British university students design hand-cranked washing machine for refugees

Navjot Sawhney (right) during a trip to Kurdish Iraq on a field trial – Photo: The Washing Machine Project Facebook page
By Asia Samachar Team UK |

A British engineering graduate is pushing hard to make available low-cost washing machines for the those who need it most: refugees and the poor.

Navjot Sawhney and a band of volunteers under the banner of ‘The Washing Machine Project’ are en-route to sending the first 50 of the newly designed hand-cranked machines to refugee camps in Iraq.

The team led by the Navjot — a 29-year old engineer who is studying for an MSc in Humanitarianism, Conflict and Development — has finished manufacturing 50 of the machines called Divya.

Why Divya? That’s the name of Navjot’s friend in southern India who told him of the physical struggles she and others like her faced when washing clothes without a machine.

The journey involved seven weeks of manufacture involving more than 75 volunteers from all over the country.

In an Facebook update, the University of Bath student said they had interviewed 80 displaced families interviewed – directly feeding into the product design.

“Thousands of hours spent developing these washing machines for the last 12 months. For one cause. To alleviate the burden of unpaid domestic work such as hand washing clothes.

“These machines are now on their way to Oxfam Iraq – we will distribute across refugee camps in January,” he said.

The Washing Machine Project is a social enterprise meant to alleviate the burden of handwashing clothes for everyone, everywhere. It is run by volunteers who each bring unique skills – in engineering, data science and humanitarian action – to bear on the project.

In an interview with British newspaper the Daily Mail, Navjot said: “In March 2019, we were lucky enough to be invited out to Kurdish Iraq by Care International, where we conducted a week-long field trial with two of our prototypes with 79 families in five IDP (internally displaced person) camps.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we were given some useful direction on how we could further improve our design. We have developed partnerships with large international NGOs and a funding pipeline.

“What drives us forward is a common goal to make the world a better place with the skills we have. The exciting thing is that we’re only just getting started.”

Hand washing is said to take some people more than 12 hours a week in deprived countries, preventing some women and girls in charge of the task from pursuing education and straining their bodies, leading to chronic back and joint pain, the report added.

The project has launched a fundraising drive to raise £2,000.



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    Dear editor,

    I read the article on hand cranked washing machine. Good idea but can b very tiring. Why not suggest to the inverters to consider a peddling variation .

    For the peddling bicycle chain n gears could b used