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Find out how the Washing Machine Project will help transform thousands of lives with 10,000 manual washing machines

Global collaboration will help unlock millions of hours for women and girls to improve quality of life, saving time for learning and income-generating activities.

15 April 2024

The Washing Machine Project, a grassroots organization that provides off-grid manual washing machines to people in low-income and displaced communities, announced today it is collaborating with the Whirlpool Foundation to deliver 10,000 manual washing machines to communities and households across the world over the next five years. The work is expected to impact an estimated 150,000 people and address a significant barrier to their advancement and quality of life. Recognized by The Washing Machine Project and the Whirlpool Foundation as the ‘Global Washing Divide,’ this collaboration will focus on the estimated 60% of the world’s population–or 5 billion people–that rely on washing
clothes by hand.

This new collaboration with Whirlpool Foundation will expand the reach of the innovative Divya manual washing machine and alleviate the burden of hand washing clothes for communities across India, Latin America, Mexico and Africa. The new partnership will enable The Washing Machine Project team to install over 10,000 Divya manual machines in 6 countries, impacting 150,000 people.

In its first five years, the collaboration will help unlock approximately 17 million hours for women and girls to improve quality of life and halve overall water usage, bringing efficient and sustainable washing solutions where they are needed most. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of households worldwide depend on women and girls for water collection and laundry, which is amplified by the estimate that up to 20 hours each week are spent hand washing clothes in underserved communities globally. The collaboration will help save time and create opportunities for learning, income-generating activities and more time with family.

“We are honoured to partner with the Whirlpool Foundation, whose legacy as a pioneer in home appliance innovation is only superseded by their passion to foster community development and improve life at home for people around the world,” said Navjot Sawhney, founder and CEO of The Washing Machine Project. “This collaboration is a testament to what can be achieved when compassion meets technology. Together we are set to revolutionize laundry practices globally, paving the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for hundreds of thousands of people.”

The Washing Machine Project Team edit

Navjot Sawhney with some of the team from the Washing Machine Project and the Whirlpool Foundation in Pondicherry, India.

Divya Washing Machine Impact

At the initiative’s core is the Divya Washing Machine, the world’s first flat-packable manual washing machine that allows users to wash their clothes without electricity or a connected water source. Its simple design reduces the prolonged physical effort usually required to hand wash clothes, replacing it instead with a simple manual machine that can be used frequently and safely, saving the user up to 76% of the time compared to hand washing clothes.

As a portable unit built with commercial-grade components and stainless-steel construction, the machine is easier to fix remotely and has the potential to be recycled at the end of its life.

The Washing Machine Project The Divya washing machine edit

The Divya washing machine

Divya, the machine’s namesake, is named after Navjot Sawhney’s former neighbour, whom he became close friends with during a work assignment in India engineering cook stoves. He was struck by how much time Divya would spend doing back-breaking chores, including hand-washing clothes for hours each week. At that time, he promised to return to Divya with a manual washing machine and help make
her life a little easier. In March 2024, in a joint trip with the Whirlpool Foundation, he did just that.

“We greatly admire the mission and work of The Washing Machine Project and see an opportunity to help impact more lives collectively than either of us could individually,” said Pam Klyn, Whirlpool Corporation executive vice president, corporate relations and sustainability. “Driven by shared passion and purpose, Whirlpool Corporation employees are lending their time and talents to help make this long-term vision a reality, recognizing that this initiative goes beyond washing clothes. It is about reclaiming time and improving lives for these individuals who will now spend much less time doing laundry, which opens the door to new opportunities.”

In the first five years of its collaboration with Whirlpool Foundation, distribution is planned for underserved populations in rural and urban areas in India, Mexico, Brazil, the Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Uganda. Implementation will be tailored to meet the partnering regions’ specific cultural, economic, and environmental conditions, ensuring the solution is effective and relevant in local contexts.

Since The Washing Machine Project was founded in 2019, the organization has conducted ethnographic research in 13 countries and interviewed more than 3,000 families in India, Uganda, Jamaica, Nepal and the Philippines to gain insight into their clothes-washing tendencies. In addition to completing successful pilot studies, The Washing Machine Project has distributed Divya washing machines to families and communities in India, Iraq, Lebanon, the United States, Mexico, and Uganda. In 2024 The Washing Machine Project plans to scale across numerous countries, partnering with organizations like the Whirlpool Corporation and international development and humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Save The Children, Oxfam, Care International, and Plan International.

About The Washing Machine Project

Founded by Nav Sawney, The Washing Machine Project is a grassroots social enterprise based in the U.K. aiming to alleviate the burden of hand washing clothes and empower women by providing remote, low-income and displaced communities with an accessible, off-grid washing solution. The Divya Washing Machine – a manual, off-the-grid washer-dryer helps save up to 50% of water and 75% of the time compared to hand washing clothes.

About Whirlpool Foundation

Since 1952, the Whirlpool Foundation has been making real, positive differences in local communities where Whirlpool Corporation families live and work. Whirlpool Foundation shares our vision that communities and displaced people everywhere should have access to sustainable washing solutions; improving lives by reducing the physical impact and reclaiming the amount of time it takes to simply wash clothes.