Published on March 18, 2014
Gendered Waste Pickers Perspective Sonia Dias WIEGO Waste Specialist/Associate Researcher NEPEM IIED Gender & Environmental Change Conference London, 17-18 March 2014
1.WASTE PICKERS : FACTS, CONTRIBUTION AND THREATS 2. WASTE PICKERS AND GENDER 3.PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH -BRAZILIAN WOMEN 4. FOOD FOR THOUGHT OUTLINE 5.CONCLUSIONS
-There are millions of waste pickers around the world saving the planet by: recycling; by creating their own green jobs; and sustaining the entire recycling industry. -According to WB estimates, 1- 2% of the urban working poor earn a living by handling waste. -2010 UN Habitat publication2010 UN Habitat publication: waste pickers perform between 50-100 per cent of all ongoing waste collection in most cities in developing countries – at no cost to the city budget. FACTS 1. WASTE PICKERS – FACTS, CONTRIBUTION & THREATS
- 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. -Recycling: one of the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. FACTS Woman waste picker from SWaCH Cooperative, Pune -India
The high rates of recovery (50-80%) in some cities are due to informal recyclers’ work and are a “positive externality which the municipality enjoys without having to pay for it because the environmental gain is a by-product of the economic interests of informal recyclers” (WATSAN 2010: 131). Nevertheless,Nevertheless, they are treated as nuisances by authorities and with disdain by the public; face exploitation and intimidation by middlemen; have the lowest pay in the recycling chain; loose their livelihoods in privatization processes. WASTE PICKERS’ CONTRIBUTION 1. WASTE PICKERS – FACTS, CONTRIBUTION & THREATS Biffins, Paris Canpickers, NY Ressurgence of picking of recyclables in cities of the Global North
Voices from the Ground - Threats I have been working at the dumping ground in Ahmedabad for 30 years. My mother-in-law picked waste for a living, and so does my daughter-in-law… There is less waste and less money now and more wastepickers. We have no access to waste, most of which goes into the new company. Door to door collection has now started and we have not been included in it. The new company employs outsiders for work, but they do not employ us, why is that? Our sons know driving too, why not employ them? Kanta Narsingh , woman waste picker - SEWA ASIA- India, Ahmedabad LANDFILL
Voices from the Ground - Threats There are 1200 wastepickers working at the dumpsite and 800 are members of Book Diomm, our organization was created in 1995. The Municipality said the dumpsite will be closed this year and they proposed the creation of a «recycling center» for 350 waste pickers including housing, health- care center, restaurant...BUT we need to pay in order to have access to it! We still may have 700 waste pickers unemployed after the dumpsite gets closed... Aliou Faye – wp vicepresident Book Diomm AFRICA- Senegal, Mobeubeuss LANDFILL
Why a Gendered Approach to Waste? 2. Waste and Gender 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 women’s 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 opportunities. When waste picking activity is formalized, women often do not enjoy the same opportunities as men for fair earnings. Waste pickers in formalized situation: 80% are men and 20% women (RAIS database, 2006 - Brazil)
Waste & Gender – an invisible issue.... 3. Participatory Action Research, Brazil 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 activities. 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” (woman leader in LA). BUT… In Nicaragua 2012 the LA network of waste pickers raised the issue and a pilot Gender & Waste Research Action Project wasGender & Waste Research Action Project was born.born.
Made with Office Timeline 2010 www.officetimeline.com ' 11 feb 2011 may aug nov feb 2012 may aug ' 12 Feedback session at L&C Festival Informal talks at the national women´s meeting in Curitiba Half day workshop with women at Insea with women from Redesol & Cataunidos Informal talks with women from Redesol & Cataunidos Nicaragua meeting First talks with women Various meetings with women leaders" - June 2012 till Aug 2012 Participatory project drafting - June – Sept 2012 Literature review: June-August 12 Gender Waste Project Timeline – Framing the Project
2013:Waste & Gender Project is born - Goals 1. To provide women with the tools to work towards equality in the workplace and their personal lives in order to strengthen their capacities and voices; 2. To identify women´s practical and strategic needs; 3. To increase women’s leadership roles in waste picker representative organizations; and within the National Waste Pickers Movement/LA network. 4. To contribute to the economic, political and symbolic empowerment of women waste pickers. Empowerment can only occur if gender planning addresses a full range of issues in which women are subordinated, encompassing the economic and political dimensions, but the physical and symbolic as well (Wieringa, 1998).
2013 – Project in Motion: 4 Regional Exploratory Workshops
Based on our Experience.... 4. FOOD FOR THOUGHT Relevance of other factors of exclusion: not only sexual differences but also class, race, caste, and age… matters. However, an holistic approach is easier said than done. Research: is needed to explore learnings (methodologies/constraints) from projects which aims to have a multi-pronged approach: economic, symbolic, cultural & political dimensions. Participatory approach has never been so praised. Still donors, international agencies and researchers seldom allow “pedagogical” time for women to get involved from the outset of projects, i.e. in the design phases. We often forget that poor women are overloaded and need time to be active participants. Empowered participation goes beyond consultation or information sharing to ensure active involvement of communities and MBOs (as much as possible from the very beginning of project – its drafting). HOW MUCH ARE WE COMMITTED TO CHANGE THE PROJECT DRIVEN PATTERNS OF OUR ORGANIZATIONS TO ALLOW REAL, EMPOWERED PARTICIPATION? Transformation happens at the local level but “translocal links” might be also relevant. Links between women in Belo Horizonte with women in Bogota has inspired cross- polination of ideas and practices. We need to follow up and deepen the understanding of trans-local links.
Transformative Politics? • The informal Global Alliance of Waste pickers has been very active in the most important talks about climate change since COP 5. • Award winning women leaders such as Nohra Padilla from Colombia and Monica Santos from Brazil amongst others are at the forefront of this struggle. These women are challenging hegemonic models of SW provision and thus hegemonic development models. • HOW MUCH ARE WE CHALLENGING HEGEMONIC MODELS IN OUR WORK? How much of our work has been trully transformative? • Should we (and if so, how) challenge power hierarchies (which impedes women empowerment) within organizations and movements we work with when the very survival of our own organizations depends on the links we have with these groups since we fund raise to do work with them which keep us in the business of consulting/research etc?
Research Agenda 5. Conclusions • We need a better understanding of the ways livelihood systems are constitutive of wider socio-economic and political processes, as well as understanding of how macro-economic and political driving forces affects the livelihoods of informal waste pickers and women in particular. • At WIEGO in the case of waste pickers, to date a lot of our effort has been in support of both men and women waste pickers, and their MBOs, because there is a threat to the occupation as a whole. We are know beginning to address gender issues but we need to deepen our understanding on how women not only are affected by gender discrimination, but how they can also confront it within the occupation as a whole and within their representative organizations. • Comparative research on advantages/disadvantages of different organizational forms (associations/coops/micro enterprises/unions) might be useful to understand which (if any) is more favourable to women waste pickers.
… the millions of informal waste workers around the world demand: respect andrespect and ComprehensiveComprehensive policiespolicies Thanks! firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com For examples visit: www.wiego.org www.inclusivecities.org
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