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Gender, Recycling and Waste Management

Gender, Recycling and Waste Management

Organized at 3 PM GMT on 16th December, 2015




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Madhumitha Rajendran performed research for the panel

Swetha Dandapani summarized the panel discussion and put together a set of interesting quotes.


ANA CAROLINA, Independent Research Consultant on Gender

Women have time constraints to get involved in planning and leadership because they have other demands – at workplace and at home. So, the key takeaway is to understand this and to pace projects accordingly.

  • One of the most important lessons from my work was to create a safe environment for women through a participatory horizontal dialogue so that they could own the project and believe in it
  • The design of projects should be through inputs from women waste pickers and men waste pickers who believed in the project

Encouraging women leadership is really about providing them a safe environment to express their concerns.

    • In Brazil there is demand from women waste pickers for capacity building for leadership positions
    • We are starting to work with smaller groups of women, so that they get to voice their concerns and also show how strong they are. This is potential opportunity to build their self-esteem
    • In waste picking, there is clear gender-based division of labor – sorting tends to be a more women-specific activity
    • It is really important to have a team that can deal with issues such as gender violence and harassment, and not just focus on women victimization
    • We want to show that despite hardships, women really have agency, they can overcome hardships in their own ways. The key is to build women’s self-esteem and self-recognition at an individual level, and also to start creating solidarity among the women themselves
    • During our work, as women expressed their concerns and hardships, men agreed “we have to reflect our own attitude at home” – we are trying to bridge the problematic areas not just for women, but also for men


When I visited a landfill site with women workers, all the challenges they brought forward during our consultation resonated very differently.

  • Women waste pickers shared challenges such as materials being stolen, safety, and poor environment in which they work
  • Women face all kinds of harassment, by fellow workers and authorities – they are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment on the landfill site
  • Interestingly, the request for capacity building for women came from the men in the South African Waste Pickers’ Association. So, we had to work very carefully not to alienate the men
  • The project aims at getting women waste pickers to build capacity for themselves and build organizations and their leadership skills

Another example of empowerment, we have seen the names for women’s cooperatives – they use names such as hope – though their work is undervalued in society, the kind of names they give themselves are empowering


You have your methods and conceptual framework, but while working in gender, you need to be intuitive and trust your gut

  • Governments can issue guidelines to coorperatives that they engage with to be attentive to gender equality within the cooperatives
  • We have to work with gender issues with women waste pickers attentive to the fact that the processes we implement should not establish new divisions of men against women
  • For women waste pickers, gender awareness needs to be firmly rooted in their collective action


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