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A Gender Perspective on Recycling


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Title: A Gender Perspective on Recycling

A Gender Perspective on Recycling
Sonia Dias WIEGO/ Visiting Professor
UFMG Solidarity Centre - Gender Conference
Waste picker in Puna, India driver for the
SWaCH Cooperative.
Waste Pickers Vital actors
  • Millions of people worldwide a large number of
    them women make a living collecting, sorting,
    recycling, and selling valuable materials that
    someone else has thrown away.
  • Vital actors in the informal economy, they
    provide widespread benefits. In many countries,
    waste pickers supply the only form of solid waste
  • A significant number of waste pickers are women,
    and some are children. In some cities in India,
    for example, about 80 per cent of the waste
    pickers are women in Brazil, a small-scale study
    found that 56 per cent of waste picker
    organizations members are women.

Despite the growing strength of women in the
waste picking profession, a gendered approach is
important ...
  • Women might not be allowed access to recyclables
    with the highest value.
  • Women may not occupy positions of authority
    within their communities, or may not be respected
    fully when holding those positions.
  • Asymmetrical power relations at the household
    level affect womens abilities to take part in
    public committees or to exercise leadership
    within their representative organizations due to
    barriers that prevent women from involvement in
    the public realm.
  • Women are responsible for raising children and
    maintaining the household, limiting their time
    and energy for taking up leadership
  • When waste picking activity is formalized, women
    often do not enjoy the same opportunities as men
    for fair earnings.

Formalization Gender -Women Waste Pickers and
Labor Statistics in Brazil - Facts
  • Waste Pickers according to PNAD 2006
  • Number of waste pickers 229,568
  • 67 are men and 33 are women
  • 25 are between the ages of 50-65 and 7 are
    older than 65
  • Only 14 of the men and 6 of the women are
    enrolled in schools
  • Waste pickers with regular employment (RAIS)
  • There are 11,781 waste pickers in regular
  • 95 are in regular employment for an undetermined
  • 80 are men and 20 women
  • 98 of those who receive between 3 and 4
    minimum wages are men and only 2 are women
  • 80 of waste pickers in regular employment have
    an average schooling beyond the 4th grade and
    more than 60 have an average schooling until the
    8th grade or more.
  • Source Crivellari, Dias et al (2008)

Waste and gender an invisible issue
  • Despite the growing number of studies that focus
    on solid waste, there are very few that seek to
    understand the gender dynamics and sexual
    division of labor involved in waste picking
  • Leadership empowerment of women - still largely
    ignored at the national movements of waste
    pickers we are very active at our coops but
    when it comes to power positions at the national
    movement we face constraints.
  • BUT In Nicaragua 2012 the LA network of waste
    pickers raised the issue and a pilot Gender
    Waste Research Action Project was born.

Women waste leaders from Latin America
Changing Mindsets in Nicaragua
  • Gender committee formed at the 2012 LA conference
    of RedLacre - empowerment of women does not mean
    the exclusion of men. It means to contribute to
    the emancipation of all people -- men and women. 
  • It was with this idea in mind that the Red Lacre,
    the National Movement of Waste Pickers in Brazil
    (MNCR), WIEGO began discussing in 2012 the
    importance of opening up a dialogue about gender
    in the context of waste picking, or informal

Nicaragua 2012
A participatory process from the outset
  • Taking advantage of an existing relationship with
    the Center for Study and Research on Women
    (NEPEM) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais
    (UFMG), members of the previously mentioned
    groups decided to start a pilot project in Minas
    Gerais that would explore themes for a future
    program about gender for Brazil and Latin
  • The development of the gender project in 2012 was
    participatory. Over the course of that year,
    several meetings were held with women waste
    pickers from various cooperatives throughout the
    state of Minas Gerais.
  • Participants decided that exploratory workshops
    throughout the state should be held. In 2013, as
    a result of this participatory process, the
    gender project was born as a partnership between

Gender Waste Project Timeline
Informal talks with women from Redesol
Half day workshop with women at Insea with women
from Redesol Cataunidos
Feedback session at LC Festival
First talks with women
' 11
' 12
Informal talks at the national womens meeting in
Nicaragua meeting

Various meetings with women leaders" - June
2012 till Aug 2012 Participatory project
drafting - June Sept 2012 Literature review
June-August 12
Made with Office Timeline 2010
Project goals
  • To provide women with the tools to work towards
    equality in the workplace and their personal
    lives in order to strengthen their capacities and
  • To increase womens leadership roles in waste
    picker representative organizations and
  • To contribute to the economic empowerment of
    women waste pickers.

Methodology Team
  • - Participatory Research Action
  • knowledge production via direct envolvement
  • Participation from the outset from project
    drafting to implementation and evaluation
  • platform for participation/engagement follow up
  • Knowledge production not as an end in itself but
    with the view to contribute to social changes
  • respect for the pedagogical time of communities
    ongoing process it takes time
  • involved communities/groups from objects to
    subjects producers and owners of knowledge.
  • participatory tools
  • Team
  • Executive team Waste picker representative from
    Redlacre/MNCR Wiego waste specialist Nepems
    staff (Prof.Marlise Matos and Prof. Ana Ogando)
    and 4 trainee students rep from NGO Insea.
  • Consultative committee 3 waste pickers rep from
    the MNCR and the director of the NGO Insea 1
    external reviewer.

Project Phases
  • Phase 1- Learning Participatory drafting
    literature review
  • Phase 2 Regional Workshops with women pickers
    in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
  • Phase 3 Specific toolkits for mainstreaming
    gender at the national movements of Redlacre and
    at the academia (teaching)
  • Phase 4 Process evaluation with the MNCR and

Phase 1 Participatory Drafting Snapshots
Participatory Drafting Workshop
Phase 2 Exploratory Regional Workshops Worksho
p 1 Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte 13
May, 2013
Session one Women autonomy is....
Women need to be united if they want to fulfill
their potential (Maria Aparecida)
...Autonomy at home, sexuality, at the
workplace, at the national movement
Session Gender Roles...
Working towards a gender workplan at the
The women discussed at the closing session
difficulties/obstacles faced habilities/knowledge
required to fight these obstacles changes
within society as a whole and the movement in
particular. The ensuing phases of this
exploratory project were presented and the role
of these women in bringing about changes towards
gender equity.
Womens Voices...
  • When are we going to have more workshops like
  • We need all our comrades to come...
  • Enlightening, it opened my mind
  • We felt welcomed by the team...
  • We are connected to each other...

An ongoing process...but some findings from the
  • Reports of discrimination and violence suffered
    by women but yet women are no longer victims (or
    poor little creatures) like in the pastwomens
    voices today are strongerGood stories of women
    struggles were shared.
  • The desire for knowledge and to learn more.
    Skills required how to read and write Computing
    skills Speech skills Political formation
  • The recognition of the cooperative as a space of
    refuge that helps women waste pickers confront
    domestic violence. Yet, women need to make their
    way upward in the power hierarchy of their
    national movement.

Women as a Historical Agent in the Struggle for
Emancipation hardly A new phenomenon..
Frequently women have been the initiators of
revolutions. We know that in 1693 many women went
to the market in Northampton, with knives
hidden in their girdles to force the sale of corn
at their own rates (Thompson, 1979)
Working to empower women does not imply in
excluding men, it means contributing to the
emancipation of all, both Men and Women this is
what the women waste pickers hope to contribute to
  • E-mail sonia.Dias_at_wiego.org e soniamdias2010_at_gmai
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