic with each batch of paper pens. It also saves water, as well as prevents a significant amount of carbon emission.


The pens which fight patriarchy

The crafting of these pens is also helping women in Tilak Nagar, New Delhi to have a stable source of income and by this making a huge step toward women’s economic empowerment in the country. This can also potentially lead to women starting their own business thanks to the entrepreneurial skills gained during this experience.

Among these lines, Pasricha speaks to Youth Time contributor regarding how important is this step toward challenging the patriarchal norms in India.

“Bounded by patriarchy and burdened with poverty, these women were tied down by the shackles of rigid societal norms. With Project Syahi, our beneficiaries will eventually run the business themselves, cultivating valuable skills like marketing and financial management that would not only benefit them but their families as well.” she says.

“Syahi has played the role of a beacon in their lives and has proved to be a source of empowerment for them.”

Currently, they have five women working on this initiative and helping them craft these pens.

She further explains how working with these pens help them toward building a financially independent life.

“In a society that is governed by patriarchal ideas, having financial freedom as a woman is quite an essential thing. The first step to being socially independent comes from being independent in terms of money, where you do not have to rely on the male members of your family for an income. “

These working women are challenging multi-layered, systematic gender stereotypes.

“These brave women are encouraging all the young girls and women who have been socially and economically marginalized to come to be the author of their own story and weave an independent and beautiful life for themselves. “


Different shapes of these pens

 Adding to its unique features, Syahi pens are fully customizable, catering to the likes of superhero-themed pens for kids to pens with company logos for corporate leaders, these pens can do all.

Recyclable pens
Recyclable pens

“With unique features like these, Project Syahi has collaborated with corporates like IBM and reputed hospitals like AIIMS and CNBC. Along with those, Syahi has its products in various schools, universities, and stationery stores across India. Project Syahi is making swift strides towards its goal.” Pasricha adds.

According to her, Syahi is a ray of hope. She further explains what this teaches the students about real-life problems.

“Being a socio-economic brand, it is environmentally sustainable and goes towards reducing wastage. It uplifts a community of people who have been struggling for decades. It teaches students that their college life is but a bubble of privilege and comfort, and there are real-world problems to solve. “

“Project Syahi is a solution to a multi-layered problem of patriarchy, rigid societal norms, economic disparity, and environmental issues.” she concludes.

In addition to Syahi, Enactus currently have two other successfully running projects: Project Dor, which works to revive the dying art of tie-and-dye and works with migrant women and the Project JanBhoomi, which works with farmers, nurseries, and schools to make organic fertilizers.

Enactus takes action in different countries and through various initiatives. Check out Enactus webpage if you would like to know more about them, or see about ways you can get involved as well.

Photos: Enactus

More articles on sustainable development and start-ups:

Turning Plastic into Fuel

Health Matters – the Platform for a Better Healthcare in Pakistan

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